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Ghosts of the Abyss

  Ghosts of the Abyss
The "Phoenix Earthship" can't help but look forward to showing the "Titanic" how a real machine works.

© 2003, Disney
All Rights Reserved

Not completely content with the time he already spent on the Titanic story, director James Cameron has taken a break from counting his bags of money to document the historic trip. Armed with the latest in underwater submersible technology, and IMAX 3-D cameras, Cameron has journeyed back to Titanic's resting place in the North Atlantic. Here, he examines the wreckage with the proper equipment to give audiences and historians a good glimpse at the aftermath of one of the most notorious disasters in human history.

Though horrifically titled (the unaware might think this film is a sequel to Cameron's 1989 masterwork, "The Abyss"), "Ghosts" is a beguiling look at history as it has never been seen before. It's a nice companion piece to Cameron's 1997 phenomenon, "Titantic," with this go around serving as a grim and extraordinary coda to the blockbuster. Along for the ride is actor Bill Paxton (also of "Titanic" fame, and a Cameron regular), and his role is to be the audience's eyes on this expedition. Always a reasonable actor, Paxton overplays his hand a bit here with melodramatic looks of awe, and some of the most sanctimonious horsepucky narration I have come into contact with. Still, his role is necessary here, as everyone else on the mission is either a Titanic expert or somebody who's one step away from being a Titanic expert. Because of Paxton, the film explains almost every step of the voyage, which is a big relief for the uninitiated.

Once the film goes down those 12,000 feet to the bottom of the ocean to visit the ruins, the true scope of the picture takes over. This is jaw-dropping footage (beautifully and methodically captured by the 3D cameras) of the eroded and broken Titanic, just where history left it back in 1912. China plates remain intact on the ocean floor, windows still hold their glass after all that trauma, and the gates many of the 3rd class passengers were kept behind remain locked. To help understand where we are on the boat, Cameron has devised ghostly recreations, which place historic actions over the modern day material. The initial effect is welcome, but soon Cameron relies a little too heavily on it, as if he feels he didn't cover enough ground dramatizing the event in his 1997 film.

Without question, "Ghosts of the Abyss" is a must see for those who can't get enough of Titanic lore. For cinephiles, it is also is nice to see Cameron back on his filmmaking feet after such a long hiatus. Now, if he'd just get off this boat kick and make a narrative feature again!

Filmfodder Grade: B+

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