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When a nuclear submarine sinks to a perilous depth,
The U. S. decides to send down a SEAL team for rescue.
A hurricane is coming, so time is just not on their side;
Therefore, they commission an undersea oil rig crew.
The hard-nosed designer named Lindsey goes down with the SEALS
To keep tabs on them and Bud Brigman, her soon-to-be ex.
While Bud and his oil rig team don’t appreciate this,
They’ll all be paid well for this most dangerous of projects.
They move the rig close to a seemingly bottomless trench
With orders from Coffey, the SEALs’ leading pain in the neck.
They find the huge vessel with everyone in it deceased
When divers and subs journey out to examine the wreck.
One big guy named Jammer freaks out from the sub full of corpses
And falls in a coma as storm winds above start to blow.
Then Coffey gets orders to reclaim a nuke from the sub,
Which causes some unforeseen problems for all down below.
The hurricane destroys a large crane from a ship up above,
Which nearly drags down the whole oil rig into the pit.
They suffer some losses, but Lindsey believes that she saw
A strange glowing thing, yet everyone’s doubtful of it.
First Lindsey, then everyone gets a good look at these beings,
Which somehow control ocean water from deep in that void.
But Coffey, who’s suffering from pressure sickness, believes
They’re Russians or some hostile species that must be destroyed.
He arms the small nuke to send down to the yawning abyss
And locks down the rig, putting everyone into harm’s way.
When Jammer wakes up, he helps free all his friends from their jail,
And Bud and a pal try to stop Coffey’s mad power play.
They battle in subs, but the bomb swims away to the trench,
And Coffey soon follows, imploding while plummeting down.
When Lindsey and Bud are then stranded in their sinking sub,
Bud swims to the rig in a suit while poor Lindsey must drown.
Bud next resurrects her, and “drowns” in a way of his own.
To disarm the bomb, he must enter the endless abyss.
He has to breathe liquid with oxygen as he descends,
Which helps him adjust to the pressure, the worst part of this.
He sinks ever deeper and locates the bomb to disarm.
He does so, but knows he cannot make it back to the rig.
He types his goodbyes till an alien creature swims by
And carries him off to the mother ship, looming quite big.
They give him some air and then show him a TV of sorts,
Depicting the rumors of war on the surface above.
They have the control to destroy man with giant tsunamis,
But let us survive based on Bud’s show of unselfish love.
Bud contacts the rig, letting everyone know he’s alive,
And warns them to brace for their newest acquaintance from space.
The mother ship rises and lifts the whole rig to the surface,
Where Lindsey and Bud share a thrilled reuniting embrace.

Coming on the heels of The Terminator and Aliens, James Cameron’s The Abyss was a much more ambitious project, with over half of the nearly three-hour film being shot underwater. For those who don’t know, my poem and review are for the extended version of The Abyss, which includes a half hour of additional scenes and a better-explained ending than the original 1989 version. These scenes give greater detail to various relationships and a more full understanding of the finale, which explains why the alternate version has largely replaced the original.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio stars in what I consider her best role as the hardheaded rig designer Lindsey, and Ed Harris is similarly fantastic as her irritated husband Bud. Their relationship is the most intimate and personable, and little touches such as Bud’s wedding ring saving his life add a lot to their characters. Michael Biehn is increasingly wild-eyed as the impaired SEAL Coffey, but these three are the only fleshed-out characters in the film. While the extended version helps, the rest of the crew are pretty much just a collection of eccentricities. Their names don’t really stick like their actions or appearance, making them just “the tall coma guy,” “the black sub lady,” “the conspiracy guy with the rat,” and “the guy who looks like a truck driver.”

Regardless of the lack of secondary character development, the Oscar-winning special effects are often extraordinary, especially considering when it was released. The set pieces involving the crane and the submarine fight are truly impressive and kept me on the edge of my seat. The NTIs (Non-Terrestrial Intelligence) are also well-realized creatures that are kept out of sight for most of the film, and the grand score by the great Alan Silvestri creates tension and mystery, though less scarily than in Aliens.

Weak points include the language and the ending. Even with the extended climax, with an anti-war message foreshadowing that of Cameron’s Avatar, the end is overlong and rather convenient. The NTIs’ benevolence in light of Bud’s sacrifice carries an important and touching message, but it’s a tad hokey as well. Without the anti-war elements, the end made even less sense and drew the bulk of critics’ ire. Also, while the F-words are minimal, The Abyss has quite a bit of profanity and other bad language, plus some non-sexual nudity, so a cut version is definitely preferred in my house.

I’ve heard that, with all the safety issues and long shoots required, Cameron and the actors did not enjoy making The Abyss at all. It may have been hard on them, but it gave Cameron some experience shooting with water, preparing him for Titanic, and it gave us an excellent sci-fi thriller.

Best line: (Bud) “Hippy, you think everything is a conspiracy.” (Hippy) “Everything is.”

VC’s best line (one she has reused many times since): (Bud) “I’m comin’, I’m comin’. Geez, keep your pantyhose on.”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 8
Watchability: 7
Other (language, nudity, and overlong ending): -8
TOTAL: 38 out of 60

Next: #241 – Sister Act

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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