Just as Howard Hughes got disgustingly rich and used the world's skies as his plaything, James Cameron has been buy using his Titanic sized bank account to play with toys in the ocean. It's been an obsession of his since The Abyss, and his cash has led to many undersea explorations developments that may have not otherwise existed, but instead of focusing on looking on dead shipwrecks, Cameron has gone all "Jacques Cousteau" on us and wants to show off the brilliant and mysterious life forms so deep down and away from sunlight, many figured there'd be little, if anything, there to see.

The first 15 minutes of this movie are magical. One by one Cameron's team of good looking scientists plucked from colleges and NASA go deep underwater with really cool submersibles that look like they've come from the latest space movie. The similarity is intentional, as the film's underlying mission statement is that we can use exploration of the deep sea to perfect our own space travel techniques.

During this time, we're treated to truly amazing looking creatures like a translucent white octopus with wings on his head, and some weird giant circular ribbon thing with a jellyfish type blob on the bottom. I'm vague about their names and species, because the only explanation we get about them is comments like, "Whoah...that's awesome!", "Wow! That is so incredible!", and "That is awesomely incredible!" After the crew is done jizzing all over themselves about how great this stuff is to see, there's almost no explanation about what we're actually looking at.

The film is always interesting, but becomes slightly more tedious in the last 60%, where they focus on some shrimp and crabs that live next to these volcanic fissures. There's no sunlight to speak of, and an ecosystem of bacteria, heat, shrimp, and crabs is flourishing to the degree that it looks like an apartment full of roaches having a party. But after watching the all to brief jaw-dropping beauty of the earlier creatures, seeing 3D sea-monkeys for the last half of the movie gets rather dull and unimpressive. In fact, the 3D effect of seeing a single shrimp in your distant peripheral vision ended up becoming rather distracting.

Cameron goes on to state that since life can exist in these hostile conditions on the bottom of our own ocean, that there's a strong chance that similar life may exist in the probable liquid surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa (ignoring the warnings from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 saga). This is where the film fails. Though the concept is fascinating, the CGI effects that take over and wrap up the film detract from the far more stunning and brilliant real life stuff that we saw earlier.

My other complaint is that the crew Cameron put together seems to have been selected more for their looks than their smarts. In fact, one of the other guys that's along for the ride has a nametag that reads "Cameron", suggesting James brought his brother. I can't find his name listed in the credits, but it's there as plain as day. It's his money...

This is a movie in which the IMAX 3D format was made for. The full color polarized 3D is a far cry from the eyeball splitting red/blue format made popular in the 50s. My only complaint about the accessories is that I found the special larger goggles you wear over your glasses to be too much weight on the bridge of my nose. If you have a choice to wear your contact lenses, please do so.

If the movie even remotely intrigues you, spend the extra dough and see it on an IMAX theater, because from a content perspective, you'd be just as thrilled with a special on The Discovery Channel.

-Robert Berry




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