The Abyss (1989)

the abyss poster 1989 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good cast and visuals

Can't overcome a boring story

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Abyss

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): August 9, 1989

MPAA Rating: PG-13

the abyss water special effect

If you had never seen this effect before, trust me, it was amazing

When an U.S. sub carrying nuclear missiles sinks, the crew of an experimental underwater oil rig called the Deep Core is recruited for a rescue-retrieval mission.  Foreman Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) finds himself teamed with his estranged wife Dr. Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) who doesn’t like the idea of her creation being used by the military.  Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn) has secret orders for the mission that he isn’t sharing with the crew of the Deep Core, but there is something lurking in the darkness that could change the face of the world.

Written and directed by James Cameron, The Abyss is an underwater science-fiction action-thriller.  The movie was met with mixed to positive reviews.  It won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects with nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound.

the abyss drowning scene ed harris mary elizabeth mastrantonio

Bud, if you can’t revive me, tell Cameron I hate him…

The Abyss was one of those movies you heard about before it was released.  There were a number of underwater movies coming out (Leviathan and DeepStar Six were the some of the bigger ones), but James Cameron’s work on Aliens made the prospect of The Abyss exciting.  While it was visually compelling, The Abyss is a snoozer.

Much like 2001, The Abyss has a pacing problem.  Unlike 2001, the spectacle of The Abyss doesn’t outweigh the pacing, and in 2001, the intentionally slow pacing is part of the storytelling technique.  The Abyss trudges along with some great moments like the liquid oxygen, the forced death (and revival), and some great reveals of the alien creatures.  The story “culminates” in a rather bland meet-up with the aliens and an unsatisfying ending (at least the director cut gave the aliens a bit more reasons behind their actions).

the abyss ending aliens

I’m doing whatever the shiny stingrays tell me to do!

The cast is strong.  I like the Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio dynamic.  Michael Biehn is over-the-top as the killer pushed to the edge (he’s so obviously mentally unstable throughout most of the film), but like the movie his role kind of putters and stalls…leaving about thirty minutes of movie with no real direction.  The aliens themselves almost have a role, but unlike other similar films where they develop, it feels like they should have been more than cool special effects.

The special effects are good.  The filming was a nightmare from all accounts and many of the actors and Cameron were not happy with the condition and how the film turned.  With a blend of practical effects and the revolutionary computerized water column scene, The Abyss actually holds up well.

The Abyss also feels a lot like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but the wonder of that film doesn’t come out of The Abyss.  Like the water, the movie feels kind of cold and lifeless.  The spectacle of the film is no longer as interesting since effects have come such a long way and the picture just looks like a solid film with standard effects by today’s standards.  With Cameron’s rise, The Abyss has gained a small cult following, but I don’t know that it necessarily deserves it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response