The Abyss

(James Cameron, USA, 1989)


A critically ignored film, this deep-sea epic is certainly not the most exciting achievement of director James Cameron (The Terminator [1984]).

But it is nonetheless a brave attempt at philosophical sci-fi in the tradition of Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Brainstorm (1983). And the specific philosophical tradition it evokes is (like Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut [1999]) nothing less than a dramatic rendering of Stanley Cavell’s "comedy of remarriage".

Facing a highly liquid "non-terrestrial intelligence" that may be angelic or demonic, members of a submarine crew (headed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris) must question their assumptions about politics, logic, progress, even marriage.

It is a refreshing antidote to the relentlessly conservative, Gothic fantasies of Stephen King.

Cameron dead in the water: Titanic

© Adrian Martin November 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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