I should confess from the start that I can’t fucking stand James Cameron and I like his films just about as much. The last James Cameron movie I really enjoyed was True Lies, which was only enjoyable because it didn’t take itself seriously. Prior to that it was Aliens and prior to that it was nothing because those are the only two movies of his that I like.
So I remember going to see The Abyss with my cousin, Mike, somewhere behind the Orange Curtain, probably the Newport Beach area. As we left the theater we both agreed the movie sucked, though he thought it was a little too cheesy, whereas I felt like I’d just paid a dirty old man five dollars to check me for a hernia, which was hardly a rare experience, actually. When I think of how callously I threw away precious hours of my life on dog-shit entertainment it makes me want to find an old picture of myself and piss on it.
Anyway, maybe five years go by before I start hearing about the director’s cut of the movie, which may have been the first time I’d even heard of a director’s cut. I heard about this from half a dozen people, all of them making the same claims:
- It’s a completely different movie
- Studio assholes cut the film because they’re idiots
- The tidal wave. Dude, the fucking tidal wave
Back then I’d have been more than willing to waste time watching a movie I hated for the second time, just to prove to myself that it still sucked. Problem was, this cut of the movie was only available on laser disc imported from Japan and no one I knew was rich enough to have a laser disc player. At this point I’m sure it’s been readily available to me for at least a decade, but I never even bothered to look for it because as I’ve gotten older I’ve found it increasingly difficult to come up with time to watch movies I think I’ll enjoy, let alone movies I know will suck. And then, just the other day, I was flipping through the few dozen HBO’s we have and fuck me if it wasn’t The Abyss. It was toward the end, where Ed Harris gets rescued by the aliens, who, even back then, just looked stupid.
So I keep watching and Ed starts talking to the aliens and they speak back to him via television transmissions because even though they have the technology for speed-of-light space travel and the ability to control water, they haven’t figured out English yet (it’s really difficult because we borrow from so many different languages…). But then, the scene gets different and the aliens basically say that they’re here because – prepare yourselves for some groundbreaking shit – mankind is too violent. They apparently don’t like how horribly we treat each other and they’re here to stop it. And then they show news footage of various seaside communities running in terror as enormous tidal waves advance toward the shoreline, and this is when it hit me: I’m finally watching the director’s cut. And it sucks. So then they show a text message from Ed Harris to his annoying-ass wife where he types the words “love you wife” (so apparently they can read English but not speak or write it) and then the tidal waves stop where they’re at and sink back down into the ocean. From there, the rest of the movie goes just as I remembered it (shitty).
I have no idea if those few minutes of film are the only changes in the director’s cut and guess who doesn’t care enough to find out? What I will tell you is this: It is not a completely different movie. It’s just longer. The studio assholes are doubtless idiots and I’ll agree that they shouldn’t have cut any of the footage, but that has nothing to do with the footage being good and everything to do with the fact that money people making creative decisions is a bad idea. And finally, the tidal wave just isn’t that big a deal. Maybe it would have been more impressive to see it on the big screen back then, before I’d seen, say, The Matrix. But watching it on my television today, it just looked like weak-ass, green-screen dog shit.
Story-wise, there’s one element that just annoys the shit out of me: The aliens have been monitoring our behavior long enough to know they don’t like it. They’re upset with us because we’re too violent and warlike and they want us to calm down and to treat each other with love and respect and kindness. Or they’ll murder us all with the ocean. Well gee whiz, thank you Space Jesus, you fucking hypocrite.
I am so sick and fucking tired of science fiction that falls apart the second you’re out of the third grade and I’m even more annoyed by the people who excuse it with insipid statements like, “Well, the special effects rocked,” or, “You have to remember, it’s an all-ages movie.” Pretty lights aren’t a substitute for good story and “all-ages” isn’t supposed to mean stupid.
The Abyss (any cut you care to choose) is dog shit.