Aliens Of The Deep

Director James Cameron's fascination with the deep doesn't stop with fiction features like TITANIC (1997) and THE ABYSS (1989). The uneasy documentary-fiction hybrid GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003), which combined footage of the sunken Titanic resting 2 and a half miles under the surface with re-creations evoking its glory days, sprang from his obsessive interest....read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Director James Cameron's fascination with the deep doesn't stop with fiction features like TITANIC (1997) and THE ABYSS (1989). The uneasy documentary-fiction hybrid GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003), which combined footage of the sunken Titanic resting 2 and a half miles under the surface with re-creations evoking its glory days, sprang from his obsessive interest. And this follow-up, an equally discomfiting, large-format 3-D mix of popular science and ballyhoo, serves up amazing images of the bizarre life that flourishes in the deepest ocean depths while marrying real-life footage of scientists in submersibles to CGI depictions of a marvelous underwater city and the friendly E.T.s who live there. Even the title has a sucker-'em-in quality, designed as it is to recall Cameron's ALIENS (1986). Cameron's core contention, delivered in a variety of ways, is reasonable enough: If there is life in space, it may well be hidden deep beneath the frozen oceans of heavenly bodies like Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. And if that's the case, developing tools with which to explore the ocean floor will pave the way for exploring deep space. Given the film's divided intentions, it's no wonder that it comes off as one part gee-whiz undersea sight-seeing, one part pitch for scientific funding and one-part hokey speculation. What if there were aquatic life on Jupiter's moons, and the aliens were kind of cool and friendly, like THE ABYSS' playful water tentacle? Cavils aside, the form and variety of deep-water life Cameron and company document — from an extraordinarily ugly, snaggletoothed fish with a pair of pawlike pectoral fins to a stubby squid with gently waving earlike appendages atop its head — is, to use the technical term, flat-out freaky. A skinny, pearly-white octopus boldly reaches out and wraps a pale tentacle around one of the robot cameras. Teeming colonies of translucent shrimp cluster around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, albino crabs scuttle busily and a parabola-shaped jellyfish drifts gently on unseen currents. Enthusiastic scientists explain that in the stygian blackness of the depths, life forms derive their energy from chemicals rather than sunlight, and marvel at the cool gadgets that put them within robotic-arm's length of nature's oddballs. In the end, you have to give Cameron points for putting his financial muscle behind scientific expeditions rather than, say, lavish parties — sure, he wanted to tag along, but explorers have always benefited from the enthusiasms of gentleman adventurers with deep pockets.

The 100 Best Shows

TV Guide ranks Peak TV's finest offerings

TV Yearbook

We honor TV's graduating class and freshmen most likely to succeed

My News

Sign up and add shows to get the latest updates about your favorite shows - Start Now