Following on from the vast-in-every-respect, Oscar-gobbling movie Titanic, James Cameron's first undersea documentary was Ghosts of the Abyss. I'm quite late in coming to this particular party, so to speak, but even still it's a cracking film. I watched the extended version (90 minutes, rather than 60) on the double disc DVD (which has a couple of nifty extra features too), and it's utterly fascinating.
You get a taste of the exhibition itself, and what it was like to be along for the ride thanks to a window into this world via Bill Paxton. Better balanced as a documentary than the follow-up that was Aliens of the Deep, the use of superimposed 'ghosts', photographs and CGI models really allows for the untrained eye to really understand what they're looking at. Not only that, but it does give you a hint of the drama than ensued on that fateful night when Titanic sank to the bottom of the ocean.
There's just something about Titanic itself - the whole story surrounding it, especially the parts retold by those who were actually there. Perhaps it is a hint of morbid curiosity, but tragedy always carries with it a power to grasp the attention of mankind. Just look at 9/11 - indeed, it's stunning to see in the documentary that upon resurfacing once more the crews of the submersible MIRs are greeted with news of that atrocious event. Having just been exploring the wreck of the Titanic - a stunning disaster in 1912, which continues to resonate to this day - they are confronted with a new stunning disaster that has unfolded while they were deep beneath the crushing pressure of the ocean.
This really packs an additional punch to the entire documentary, and is something that is elaborated upon in one of the extra features on the DVD. It really does make you stop and think as a shiver runs down your spine.
Without seeking to spoil anything, there is a moment when the $500,000 "Elwood" (one of the two ROVs, the other named "Jake") loses all battery power and becomes trapped within Titanic. What follows are the rescue attempts, which are surprisingly tense.
So all in all, it's a wonderfully produced documentary with it's own voice in a crowd of Titanic testimonials and documentaries. A must-see for anyone who is a fan of James Cameron, or fascinated follower of the legend of Titanic.
And you know what, the 4-disc deluxe collector's edition of Titanic has gone straight onto my wish list so I can find out more about Titanic through the eyes of Cameron, and the technology used to bring it all to life. While the central Kate & Leo plot in the movie was a bit wonky, the attention to detail and reconstruction of so many events that really happened is just, for the lack of a better word, fascinating.
And yes, I'm on a right old James Cameron bender at the moment, all in anticipation of Avatar which is, at the time of writing, mere days away.