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James Cameron assembles a team of scientists, documentarians, and actor-narrator Bill Paxton to descend 12,000 feet to the wreckage of the Titanic, following two submersible vehicles. A visibly nervous Paxton takes his first trip to the wreckage, and muses on the historical and scientific importance of their journey. Two mini robotic cameras are launched to explore the nooks and crannies of the ship, with director Cameron superimposing shots of actors playing out scenes that may have occurred in the final hours of the dying ship.†

Review by Louise Keller:
The story of the Titanic has become an obsession with director James Cameron, and he is a credible fellow-passenger, as we join the crew of historians and scientists on this extraordinary trip to the bottom of the ocean.

When Cameron made the film back in 2003, he made three versions, two of which (60 and 45 minute) were in 3D. It was the 45 minute version that was released by IMAX in 2003, but now for the first time, audiences have the opportunity to see the 60 minute 3D version, featuring an additional 15 minutes of scenes of the Titanic wreck.

Thereís something very eerie about descending 12,000 feet below the surface to see the ghostly remains of the Titanic, the once luxurious liner that dreams were made of. And although there may be other vessels in this day and age that are technically far more advanced than Titanic, we are told that there has never been one to match its luxury.

Bill Paxton humanises the experience Ė we can relate to his concern at the claustrophobic conditions in the small capsule-like vessel that catapults them deeper than deep and far beyond any sea-life. Cameronís Reality Camera System, which he invented in collaboration with Sony and director of photography Vince Pace, allows the lenses to create natural 3-D images and ones which reduce much of the eyestrain some previous imaging systems left. Although remotely operated vehicles had previously explored the wreck, technology and design limited the results, and by creating new self-contained vehicles with high-density battery and fiber optics, giving unprecedented freedom to move and explore.

But technical achievements aside, Ghosts of the Abyss is an emotional trip, and one which allows us to get a sense of life on the Titanic as-it-was, with its ghostly superimposed figures and striking design. We are never allowed to forget that the gloomy surrounds that we can see before us behind the split screens Ė and that are almost close enough to touch Ė are of the real thing. Nor can we forget, that we are watching history in the making. This is a gripping and thrilling film made personal by Cameronís involvement, coupled with the references to the real passengers onboard such as Molly Brown, the remains of her brass bedhead can be seen. We can also clearly see the intricacy of the beautifully crafted windows and there is even a water jug and glass still standing in a cupboard in one of the staterooms. The 3D effects are fabulous and the result is so realistic that I could feel the motion of the sea, as though I was on a ship. This is a brilliant showcase for IMAX and Cameron who offer an entertaining and fascinating glimpse of history to us all.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
James Cameronís dedication to, nay, obsession with Titanic and its place in human history is harvested again in this technically elaborate and fascinating film. Its only flaw is Bill Paxton as narrator and the man through whose eyes we are taken into the abyss and across the watery pages of this seafaring catastrophe. The problem isnít Bill himself, a nice enough guy, itís how heís used, like a wide eyed passenger; but ultimately itís not a wonderous, adventurous innocence but a ga-ga ambience that his presence and his narration provide. The 3D glasses should come with optional ear muffsÖ

But the visual impact of much of the footage is remarkable, and the filmís soaring achievement is the flawless matching of abyss-cam with digitised and filmed realisations to complete the missing or rotted bits of the Titanic we see. Even in the clinical ambiance of an IMAX theatre (ironically, an affront to visual aesthetics in design, with droning, grave new world-style announcements), the impact of Titanic explored in 3D is stupendous.

Here is a great example of technology in the service of humanity, not just scientifically but as entertainment of a valuable kind. As we follow the mechanical devices into the depths, so we realise the deeper significance of what we are seeing in terms of mankindís great achievements and characteristics, slap bang up against our greatest flaws and weaknesses. Cameronís dedication is admirable, even if it makes him a tad too awestruck to make sound creative judgements.

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JAMES CAMERON INTERVIEW by Jenny Cooney Carrillo


CAST: Documentary featuring Bill Paxton, Dr. Lori Johnston, Charles Pellegrino, Don Lynch, Ken Marschall, James Cameron, Mike Cameron

PRODUCER: James Cameron, Chuck Comisky, Janace Tashjian, Andrew Wight

DIRECTOR: James Cameron

SCRIPT: not credited


EDITOR: Ed W. Marsh, Sven Pape, John Refoua

MUSIC: Joel McNeely


RUNNING TIME: 45 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Melbourne: September 4, 2003

RE-RELEASE: 60 minute version: February 10, 2011


VIDEO RELEASE: 2D version: October 3, 2005

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