ALIENS OF THE DEEP
Inspired by concepts from the field of astrobiology, the study of life on other worlds, James Cameron explores the idea that the bizarre creatures living in the extreme environments found on the ocean floor might provide a clue to what life is like elsewhere in the universe with similar conditions, such as on Europa. The director is joined in the journey by a team of young marine biologists and NASA researchers who share his interests and excitement as they consider the correlation between life under water and the life we may one day find in outer space. On their adventure, they film dramatic and visually stunning highlights of deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, where super-heated, mineral-charged water gives life to some of the strangest animals on Earth.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Images of the unlikeliest creatures ever devised by nature float into your lap in the IMAX 3D theatre as James Cameron shines his underwater camera lights on the likes of corkscrew coral, albino sharks with wings, pink squid or the unnamed floating shoal-like creature that has never been sighted before. It is flimsier than the finest silk, transparent with what appears to be thin white edging, and the faint reddish marcks of what we can assume to be capillaries - or not - in unsymmetrical, blocky oval shapes. It floats like a light scarf in the water, with no ends, but with a lump that may be its 'body' attached at one point on its circular shape.
Visiting the Lost City at 870 metres, we travel with (and inside) Cameron's submersibles as his filmed expedition searches the deepest waters of our oceans. By the time we reach 3526 metres, sunlight has been shut out completely, yet life exists - indeed, it exists in abundance. In the icy channels under the ocean, the earth's crust is weeping lava and heat, with strange, rock formations that look like chimneys, belching black smoke - and heat. It's the combination of water and heat that provides the environment for the most exotic life forms on the planet - including beautiful bacteria. And tube worms with red handles made of plume-like material, among many others.
Down in deep water, Cameron stretches his imagination to fantasise about deep space; from beneath the oceans we travel to distant Europa, the second moon of Jupiter, and with the filmmakers fantasies ignited, we are shown in a short but visually exciting hypothetical, what it may be like deep under the ice on that remote part of our universe. Cameron imagines that the life forms on the bottom of our oceans may indeed resemble those on other planets where sunlight doesn't exist - but heat and water might.
It's not usual for documentaries to ingest the sci-fi genre, but in this case it's an eye pleasing and mind boggling excursion, beautifully realised and seamlessly integrated into the film.
Review by Louise Keller:
Hold your breath, we're heading deep into the ocean, where life doesn't rely on the sun for energy, but on its own extraordinary ecosystems. There are alien-like creatures with long, transparent scarf-like arms that billow in the current, spotted large fish with feet and toes, as well as six foot red and white tube worms that look as though they would be at home in a vase. James Cameron's documentary Aliens of the Deep is a bit like a fascinating science lesson that marries space science with marine biology.
In a bid to explore the notion that the amazing creatures found on the ocean's floor could be an indicator of how other species from other worlds might survive, Cameron and a team of scientists from different fields, travel in submersibles that look a little like giant lego bubbles. There they discover creatures that rely on water and heat to survive. The temperatures range from freezing to beyond boiling point, and the swarming white shrimp thrive as they congregate in the hot currents. There is no narration as such; our experience is made personal through the eyes of the scientists in their submersibles. 'Isn't that amazing'; 'Check this out' we hear, and at one point, there's an exclamation of 'Holy pancakes, Batman' as sights beyond anyone's expectations meet our eyes. Did you know, for example, that bacteria can be beautiful?
In dazzling 3D, and with 3D glasses that are light and comfortable, Aliens of the Deep is both informative and visually fascinating. Life is so much stranger than fiction, and there's plenty of food for thought, as we travel from the bottom of the ocean to the outer limits of space.
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ALIENS OF THE DEEP (G)
CAST: Documentary with James Cameron, Pamela Conrad, Dijanna Figueroa, Kevin Hand, Loretta Hidalgo, Maya Tolstoy - and strange creatures of the deep.
PRODUCER: James Cameron, Andrew Wight
DIRECTOR: James Cameron, Steven Quale
CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Cameron, Vince Pace
EDITOR: Matthew Kregor, Ed W. Marsh, Fiona Wight
MUSIC: Jeehun Hwang
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/a
RUNNING TIME: 50 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI / IMAX
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 10, 2005