The Abyss - Director’s Cut
A Live Blog
16:39 We join our story already in progress because I had to eat pizza. Priorities, y’all! What did we miss? There’s a drowned nuclear sub, a ragtag band of deep sea oil riggers led by Bud (Ed Harris), and his estranged wife Lindsay (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is bringing a bunch of marines (including Michael Biehn) down in a mini-sub to launch a combined rescue mission. 2000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Probably I could save them a lot of trouble. Who survives a crash and nose-dive in a damaged sub? I guess, like, vampires. So at this point let’s assume they’re trying to rescue vampires.
16:53 There’s a group singalong over the radio to a country song. The only thing worse than being trapped in a submerged oil rig searching for drowned vampires would be doing so to a soundtrack of country.
20:08 The tension between Bud and Lindsay is palpable and they like to nag and insult each other. They are so obviously still in love. Looooooove. This is Aliens Underwater: A Love Story.
23:38 Never throw your wedding ring in the toilet in a fit of rage. You’ll just end up dying your hand blue retrieving it two minutes later. Life lessons.
25:37 I am not feeling Michael Biehn’s mustache. It is very porny. Maybe between takes he filmed some submarine repairman scenarios. “Hello ma’am, I understand your mini sub hasn’t been wet in a while?” *wink* “Why yes, sir, please come in and go down and use your tool.” *purr*
27:10 They are drowning the dude’s pet rat in pink water. But magically the rat doesn’t drown. It’s special underwater breathing water. Wait, what? Well I don’t know science but I sure as hell know foreshadowing.
28:42 “You’re in a bottomless pit, baby. Two and a half miles straight down.” That is not how bottomless pits work, my friend.
35:07 I tuned out to take pictures of the cat but I think all I missed is they found the submarine and there’s radiation because it’s nuclear and they’re taking lots of photos.
36:28 Everything is very blue in the bottomless pit upon whose bottom they have just landed.
37:01 James Cameron really loves water. And he really loves to film land things submerged helplessly in water.
39:57 There are lots of dead drowned bodies here. But it’s okay because everyone has been told to “stay cool” so even though these guys have no military training they’ll just shrug it off, it’s cool.
38:50 I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but all this quiet drawn-out tension can only mean that soon something will go horribly wrong. And yet what could go wrong submerged at the bottom of a bottomless pit in a damaged nuclear sub full of bodies?
40:59 Classic. Light fails. Friend panics. Tether rope snaps.
42:09 Panicked friend sees sparkles and some kind of glowbug form. Then he knocks himself out on an overhanging beam.
42:26 Glowbug buzzes Lindsay in her mini-sub. Maybe it’s a fairy!
44:47 This is a very tense scene in which Bud and Lindsay debate whether the glowbug is a fairy or a Russian submersible and it’s important because obviously one leads to sparkles and dances under a harvest moon and the other leads to war. But the entire time I am totally distracted by the suction cup Garfield clinging to the rig window.
47:47 So there’s a hurricane topside and Michael Biehn stole the mini-sub which for reasons I have missed (or don’t care about) they refer to as ‘flatbed’ and they need flatbed to detach the submerged rig from the topside destroyer? Anyway there’s a lot of stress on the side of the rig personnel and a lot of casual thievery and snack-eating on the part of the marines.
49:43 Oh snap! Michael Biehn has hand tremors! That’s a sign of underwater psychosis! It’s called something medical in this movie but all I can think of now is The Life Aquatic and Hans yelling that Steve’s got the crazy eye.
51:50 They’re having trouble detaching the rig platform from the topside boat because of the hurricane and now everything is about to go to shit, mark my words.
53:00 The destroyer is dragging the rig along the ocean floor to the edge of the abyss drop-off. And now the crane connector itself has ripped off the destroyer and is plummeting towards the submerged rig platform. I don’t know anything about hurricanes, cranes, destroyers, or submerged rigs but none of this looks good. The music agrees. It’s very tensely excited, all strings and jumpy cues.
55:55 Welp, now the crane has fallen over the abyss edge and since the rig is still attached, they go skidding to the edge. The music swells and there is lots of brass in it now. Also a tuba? It’s very thrilling.
58:18 The rat makes it! But flatbed does not. Tension.
59:17 One of the compartments is flooding so a door sealed with guys inside. Bud is extremely distraught as he watches them pound on the porthole.
1:00:28 Dramatic rescue of Bud from his own compartment flood now.
1:01:58 If I have learned anything from disaster movies it’s that you never say you want to see your wife/husband/child one more time. If you say that, you are dead. The gods of fictional disasters are capricious and cruel.
1:03:42 I do love that Lindsay designed the rig and is currently assessing and repairing what damage she can. Single-handedly. She is smart and tough and capable. I do admire that James Cameron is not afraid to write a strong, able, in charge woman.
1:08:38 Hey, every time the power flickers the glowbug appears! That’s science, kids.
1:09:15 Glowbug! It’s pink and right behind Lindsay. It looks like an electric jellyfish dipped in UV paint?
1:10:01 A big glowbug mothership thing rises up out of the abyss in front of Lindsay. It is made of tangible luminescence. I know this because Lindsay reaches out and touches it. She is both fearless and now probably on a contact high because it looks like nothing so much as an underwater rave.
1:12:32 Back on the rig they are looking at Lindsay’s photos of the glowbug. The pictures look like light trails from a glowstick. Nonetheless they are now making the logical leap to alien lifeforms.
1:14:50 “It was a machine but it was alive. It was a dance of light!” She sounds high. But she’s entirely too straight to be high.
1:15:52 Michael Biehn looks like hell. Even his mustache is sweaty and agitated.
1:18:58 So rat-boy spied on the marines with his remote camera and discovered Michael Biehn has possibly brought a nuclear warhead onboard. That he is potentially rigging with a remote detonator?
1:19:49 Garfield sighting!
1:21:25 Michael Biehn. Armed, sweaty, and full of crazy eye.
1:22:09 Pressure induced psychosis. That’s the medical term they’re using for crazy eye. I’m going to keep on calling it crazy eye, though, for reasons that involve Bill Murray.
1:24:26 Uncle Sam is waaaaatching! I love how frequently people in movies forget what areas their own internal surveillance covers.
1:24:55 Sonar guy is literally asleep on the job.
1:25:44 Glowbug is in the rig pool and taking the shape of a water tube. Wonder twin powers activate! Form of water!
1:27:12 Glowbug water tube seeks out Lindsay because she believes in it, I guess. Luckily everybody else now sees it too so Lindsay is no longer the only one with credibility issues.
1:29:18 And now a merry piccolo-scored chase through the rig!
1:29:50 Michael Biehn’s buzz is like totally harshed by the glowbug water tube, man. He loses it and slams the door on it, slicing the water in half. What? Uh... And then it retracts and goes back into the abyssal trench. I also really enjoy saying “abyssal trench”.
1:31:07 Michael Biehn is giving everybody epic psycho side eye and cutting his arms with a goddamn machete under the table.
1:32:14 Garfield sighting! The true unsung hero of this film is the upside-down Garfield clinger. Just hang in there, little buddy.
1:36:00 I think Michael Biehn’s name is “Coffee”. That’s what it sounds like Lindsay’s saying and every time she does I think “You know, I could use a coffee. Capital idea.”
1:37:10 Michael Biehn wants to nuke the glowbugs and he’s locked everybody in the kitchen. It’s very Brick Tamland up in here right now. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE YELLING ABOUT!”
1:40:11 Bud and some other guy are swimming under the rig in freezing water and Ginger picks this moment to question the science of things. “Is it pressurized there? Wouldn’t their ears explode? Did James Cameron do the research?” Glowbugs and water tubes and crazy eye but this is the moment that really trips her up.
1:42:08 James Cameron doesn’t just have a thing for water, he has a thing for freezing cold water. The water is an entity unto itself. An entity of freezing vengeance and struggle.
1:43:06 For real is Michael Biehn actually doing anything with that chain or just tripping balls over the sound it makes as he pulls it?
1:44:16 Since this pre-dates Titanic, I can now see where Cameron conceived of the idea of Billy Zane chasing Rose and Jack through the sinking ship with a gun. He does love his hopeless-scenario-based fight scenes.
1:48:36 Michael Biehn is a ragey mini-sub driver. Also he’s shirtless, sweaty, and bleeding. He is INTENSE, man.
1:51:02 I am literally being pinned by the cat so I have no idea what’s happening now.
1:52:00 We rejoin our heroes in some kind of highly insane sub-to-sub demolition derby beside the abyssal trench. Mini-subs, did you know, also work as battering rams.
1:53:31 In a moment that nobody could ever have foreseen, Michael Biehn’s mini-sub plunges over the edge and tumbles into the abyssal trench. Man and mini-sub explode. And I now have David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and ‘Under Pressure’ in my head.
1:57:25 Lindsay and Bud are fighting over who gets to die in their flooding mini-sub. The solution is that Lindsay will drown while Bud swims her back to the rig and the coldness of the water will keep her systems from shutting down so she can be revived. This is a terrible idea.
2:01:56 Back on the rig everyone is working to revive Lindsay. To their credit they are better are actual defibrillator technique and chest compressions than ‘Baywatch’ ever was.
2:03:22 Don’t give up on her, Bud! Don’t you dare give up!
2:05:04 Yelling really loudly in her face and demanding that she breathe is not an actual medical technique. But because this is Hollywood it works where compressions and shocks do not.
2:08:52 Remember the magical pink underwater breathing water? Bud is now having his helmet filled with it. Ostensibly this is so he won’t explode at abyssal trench (any excuse to say it) depths because fluid is an insulator or whatever blah blah science. It really just makes his head look like a pink gummy.
2:10:05 Look, in this age of smartphones and texting we all know this scene is the most impossible one in the whole movie. Typing accurately on a tiny keypad with a giant gloved hand? Never gonna happen.
2:14:38 This is standard movie “he needs you talk to him, really talk to him” stuff. The guy needs you to confess your love at this precise moment, when he’s seventeen thousand feet underwater being crushed to death with a pink gummy head. NOW IS THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT FEELINGS. Kanye agrees.
2:18:30 If I were the one falling into the abyssal trench I wouldn’t want the comforting voice in my ear to keep reminding me how dark and cold and deep it is.
2:19:46 He does look like a little shooting star in this shot. This is a fool’s mission but it’s a pretty one.
2:20:05 Or he isn’t hallucinating badly, dude. He’s just reached Glowbug Central.
2:21:46 This is like every ‘A-Team’ episode involving a bomb. When BA hesitates and can’t decide whether to cut the black wire or the red one.
2:23:24 It is weird to me that nobody else thought he might not be able to make the return trip out of the abyssal trench but he knew it all along. Nobody thought that plunging into a bottomless pit might be a one-way ride? It does give a lovely moment of connection between Bud and Lindsay though.
2:24:48 Glowbug intervention time. It really does kind of look like a pink party angel.
2:25:43 This whole alien effect does not stand the test of time. 1989 feels a very long time ago when watching this sequence. It’s hokey as hell now.
2:26:29 Ginger: “I wonder if he knows he’s going to be probed.”
2:27:25 It’s the parting of the red sea, abyssal trench style.
2:29:07 “Howdy. Uh, how you guys doin?” This is why nobody has since asked Ed Harris to be our intergalactic liaison.
2:31:16 This discussion with the aliens in the trench scene isn’t in the theatrical release. In theatres you didn’t see their rationale for destroying earth via giant tsunami; the montage of war scenes and horror from our history. Thus, though this is a very heavy-handed human morality tale, the theatrical release makes absolutely no sense.
2:36:56 Bud’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the glowbugs and his love for Lindsay is what saved humanity. I suppose now I have to forgive him, retrospectively, for the disaster that was his command of the Gravity mission and the distressing loss of George Clooney.
2:37:20 How is it not impossible to hear from Bud? I mean discounting the belief in alien glowbugs.
2:40:25 Yes, that’s exactly what would happen on the destroyer after nearly dying in a hurricane and against all odds re-establishing contact with the submerged rig. They’d just believe the story of aliens. They wouldn’t immediately think “They’ve all got crazy eye, man”.
2:40:06 I enjoy immensely that the surfacing alien ship is pastel blue and pink like a delightful candy confection.
2:41:16 And the rig, brought topside by the glowbugs, just opens and they all jump out. And their lungs do not explode. They do not die from decompression sickness. “They must have done something to us.” So the script uses science to explain it.
2:42:50 This is kind of nuts enough as is but try to imagine it without the scene in the trench and the glowbug explanation. It wouldn’t make a lick of sense which is why The Abyss didn’t do as well as it could have in theatres.
2:44:40 Admittedly this complete version is damn lengthy so I get the urge to trim but trimming out the entire climax and plot wrap-up is an idiotic notion, studio heads. If you’re going to watch this film - and honestly, you really should, it’s a wonderful use of Michael Biehn and crazy eye - do not watch the theatrical release version.
Well, no thanks to the cat, we finished the epic trek into the abyssal trench and back. Thanks for hanging in there with me! This, of course, would go on to spawn a nearly infinite number of alien-and-water-themed James Cameron movies so upon reflection that may put a damper on this movie's greatness.
- Corinne Simpson