DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    James Cameron as HIMSELF

    Rated G
    Studio: Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media

    Directed by: James Cameron and Steven Quale
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I want the old James Cameron back. Remember him? He was a guy who made some of the most exciting, thrilling films ever to hit the theatres. What happened to him?

After winning the Academy Award for his film “Titanic,” James Cameron has all but dropped off the face of the planet – literally. Now, he’s making documentaries on the IMAX screen that take submersibles down to the ocean floor.

His first IMAX doco, “Ghosts of the Abyss,” was a great little film. On the IMAX screen in 3-D, it was incredible because it put you directly in front of the sunken Titanic. On DVD, it lost some of its magic, but it was still a compelling, interesting film.

Cameron’s latest work, “Aliens of the Deep,” abandons the Titanic for bacteria life forms near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. To be honest, it’s a huge step down from a shipwreck to bacteria. In general, bacteria don’t make great cinema. That’s their nature.

Like “Ghosts of the Abyss,” much of “Aliens of the Deep” involves Cameron scuttling about a ship with a crew of marine biologists and other scientists. They are studying the life at the most extreme conditions in the bottom of the sea.

The problem is, however, while the life is fascinating from a scientific view, it’s not that thrilling to look at. The folks in the film explain how the information gathered on these trips might help space exploration to other worlds in the future, but it seems hollow from the gee whiz standpoint of the film.

The biggest problem with “Aliens of the Deep” is that it really doesn’t offer much more information than you’d get from your basic World Book encyclopedia entry. There’s some decent computer animation to demonstrate the background, but I really felt the presentation of the science in this film was more appropriate for a 9th grade science film than an IMAX movie.

When the scientists got to the vents and examined the creatures there, we got even less information. Rather, the audience is treated to the “oohs” and “ahs” of the crew as they watch the vents pluming while the ocean creatures swim among them.

Unfortunately, instead of being a fascinating trip into the unknown, it seems that James Cameron was just stroking his own ego and trying to recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle he made with “Ghosts of the Abyss.” By playing off the title of an earlier hit (“Aliens”), he probably suckered some folks into watching this relatively humdrum nature doc.

The DVD doesn’t come with any special features, except for an extended cut of the already plodding film. Doubling the running time didn’t help make the film any more exciting. I’d like to see James Cameron get out of the water and start doing what he does best – making regular movies.

I didn’t have the chance to see this movie on the IMAX screen, and I’m sure that the immersion experience you get from IMAX made this a better movie. However, on DVD, it’s rather forgettable.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1) – enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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