Time: 146 mins.
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Won Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Sound and Best Cinematography.
BOTTOM LINE: There's not much to recommend Cameron's first foray into love and adventure on the high seas. At least with TITANIC, the main back drop to the romance was already written. Here, he tries to create an undersea epic full of danger and magic and only half succeeds. The film's main problem is that it has too much going on. What begins as a discovery of unimaginable proportions, becomes an atrocious mess of intrigue and world destruction. Like most sci-fi films, the fate of the human race depends on the actions of a small group of unlikely heroes. Unfortunately, the message was one all to familiar and done better elsewhere. Cameron bites off more than he can chew in this epic, waterlogged tale.
The first hour or so is quite enjoyable. The film takes place on an underwater oil derrick filled with the same unusual cast of characters. Only this time around, they are forced to use their equipment to rescue a Soviet submarine in trouble. Bud (Harris) is not exactly happy about this assignment, especially since it brings the US military, as well as his ex-wife Lindsay (Mastrantonio), onto the station. There's no love lost between her and the crew, but since she's the most qualified when it comes to the rig, they can't argue about her presence. What they don't know, is the nature of the recovery mission the Navy SEALS are planning. The submarine is believed to be carrying nuclear warheads aimed for the United States. The SEALS, led by Lt. Coffey (Biehn), mean to retrieve them, leaving any Russian survivors behind to die.
Conflict of interests between the crew and the SEALS leads to some great drama and exciting action sequences. Harris and Mastrantonio spar convincingly as a couple who has not fully resolved their feelings about each other. Then the aliens appear. Made of water. They contact Lindsay, who finds them extraordinary and beautiful. Lt. Coffey doesn't agree. He believes it's some trick of the Russians, forcing his addled mind to take action that places the lives of the crew, not to mention everyone on the planet in the gravest of danger. It seems the aliens are tired of our brutal, murderous ways. It's up to Bud to save the world, to stop Coffey and convince the aliens humans deserve a second chance. Didn't see that coming, did you?
What begins as a Cold War drama, full of interesting characters, complicated relationships and amazing underwater battles, becomes just another diatribe about the evil nature of man. The aliens are more a mysterious presence than an intigral part of the story, at least until the last half hour when their true intentions take center stage. This sudden shift in idealogy is quite disconcerting, especially in the original theatrical version, which basically cuts out all the reasons behind their decision to destroy the human race. At least in the Director's Cut, this part of the story is fleshed out. Whether that's a good thing or not, will be up to you. Having seen both, I wasn't satisfied with either ending, since I believe both belonged on a different movie altogether. Plus, it draws out a film that has, by this time, become tiresome.