In the first scene of James Cameron’s “The Abyss,” a U.S. nuclear missile submarine plays war games with a Russian submarine in submarine canyons two miles down‒and loses.
This means the oil crew of the nearby Bendick Explorer, a deep submersible oil rig (led by Ed Harris), are the only ones close enough to get the nukes before the Russians do. The crew is reinforced with Harris’s scientist ex wife (Elizabeth Mastrantonio), called the “Queen Bitch of the Universe” by the crew members that know her, and a Navy Seal team with a psychotic commander.
All is not what it seems in this big science fiction film. What if the Russian submarine is really an alien spaceship? What if the fate of the world really does depend on the aliens’ opinion of the crew’s human decency? After all, the last thing you want to run into two miles under water is a pissed off alien.
This is a great movie with a lot going on. The movie has several versions of which the original release was by far the worst because of botched editing to cut the running time. Download the longest version you can find (the one with “the wave scene”) and schedule a popcorn intermission.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone 100/100 (one of the bottom 10 worst reviewers, -31; I guess that every now and then, even a blind pig finds a truffle)
Stupendously exciting and emotionally engulfing... With probing intelligence and passionate feeling, Cameron has raised the adventure film very close to the level of art.
Mick LaSalle 75/100 (one of my top 5 reviewers)
Both Mastrantonio and Harris are terrific, never missing a beat, always convincing, even when playing the most extreme emotions.
David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor 38/100 (a mediocre publication, -5 total, with 100% mediocre reviewers)
The Abyss isn't abysmal, but it's a replay of hits we've already seen - a recycled "close encounters of the wet kind'' with far too few ideas of its own.
Rita Kempley 40/100 (another no-name reviewer in the Washington Post, a bottom-10 publication with a total score of -42 and all bad reviewers, led by the woeful Ann Hornaday, -24)
How many times can we be awestruck by Day-Glo Gumbies? And why do these creatures always travel with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? [note the “we are superior” tone of the Post oozing through this lousy review of a very good movie.]