Aliens Of The Deep (2005) – documentary movie review

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Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey

Starring: James Cameron, Dr Pamela “Pan” Conrad, Djanna Figueroa, Michael Henry
Directors: James Cameron, Steven Quale

James Cameron, one of Hollywood’s biggest director’s, has chosen to make a couple of costly but relatively low profile IMAX features. But sitting in front of ALIENS OF THE DEEP you’re left in no doubt that it’s fuelled by the same ambition and enthusiasm that drove his most famous blockbusters.

This new project sees Cameron himself lead a team of scientists down to the depths of the oceans with state of the art equipment to investigate some of the most fascinating and little known life forms on the planet. On a succession of dives the film serves up a wonderful vision of life under the sea, and builds to a climax wondering what life might lurk in the hypothesised subterranean oceans on other worlds in the solar system and beyond. At the end Cameron’s imagination finally takes over, as fact is replaced by speculation, but fortunately this doesn’t encroach on the spectacle.

What makes this film noteworthy, and special, is that it’s been filmed in IMAX, and if you’re considering watching it make sure it’s on an IMAX screen. As a plain documentary ALIENS OF THE DEEP isn’t especially captivating or insightful, at points feeling more like a glorified Disney ride than serious science. However, as a visual experience in IMAX the ride really does become worth taking, and in certain points the images are breathtaking. Given that Cameron takes NASA scientists on his voyages and the film ends up in the far reaches of other planets, it sometimes seems that he’d much rather be exploring space than the sea, and there are moments when he’s clearly enjoying the cheesy dialogue and being in front of the camera for a change. It’s no surprise too after watching this that Cameron’s planning to return to sci-fi soon with his new project BATTLE ANGEL.

But despite these quibbles this is one of the few IMAX features made so far which doesn’t just feel like a gimmick but which really exploits the new technology to enhance the cinema experience. It’s (nautical) miles away from a David Attenborough programme, but this very different natural history film is well worth a look – if you can see it in IMAX.

4 out of 6 stars