Ghosts of the Abyss, a Titanic Doc (Video Review)


If you missed this documentary when it came out in IMAX 3D Disney gives you a second chance to see Ghosts of the Abyss with their release on home video of a 3D Blu-ray combo pack.  The three-disc set has the 61-minute theatrical release plus the 92-minute DVD release with 30 minutes of additional footage.  Cinematography in 3D combined with state of the art Blu-ray provides a nearly perfect theatrical presentation on Widescreen High Definition televisions.

James Cameron takes his viewers to the deepest depths of the Titanic graveyard where he lets somebody see how the much publicized passenger ship met its demise. Weaving in an out of chambers he shows the condition of the ship while describing how the ship looked before the catastrophe creating an unforgettable picture of the sea disaster.  Using amazing underwater photography, deck by deck we can see the visible decay of the incredible ship that was claimed by the sea in 1912.

Getting into all the nooks and crannies of the huge steamer with robotic cameras, nicknamed Elwood and Jake, James Cameron visits hard to get into areas and some of its most dangerous pockets.  Determined to make sure the interior has been completely explored, Cameron gives us viewers a chance to see what no divers have seen over the years.  Reviling mostly the interiors of the upscale passenger room we see personal items, there opulent quarters and other amenities not afforded those in 3rd Class.

James Cameron and Bill Paxton aboard a mini sub

To see the exploration of the crew’s quarters and areas where the not so wealthy were housed you need to switch over to the DVD where 30 minutes of additional footage not seen in the original film or on the Blu-ray comes to life.  This area of the ship becomes very eerie knowing that most of the occupants perished in the sinking ship according to the movie Titanic.  Not a lot has survived the sea, but you can still see the cramped quarters and the crews work space.  I could only image how the occupants must have felt knowing there was no escape from the bowls of the sinking ship.

But the highlight of the whole package is the 3D quality and what Cameron has pictured using the special format.  The depth of focus from the cameras actually makes me feel like I’m traversing each of the barnacle-laden rooms of the ship.  Close-ups become microscopic investigations of certain scenes that boggle the mind.  Whether it’s the cramped interiors, ballrooms or corridors, the 3D images astound the viewer thinking they can touch items within the ship. The realism exhibits a profound sadness for the 1500 passengers who perished worked, slept, reveled, dined, danced and played.

Cameron along with Bill Paxton, Dr. John Broadwater and Dr. Lori Johnston provide commentary and quips as the movie spools out.  While Broadwater and Johnston are marine experts lending most of the specifics connected with the dives, Cameron commands center stage and as well he should.  An excellent storyteller, Cameron provides his audience a more ‘Hollywood’ presentation of the documentary.  Actor Paxton, who can be seen in Titanic, seems like he was invited to the party to add some comic relief within the fact filled script.  Although he gives an interesting perspective on the dives he made, his absence from this film would not have been missed.

Bonus features are not why you purchase the Blu-ray because it’s a documentary and we already see how it’s done during the presentation.  But the filmmakers do include an excellent feature called “Reflections of the Deep” in which we get a surprising look at the more risky dives made to the bottom of the ocean.  This feature does have commentary from several of those involved including the film crew. There is also a feature called an “ROV” experience where you can watch footage from six different angles of an incredible dive.

Video Quality:  The presentation on the 3D HD Television screen is extremely good.  “Ghosts of the Abyss” is brightly lit, with a clear and crisp depth of field that allows a closer look at most of the wreckage.  The regular 2D Blu-ray showing has an excellent feel and clarity that played well on my HD Widescreen Television.  I played the DVD using a regular player that is hooked up to my HD Widescreen and found it to be very good quality, but for a better experience sticking it into your Blu-ray player makes the presentation significantly better.

Sound Quality:  Depending on your entertainment system the Dolby Digital DTS 5.1 Master Audio sounds crisp through my big screen television.  As long as you have some stereo capabilities, for this film you really don’t need a lot of other bells and whistles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good companion to the Blu-ray release of TITANIC. (B)

Specifications and additional film information:

  • Cast: Bill Paxton, James Cameron, Dr. John Broadwater
    and Dr. Lori Johnston
  • Directed by: James Cameron
  • MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Run Time: 60 minutes, 90 minutes (extended version)
  • Format: Color, Subtitled, 3D, Widescreen
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Language: English
  • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
  • Video: 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.78:1, enhanced for 16X9 Televisions
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French
  • Street Date: September 11, 2012
  • Film 3D Release Date:
  • Distributed by: Walt Disney Home Video
  • Number of discs: 3
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