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The Abyss UHD/BD (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000225487
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 23/5/2024 21:01
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    Review for The Abyss UHD/BD

    10 / 10


    Here we are again, with another long awaited James Cameron movie. I may as well recycle the introduction to my recent True Lies review, where I whinge about the unavailability of these movies in high definition since the beginning of the Blu-ray era, the fact that I had to skip Blu-ray and get the UHD because of Disney’s recent penchant for eliminating retail SKUs and bundling the UHD and HD versions together, compelling me to shell out twice as much as I would have done for the Blu-ray alone, and of course James Cameron’s revisionist nature, meaning that these films no longer look as they did when they were first released. I can add another complaint to this list, although this time it’s more admiration at James Cameron taking a stand.

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    The Abyss is notorious for being cut in the UK, a mandatory BBFC requirement. When it came to the UK release of this UHD, the BBFC again insisted that a super-oxygenated rat be excised from the film once more. Cameron told them where to stick their requirement, and the UK release was cancelled, but thankfully the BD component of this release is Region A, B and C compatible (UHDs have no region coding at all usually), and it was a simple matter to import this release from the U.S.

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    Would you believe that despite The Abyss being one of my favourite films, I’ve never actually owned a copy until now? I rented the videotape early on, and subsequently caught plenty of re-watches on TV, both the theatrical and the extended versions. One big reason why I didn’t buy it is that annoyance of a BBFC edit. The second big reason is that once DVDs came around, the Abyss got both the standard and special edition treatment, but it never got an anamorphic release. That very quickly became a sticking point with me for movies on DVD, and I had always hoped that an eventual Blu-ray release would do away with all that. But just as with True Lies, a Blu-ray release never came. At this point I think that it’s been ten years since I last watched the Abyss. On the bright side that will make me more immune to any visual or audio changes wrought in this new transfer by James Cameron.

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    This is a three disc release, with both versions of the film presented on a UHD disc, and the accompanying BD disc. A third disc, also a Blu-ray contains the film’s extra features. Just to reiterate, for the purposes of this review, I’m watching the film on Blu-ray.

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    A U.S. nuclear submarine has gone down, and time is short to organise a rescue mission. The Navy instead opts to use the services of an experimental civilian drilling rig, anchored to the ocean floor close to where the submarine went missing. They send a Navy SEAL team along with the designer of the rig, Lindsey Brigman to put the rescue into action, drafting the crew aboard the rig into the mission. With time a factor, and with the Soviets sniffing around, the mission will be difficult enough, but the rig boss is Bud Brigman, Lindsey’s estranged husband. Yet there’s something else on the ocean floor besides the rig and the missing submarine.

    The disc contains the theatrical version of The Abyss (140:16) and the Director’s Cut (171:01).

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    The Disc

    On the Blu-ray the film gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English, as well as English Audio Descriptive, DTS-HD HR 5.1 Surround French, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Spanish on the Theatrical Version with subtitles in these languages. (The Director’s Cut lacks for Spanish audio and subtitles). It’s been so long since I last watched the Abyss, that I have a hard time remembering what it originally looked like. Having said all that, this new 4k re-master does feel a little teal to me, a little desaturated in the reds, but given that the majority of the film is set a few thousand feet beneath the surface of the ocean, it’s not as obvious a change as in the True Lies release. Detail levels are excellent, and while the film has been degrained, it’s not to the point where it becomes obvious in skin tones or the like. The film looks fantastic. Audio too really impresses in this release, nicely immersive and impactful when it needs to be, while keeping the dialogue clear throughout. You might need to nudge the volume up a tad. Also, with the distance of time, it’s hard to distinguish Alan Silvestri’s incidental music for The Abyss from his music for Predator.

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    For what it’s worth, the UHD specs listed on the case are 2.39:1 widescreen 2160p with HDR, Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD MA 2.0 English, DD 2.0 Stereo English Audio Descriptive, and DTS-HD HR 5.1 French, along with DD 5.1 Spanish on the theatrical version only with subtitles in these languages.

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    You get three discs in a thin UHD Amaray style case, two discs stacked on one spindle on one face, one disc on the other. It’s all wrapped in an o-card slipcover. And US releases still get digital codes for download and stream versions where the UK has pretty much stopped doing that.

    The BD discs that I watched boot to static menus, and the extras are all on the second BD disc, offering some things new and some things old, beginning with two featurettes made in 2023.

    Deep Dive: A Conversation with James Cameron (32:23)
    The Legacy of The Abyss (24:39)

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    You also get the vintage documentary...

    Under Pressure: Making The Abyss (59:37)

    The Archives is pure Laserdisc nostalgia, thousands of pages of text, images and video. It’s presented in 28 Chapters to click through looking at the making of the film, and at various points you can branch off to look at things like the shooting script, the complete storyboards, and multi-angle special effects featurettes.

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    The Abyss is a really great film, a tense, undersea thriller with a gripping story, and very well written characters. It holds the attention from its first frame all the way to its epic conclusion. But then there is the Special Edition/Director’s Cut/Extended Version, which elevates the film to sci-fi classic. If the theatrical version did have a fault, it was that the ending, spectacular though it was, felt like an afterthought tacked onto the action drama. The longer version of the film, as well as adding plenty more delightful character beats, puts the conclusion of the film in context, and then you can justifiably compare The Abyss to classic sci-fi like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Once you’ve seen the three hour cut, you’ll never go back to the theatrical version.

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    I kind of wish that I’d watched it for the first time again, without knowing anything about the story. Made as the Cold War was coming to an end, it’s a great thriller of the era, playing on the same nuclear Armageddon fears that drove films like The Terminator. A nuclear submarine sinks after an encounter with something unknown, and it’s a race against time to find it and enact a rescue mission. The civilian crew of the undersea oil rig are told as much, but the Navy Seal team have more pragmatic orders regarding military secrets and the arsenal of nuclear weapons aboard the submarine. And it’s doubly a race against time, against the weather closing, and of course against the Soviets who will no doubt also be looking for the sub.

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    You have the psychological tension that comes with being stuck in tin cans of varying dimension at the bottom of the ocean, where the slightest mistake or damage can snuff life out in an instant. There are also the physical effects of the same, which simply adds to the suspense, and then they gradually realise that they’re not all alone down there. It’s a great story, told with such effortlessness that you just don’t notice the time go by.

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    Too many people are like the BBFC these days. The love of the rat has led to problems with vermin plaguing our towns and cities. If only we could take a page from the Abyss, and deport our rats to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the BBFC, we can’t get the Abyss in high definition here in the UK, but it’s well worth importing. It’s a bona fide sci-fi classic, and for once, James Cameron has overseen a restoration of one of his films with a comparatively light touch. The Abyss still feels filmic and theatrical, and hasn’t been overly processed into digital sterility. Import a copy of the Abyss, and show those BBFC numpties what we think of their nannying.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    One of the best Si-fi films around, especially using the ocean as a medium rather than deep space. There could be as much hidden down there as in outer space, which is the main story of this film. Agree giving it such a high rating.

    Got it on my DVD collection.
    posted by Par Mizan on 21/6/2024 22:09