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Mike Wilder brings you movie reviews. Each week a Selection of reviews for new releases and older films plus movie comparisons.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A tale of two films and one plot Part 2: Terror in deep water

A tale of two three films and one plot 

Over the years film studios have produced some amazing and original films. Occasionally however studios produce similar films at the same time, it doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes films with almost identical plots are made and released very close together. In these circumstances is it worth seeing both films? Is the “big budget” film always the best? And do the stars of the film make a difference? I decided to go back and watch some examples of these back to back. Starting with whichever film was released earlier and comparing my viewing experience. These comparisons will have spoilers but shouldn’t impact on any viewing pleasure as I will try to keep the spoilers similar to what you would find out in a trailer.

Part 2: Terror in deep water

DeepStar Six
The Abyss
Date of US release
UK/US Rating
Working deep underwater, people encounter strange life forms. Then follows a struggle for survival.
Budget (Estimated)
Lifetime gross
Chart position of the year
Academy award nominations
Academy award wins
1 for Visual Effects
IMDb rating

The second of my comparisons is the only triple feature in the list. This time we have three deep sea movies featuring mysterious lifeforms.
The Abyss has been re-released as a special edition with an additional 28 minutes added to the film. For this comparison I used the original cinema release.
So which is better? The stats clearly show that The Abyss is the clear winner in every category even though it was released after the other two films. But for a viewing experience is it really better?
Surprisingly, all three of these movies are very good. They each have some form of deep sea structure and the inhabitants encounter very different but very dangerous life forms. DeepStar Six has mysterious creatures, Leviathan has genetic mutations and The Abyss features alien life forms. All the films have the inhabitants of the underwater structures facing certain death from the damage the facility sustains during the film.
The Abyss is a great film, (made better by the extended version), the effects are ground breaking. It was a tester for the director James Cameron for the effects that would then give us the liquid metal Terminator in Terminator 2. It clearly is miles ahead of the competition with regard to the visuals. This is shown as The Abyss won the Academy Award for best Visual Effects. The effects in the other two films are good but not great. However for lower budget films made in the 80’s they are more than adequate. Once again the cast is excellent in The Abyss Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Todd Graff, J.C. Quinn, Adam Nelson & Kimberly Scott. All fairly successful stars but DeepStar Six and Leviathan’s cast are also made up of fairly big stars of the time. DeepStar Six stars Matt McCoy, Taurean Blacque, Nancy Everhard, Greg Evigan, Miguel Ferrer, Nia Peeples & Cindy Pickett. Leviathan’s cast has more recognizable stars including Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster, Amanda Pays & Michael Carmine, who sadly died just after the film’s release. It is the cast members who enhance the films tremendously, many of them were at the height of their fame. But the cast of Leviathan stands out for me but only just when compared to The Abyss. They have to convey terror and panic more so than the other films and they rise to the challenge well.
Plot wise, while the themes are very similar, the main plots differ in regards to the danger faced. In The Abyss, they face an alien race living beneath the sea and watching humanity undetected. DeepStar Six has a mysterious and as yet undiscovered sea creature unwittingly released from a sealed cave. Leviathan has the most diverse creature, taken almost directly from John Carpenters The Thing (1982). A mysterious shipwreck is discovered and a virus contaminates the personnel in the film. The virus takes over their body and they are transformed into an alien-like life form. The film could have been a sequel to The Thing. Story wise Leviathan and DeepStar Six lose out to The Abyss. The characters have more depth and the film as a whole sucks you into the story and keeps you riveted. With the other films, the stories are good but not as engrossing. It is something we have seen before many times.
So the winner?
The Abyss. But considering it was made on a huge budget and was written and directed by James Cameron the other two really didn’t stand a chance but put up a pretty good fight! Cameron’s previous film was Aliens and he followed The Abyss with Terminator 2: Judgment Day already establishing himself as a major heavyweight in the film industry.

Coming Next Month

Part 3: Volcanos

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