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Deepsea Challenge 3D (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 90 minutes
OK for children.

James Cameron, who gambled big on Titanic and won big, is, without question, a masterful movie maker. He also fancies himself as a quintessential explorer à la Columbus, and holds the title of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. His domain is the deep sea.

He starts this thoroughly autobiographical film out with him as a child interested in exploration, and flashes back to those scenes throughout the movie.

This is the story of Cameron building a state of the art submersible that can withstand the extraordinary pressure of being seven miles under the sea to dive far deeper than anyone before. No man-made vehicle had ever been able to withstand that kind of pressure. None had ever gone half as deep before. Talk about “going where no man has gone before.”

And what is even more remarkable is that Cameron went alone. The space he occupied in the ship was so small he has to sit in it like he’s in the womb. It created claustrophobia just sitting in the theater watching him.

While I was hoping for some beautiful undersea photography, 2/3 of the film is the story of building the submersible and planning for the dive with his team. Only at the one hour mark does he actually take the dive. So this is not a film to be seen because of eye-popping cinematography.

I’ve seen lots of stuff like this on TV and am generally disappointed, because it’s more the story of how they did it than what they actually did.

There are some shots of the ship taken from outside the ship that looked too far away to have been shot with the cameras that are attached to the ship. It’s impossible to think that shots such as these are possible, so they must have been recreations. How could they have taken a shot of the ship rising from the floor of the ocean seven miles deep and retrieved it?

Finally, though, there is live action recording of Cameron in his vehicle running into problems and apparently meeting them with aplomb (“This isn’t good.”). I say "apparently" because the skeptic in me recognizes that it doesn't take much "movie magic" to shoot these scenes after the dive was completed and make them look like they were shot live on the bottom of the ocean.  There are some shots from the deep and of some of the creatures he encounters, but not enough (although there probably aren’t many creatures down that deep).

However, it does show that Cameron has the courage of his convictions. It takes a lot of fortitude to get into a ship like this and descend 7 miles to the bottom of the ocean, alone, and knowing that if something goes wrong there’s no hope of rescue.  Moreover, this provides a valuable lesson that if you don’t take chances you lose the opportunities of accomplishment. One can’t come out of this without new respect for Cameron as something more than a maker of dreams for the multitude on the big screen. On Titanic he was risking money and reputation. Here he was risking his life.