Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)

James Cameron leads a high-tech 3-D Imax crew down to examine the ruined ocean liner Titanic.

Genre – Documentary

Executive Producer – Walter Josten

Director(s) – James Cameron

Cast – Bill Paxton, James Cameron and 15 scientists

Blue Rider’s Role – Production executives

Distributor(s) – IMAX Films, Buena Vista Pictures (and Home Video), Telepool (Germany), Golden Village (Singapore), Manga Films (Spain), UGC-Fox Distribution, Universal Pictures Benelux (Netherlands)

Release Date – 2003

Synopsis – James Cameron (Titanic) journeys back to the site of the legendary wreck of the Titanic. With a team of the world’s foremost historic and marine experts and friend Bill Paxton he embarks on an unscripted adventure back to the final grave where nearly 1,500 souls lost their lives almost a century ago. Using state-of-the-art technology developed expressly for this expedition, Cameron and his crew explore virtually all of the wreckage, inside and out, as never before. With the most advanced 3D photography, moviegoers will experience the ship as if they are part of the crew, right inside the dive subs. In this unprecedented motion picture event, made especially for IMAX 3D Theatres and specially outfitted 35mm 3D theaters across the country, Cameron and his team bring audiences to sights not seen since the sinking 90 years ago and explore why the landmark vessel — more than any shipwreck — continues to intrigue and fascinate the public.

Awards for Ghosts of the Abyss: 
Ghosts of the Abyss won the 2004 Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Documentary Award.

Budgeted at an estimated $13 million, Ghosts of the Abyss grossed $17,040,871 in the U.S. between April 2003 and October 2005: 131 weeks. Foreign boxoffice was $5.1 million, bringing the global total to $22.1 million. Its widest U.S. release was 97 theatres. Half of the foreign gross ($2.6 million) was in Australia. It was the #5-ranked U.S. G-rated film of 2003.

Release data:
In 2003 it was released in the U.S., U.K., France, Australia, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland. It opened in Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Norway and Finland, as well as on Norwegian and Finnish DVD in 2004. A year later, it bowed in Mexico in the IMAX version. In 2003 it screened at the Cannes and Deauville Film Festivals.

Viewers’ Ratings:
More than 81.4% of the 1,763 Internet Movie Database users who have rated the film through February 27, 2009 gave it positive ratings (with the average rating being 7 out of 10. All demographic groups gave it high ratings (6.0 or better out of 10) with the most enthusiastic groups being females 17 and younger (7.6 out of 10), women 18-29 (7.2) and males 17 and younger (7.1). Through Feb. 27, 2008, fully 78.3% of the 138 viewers rating it at gave it an A or a B.

Critics’ Kudos:
Seventy-two of the 87 North American critics who reviewed Ghosts of the Abyss (83%) praised it.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “Its a unique trip that grows more compelling, awe-inspiring and tragic the deeper you go.”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: “The result is often spellbinding.”

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: “The footage of the old ship, whose ghostly grandeur is still apparent, despite 90 years underwater, speaks volumes.”

Daphne Gordon, Toronto Star: “The footage from the dives shows perfectly preserved details from the inside of the ship.”

David Kehr, New York Times: “Haunting and beautiful 3-D documentary.”

Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine: “Fascinating, haunting and poignant 3D IMAX documentary.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “Not your usual snoozy IMAX documentary.”

Steve Murray, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The next best thing to riding a sub to the bottom of the North Atlantic and prowling around the sunken ocean liner.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “A thrilling documentary.”

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: “One of the rare IMAX movies in which the 3-D effects are completely melded into the picture rather than simply used as a gimmick.”

Jeff Shannon, review of the DVD: “Even without its original 3-D IMAX presentation, James Cameron’s Ghosts of the Abyss is still an eerily elegant tour of history’s most infamous shipwreck. Six years after his original journey to the rusting hulk of the Titanic (where he captured footage for his 1997 blockbuster), Cameron returned to the wreckage with actor Bill Paxton, a team of Russian and American scientists, the world’s most knowledgeable Titanic historians and enough state-of-the-art technology to film the most complete and intimate exploration of the ill-fated ship’s remains. Astonishing footage, flawless digital animation, and ghostly re-creations of the ship’s final hours are seamlessly combined to orient the viewer at an intersection of tragic past and awe-inspiring present, emphasizing more than ever the sheer scale of Titanic’s gargantuan construction. Signs of luxury remain 90 years later, while the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (occurring here in mid-mission) place this unforgettable journey into resonant, humanitarian perspective.”

Major Cast and Crew Credits and Awards:
Director is James Cameron (won three Oscars for Titanic–best pic, director and editing; won 34 major awards and had 16 other monimations for films including Aliens, Terminator 2, The Abyss, Terminator, True Lies, Strange Days, Expedition: Bismarck, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning; produced Solaris, Point Break and Aliens of the Deep; wrote 42 episodes of Dark Angel, nine episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Rambo: First Blood Part Two; directed Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, Xenogenesis and T2 3-D: Battle Across Time).

Stars Bill Paxton (won Saturn Award for Aliens, won two other awards and had 10 additional nominations for works including Frailty, Twister, True Lies, Near Dark, Big Love, Titanic and A Bright Shining Lie; appeared in Apollo 13, The Terminator, Tombstone, A Simple Plan, Weird Science U-571, Commando, Predator 2, Vertical Limit, Stripes and 53 other films and TV projects), James Cameron and 15 scientists.

Cast also includes John Donovan (Austin Powers in Goldmember, Clonus Horror, Rush Week, Superchick).

Executive Producer was Giedra Rackauskas (production supervisor on Titanic, Aliens 3 and Sommersby).

Producers were James Cameron (The Muse, Aliens of the Deep; 13 episodes of Dark Angel, Point Break, Solaris); John Bruno (supervising producer on West New York, line producer on Man of the Century, visual effects supervisor on Rush Hour 3 and director of two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager); Chuck Comisky (Poseidon’s Fury: Escape from the Lost City and T2 3-D: Battle Across Time; visual effects supervisor on Aliens of the Deep, Dungeons & Dragons, Blade, Rush Hour and 15 episodes of Space Academy); Janace Tashjian (won Emmy and PGA Laurel Award for From Earth to the Moon; produced Grand Avenue, 21 episodes of Entourage, 22 episodes of Dark Angel, 21 episodes of Earth 2, three episodes of Harsh Realm and 22 episodes of Law & Order) and Andrew Wight (Aliens of the Deep, Expedition Bismarck, Titanic Adventure and Last Mysteries of the Titanic).

Original Music by Joel McNeely (won ASCAP Film Music Award for Air Force One; nominated for Annie Award for Return to Never Land; won Emmy and a second nom for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles; scored Holes, The Avengers, Soldier, I Know Who Killed Me, Vegas Vacation, Terminal Velocity, Virus, Uptown Girls, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, nine episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, five videos of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, and 44 other films and TV projects) and Lisa Torban (debut).

Cinematography by Vince Pace (Emmy nomination for Expedition Bismarck; shot Aliens of the Deep, Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion 4D; executive produced Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour) and D.J. Roller (Emmy nom for Expedition: Bismarck; shot Sunrise Earth, Failure is Not an Option, Deep Sea Detectives, Nova and Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack).

Film Editing by John Refoua (Soul Food, Players, Legend, Balls of Fury, Soft Toilet Seats, Legend, Roar, Reno 911: Miami, N.Y. Undercover, 30 episodes of CSI Miami and eight episodes of Dark Angel); David C. Cook (Man and Dog, Clover Bend, Last Mysteries of the Titanic and 14 episodes of Shark); Ed W. Marsh (Aliens of the Deep, The “Alien” Legacy, Under Pressure: Making “The Abyss”) and Sven Pape (Living the Dream, Good Time Max, Curtains, Hollywood Kills; editing awards for L.A. Twister and The First Year’s a Bitch).

Production Design by Martin Laing (Terminator 4, Battle Angel, City of Ember; art director on Titanic, The Haunting and In Dreams; assistant art director on Judge Dredd and True Lies).

Art Direction by Leonard Barrit (Aliens of the Deep, Earthship TV) and Javier Nava (set designer on Deep Blue Sea).

Special Effects by Sergio Lino (did special effects on Dirty Money, Contrabanda Mortal, Trampa Mortal and Justicia).

Visual Effects Supervisors are Adam Howard (won three Best Special Visual Effects Emmys for Star Trek: The Next Generation and six Emmy nominations for Enterprise, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Titanic, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, War of the Worlds, Armageddon, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Apollo 13, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, The Day After Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible III, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Woodstock, Peter Pan and; 91 other films and TV projects); Chuck Comisky (Blade, Rush Hour, The Crow, The Last Action Hero, The Addams Family, L.A. Story, The Blob, Jaws 3-D; Best Special Effects Saturn Award noms for Strange Invaders and Battle Beyond the Stars); Adalberto Al Lopez (Disturbing Behavior, Idiocracy, The Sender, Beneath Loch Ness, Angels in the Endzone; Visual Effects Society Award nomination for Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King) and Kenneth Jones (Titanic, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Contact, Deep Impact, What Women Want, Rush Hour, The Score, We Were Soldiers, Scary Movie 2, Frida, Star Trek: Nemesis, Dante’s Peak, The Parent Trap, Jane Austen’s “Mafia”; Saturn Award Nomination for Strange Invaders).

DVD Extras:
1)”Reflections From The Deep” — Includes Unseen Footage From The Filmmakers’ Risky Dives To The Ocean Floor And Revealing Interviews With Director James Cameron, Star Bill Paxton, And The Entire Crew; 2)”The MIR Experience” — An Innovative Multi-Angle Feature. Choose From Different Cameras As You Dive To The Ocean’s Floor And Ultimately See The Grand Staircase From Any View You Want; 3) 60-Minute Original Theatrical Feature (1.78:1) Enhanced For 16×9 Televisions; 4) 90-Minute Extended Feature (1.78:1) Enhanced For 16×9 Televisions, 5)DVD includes original IMAX 61-minute version and expanded 92-minute version.

Producer-director Quote:
James Cameron: “The visibility we got down at Titanic sometimes dropped down to about 50 feet, but usually up around the 100-, 125-foot mark. The limitation at the Titanic wreck is lighting, just pounding enough light onto the ship to be able to see it. The ship is orange, and orange light is the second wavelength (after red) that you lose coming through water. So you put a white light on an orange subject 100 feet away, and 80% of the light is absorbed before it reaches you, because it’s only reflecting in the red end of the spectrum. All the blues are not reflected, so you’ve just lost most of the effect or your light. It’s a tough subject. The Bismark [referring to his Discovery Channel documentary Expedition: Bismark] was much easier, because it was gray, so it reflected the full spectrum.”
Internet Movie Database entry for Ghosts of the Abyss

Official Site (Disney)

Interview with Director James Cameron at

Interview with actor/diver Bill Paxton about Ghosts of the Abyss–at

Before and after photos of the Titanic and Disney/Walden Media site

three trailers in three formats and links to 8 other Ghosts trailer sites (including French)