Movie Review: James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D (2014)

James Cameron going in Deepsea Challenger in Deepsea Challenge

A real documentary that shows what the big-time filmmaker saw in his solo dives into the deepest points on Earth… in high definition 3-D

It is exactly what the title of the film says – James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge in 3D – the chronicles of the multiple award-winning filmmaker’s dive to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, in the sea at the southern end of the Mariana Trench with depth of almost 11,000 metres, all by himself. There are minimal reenactments, no special effects involved, it’s not fictional (unlike what Discovery likes to release these days) and I believe not many documentaries are so well recorded and filmed as Cameron brought high definition 3D cameras along in his explorations.

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James Cameron is the producer, writer and director of many huge movies and classics like Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, The Terminator, just to name a few, but his childhood dream was always to explore the deepest depth of the oceans and in 2012 he made his long life dream come true by being only the second manned dive to the Challenger Deep out of a total of four dives ever in history. Through this documentary, it tells how Cameron becomes from a sci-fi geek to a deep-sea explorer, and shows his deepsea wreckage explorations visiting the seabeds of the actual Titanic and the Bismarck German battleship that sunk decades ago. From there, the documentary then takes the viewers on Cameron’s journey from the building process of the DeepSea Challenger (the high tech deep-diving submersible craft which Cameron piloted to his destinations underwater) to his earlier test dives and all the way to Mariana Trench. It’s all on big screen, visually crystal clear and it’s simply beautiful and immersive to watch and quite an eye opener.

Other than just allowing viewers to witness the sights of the explorations, Deepsea Challenge also shows the problems, moments and dramas that this expedition had to go through. There are just plenty of ways to die deep in the water and maybe because of that, it’s still very thrilling to see Cameron’s dives although already knowing he succeeds in the end. As Cameron went deeper to the sea, he managed to capture and film the diverse ecosystem with unusual critters, some of which are briefly shown on camera here and there.

Deepsea Challenger submersible  in Deepsea Challenge

The only disappointments is that it’s almost too James Cameron-focused and everyone else involved was just secondary, and it somehow feels that the scenes of the bottom of the sea and his exploration of the nature down there are too brief. If the film spent more time showing what they captured on those high definition 3D cameras at the bottom of every dive prior to the shockingly empty Challenger Deep, the documentary might have been even more visually satisfying. I respect the honesty that they didn’t try to say that they had many groundbreaking findings, or over-dramatised any situation, and nobody should expect to see a Megalodon or a Giant Squid (if that’s what he saw, it’d be all over the news by now), but I couldn’t help but to feel a bit disappointed, especially with the end destination, and it could’ve been compensated with more underwater screen time.

The documentary also doesn’t try very hard to be emotional; apparently it only took Cameron 24 to 48 hours to move on from the death of Andrew Wight (one of the three directors of this documentary, who died in a helicopter accident during during the timeline of the expedition) before deciding to go on with plan. But it should be appreciated that this film actually shows how the man truly is. Like his character or not, it’s probably the main reason why he’s so successful in everything he wants to achieve, including this record-breaking expedition, It wasn’t a remote control machine, or someone else. He, himself, piloted the craft he created with a team of experts, down to the bottom of the deepest point on this planet, he saw what’s really down there, and though it might be disappointing, he achieved his dream and he shared it with the world through the lens of his high tech 3D cameras. How many other Hollywood stars can say they did something like this?

James Cameron vs. Bruce Wayne meme deepsea challenge

What I would’ve named the film: “James Cameron Realising His Childhood Dream”

Censorship in Malaysia: Thankfully, our beloved local film censorship board allowed scenes with gruesome-looking underwater creatures. Sorry, I think I might be overly sarcastic about this in recent reviews. Anyway, seriously, nothing is censored besides one or two vulgar words muted, if I remember correctly.

To watch in 3D? I watched it in 3-D format at GSC Mid Valley Megamall and didn’t find the effects impactful. I guess a 2D viewing would practically be the same.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said she felt asleep a few times because it’s totally not within her interest.

Verdict: Recommended for hardcore James Cameron fans and curious people who don’t mind watching documentaries. I’m in between so it was definitely interesting to me.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

James Cameron Deepsea Challenge poster malaysiaGenre: Documentary
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: John Bruno, Ray Quint, Andrew Wight
Cast: James Cameron, Frank Lotito, Lachlan Woods, Paul Henri

Malaysia Release Date: 16 October 2014 (selected GSC cinemas only)
Rated: U
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Wight Expedition Films, Earthship Productions, Inc., Beyond Productions

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