I, like many others, share a true interest with the darkness and unknown of the sea. And Deepsea Challenge has been a long time coming from James Cameron. And it’s a fantastic achievement for science. Given we’ve had major advancements in technology over the past 40-odd years, this mission would definitely be one to watch and; to an extent, it is. But this is a documentary that squanders its complete potential in favour of a little James Cameron fan service. Well, it feels like it, anyway.
The problem the documentary has is it hangs itself on Cameron and his dream rather than shedding light on the monumental processes and technology made to actually get him to where he wants to go. So in that sense, the documentary has somewhat failed. There’s a lot about building James Cameron up as a character and leader in the first 30 or so minutes. It’s interesting to see for about five of those minutes, as the film dedicates a fair chunk of it to packages about Avatar, Titanic, and, relevantly, The Abyss.
That’s not to say that the documentary isn’t bad though – because it’s not. When it shines its spotlight on the engineering aspects and the actual submersible itself, the movie becomes a joy to watch, and the repeated test dives before the Really Big One are all quite exciting, utilising the 3D aspect of the film rather wonderfully. The most interesting part of the film is the New Britain dive as it takes a few attempts and explains the process of the dive and the systems on board, keeping the documentary informative. Once the vessel hits that depth, it’s enthralling.
Yet it all boils down to actually hitting the bottom of the Challenger Deep and when the crew do, it’s exhilarating – if not a little anticlimactic. You go down expecting the oddest of creatures and environment, but instead we’re treated to a few minutes of sand and cliff faces and some James Cameron. Life at that depth is seemingly non-existent and if you can put aside the preachiness that comes from Cameron and his wife about how kids will want to explore after watching this film how he’s fulfilled his dream, you’ve got a product that dives deep yet really doesn’t hit the mark it wants to.
DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is directed by John Bruno, Andrew Wight and Ray Quint;
Written by Andrew Wight and John Garvin; and produced by Andrew Wight and Brett Popplewell. Executive Producers are James Cameron, Lisa Truitt, Maria Wilhelm and Mikael Borglund. Cinematography by Jules O’Loughlin ACS; original score by Ricky Edwards, Brett Aplin and Amy Bastow; Edited by Jane Moran.