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The Abyss needs a Blu-Ray release (and a DVD Release in the correct aspect ratio)

David Morgan-Brown
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The Abyss needs a Blu-Ray release (and a DVD Release in the correct aspect ratio)

Despite having helmed both the highest and second highest grossing films of all time with Avatar and Titanic, James Cameron's superior 1989 underwater sci-fi-drama-thriller The Abyss is still in need of a Blu-Ray release. This is made all the more pressing by the fact its DVD release is butchered by its anamorphic aspect ratio being pillar-boxed on both sides -- this means a rather low resolution and squashed-in presentation of what is an otherwise gorgeous and mesmerising-looking film with some of the most extraordinary special effects shots of the 1980s. 

There's nothing more aggravating than putting in a DVD or Blu-Ray that you've bought with your own hard-earned money and finding out it's not in the correct aspect ratio. This little first world problem is usually reserved for little-known films with no real regard from their home video distributers, who carelessly fling out these visually distorted films. But not many big-budget, big studio films have ever had their only DVD release in a butchered appearance, but The Abyss bestows this unworthy burden.

The catch-22 is that The Abyss could become a more regarded and more recognised film if it had a proper DVD release, but it seems it would need that re-appraisal first to warrant a proper DVD release. After gaining a lot of interest with The Terminator and then putting himself on the map with Aliens, James Cameron then made this more personal and political film, that whilst heavy on practical underwater effects and groundbreaking early use of CGI, was a more languid and introspective film than the two blockbuster behemoths before it. The Abyss' equally high budget and troubled production suggested it may be exciting in the same way as The Terminator and Aliens, but it underperformed at the box office (barely breaking even financially) and barely made much of a splash with audiences. 

Despite this, Cameron still gave it the Extended Cut treatment in 1993, re-releasing this new version briefly in cinemas before it ended up on video, Laserdisc and then DVD (alongside the theatrical cut). This longer version, although adding more scenes and development to the characters (especially Michael Biehn's measured villain character to emphasise the political nuances), isn't doing too many favours for itself as its elongated ending has a preachy and easy-going message of universal world peace, man. For a film less direct with its heavy-handed political and moral messages/sermons, the original theatrical cut is a leaner and more satisfying version, though the choice is yours if you pick up the DVD release as both versions are available on seperate discs -- both versions in the incorrect pillar-boxed aspect ratio.

The Abyss has gradually accumalated fans over the years and decades, especially those who are traversing the filmography of one of the most financially successful directors on the planet, so it appears one of his greatest works deserves an unaltered home video release. A properly presented anamorphic version in HD or 4K released on Blu-Ray, DVD, or a streaming service would be most welcome in 2017 and would certainly lead to more exposure for one of James Cameron's best, yet most undervalued works.

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anamorphicblu-ray releasedvdincorrect aspect ratiojames cameronpillar-boxedthe abyss
r0rschachJanuary 7, 2017 1:42 PM

Couldn't agree more, it's always been one of my favorite Cameron films!

rnlolJanuary 7, 2017 2:04 PM

A new 4K Blu-ray is supposed to be coming out soon.

Zblur Velichkov BrothersJanuary 7, 2017 5:06 PM

That will happen. Cameron has already mentioned about it.

ManateeAdvocateJanuary 8, 2017 5:36 PM

"Director James Cameron has confirmed that his beloved film The Abyss has been recently remastered in 4K and will be released on Blu-ray in 2017. Mr. Cameron leaked the news while promoting the upcoming 30th anniversary Blu-ray release of Aliens at Comic-Con in San Diego.

"We've done a wet-gate 4K scan of the original negative, and it's going to look insanely good. We're going to do an authoring pass in the DI for Blu-ray and HDR at the same time", Cameron said.

The news was first reported by Variety."

TV JohnJanuary 30, 2017 7:50 AM

The extended version may be a bit preachy but it makes much more sense than the original theatrical release. The ending on that was too abrupt and nonsensical. Personally I'd be happy just to have the extended version on anamorphic DVD, but I certainly wouldn't say no to a BD version - again, provided it's the extended version.

Ard VijnFebruary 6, 2017 11:21 AM

Oh HELL yes!!!

Chris RomeroJune 17, 2017 2:44 PM

It's about time. Yesss!

jaws_fanJuly 19, 2017 10:09 AM

Blu-ray release may not happen. Recent rumors suggest that Fox no longer has interest in releasing older catalog titles in updated/enhanced formats anymore.

Marcus HenschelJuly 26, 2017 1:45 AM