As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface—piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.
James Cameron is at it again. No, not with another 'Avatar' sequel (although he is making about a baker's dozen more of those), but with another water based documentary, complete with his 3D technology. Cameron is known for brining us great films such as 'Terminator 1' and 'Terminator 2', 'True Lies', 'Titanic', 'The Abyss', and 'Avatar'. With films like 'The Abyss', 'Titanic', 'Avatar', and hell - even his first film 'Piranha 2', you can tell he is fascinated with large bodies of water.
Since Cameron is now a billionaire, he can pretty much do anything he wants, so instead of wasting it on drugs and cars, he has chosen to educate us and explore one of the biggest mysteries to human kind. And that is the deepest part of the ocean. We've been to the moon, Mars, and further, but we have never been to the deepest point of the ocean, and that is on our home planet. Since Cameron has a passion for exploration and discovering new things, not to mention access to funds and a brilliant team, he has taken his hobby and made it an educational and scientific endeavor.
Cameron's mission is to journey down to the deepest point of the ocean, which is about five miles down, and collect samples, discover new life, and explore. And that is what this documentary 'James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge' sets out to do. In this short 91 minute documentary, we see Cameron and his crew research and assemble the one-manned submarine that will dive to the bottom of the ocean. All of the tests with the dives, equipment, and 3D cameras that should sustain the massive amount of pressure, traveling that low to the ocean bottom. And then we see the actual dives, which has Cameron himself inside a very small spherical room, operating the craft itself. If one thing goes wrong down there, he would be immediately vaporized within a second.
If you remember the fun documentary where Cameron and Bill Paxton (Pullman) went down to look at the real Titanic, there were several suspenseful scenes where alarms went off, which raised our blood pressure. Those types of things happen here as well. This documentary shows quite well the hazards and payoffs with each failure and success, as Cameron pushes his crew and himself to meet deadlines, so that he can explore something that nobody ever has before. Seeing the amount of hours and man power to make this journey happen is quite incredible.
I think Cameron here is hoping that future generations will look to this and be inspired to take this further and explore more, since there is unexplored ocean territory down there larger than North America still. Who knows what is down there. And this documentary, simple as it may be, shows us what is possible in the future.
'James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This video presentation is somewhat of an annoyance. Cameron is going the distance and dragging all of us into his 3D world. The box art says this has both the 3D and 2D versions of the film as well as a DVD version. There are only two discs in release. But when you put the Blu-ray disc in, it does NOT give you the option to choose between 2D or 3D. Rather, it just chooses for you, based on your set up. So if you have the 3D setup, it will always play 3D, meaning you can't watch it in 2D. And vice versa. I'm not sure why we're not getting the option on the menu here. Moving on though.
The image looks quite good in both 2D and 3D, however there are some flaws throughout. Since this is a documentary that has both archival and new footage, the image quality fluctuates. The new footage with interviews with James Cameron and his his crew look amazing and very vivid. These interviews capture the individual hairs on faces, wrinkles, and scars quite nicely. Their clothing also reveals the fine stitching patterns. In the wider shots of the crew on the boat show every scuff mark, dent, and piece of dirt nicely. Colors are bright, vibrant, and realistic when we are on location on an island or two. The greens in the trees and the blue ocean and sky look amazing. However, during some of the darker lit scenes, or when Cameron himself is in the submarine headed down to the depths of the ocean, the image goes a bit flat and murky at times. Perhaps it was the camera equipment they were using. There are also some clips of old footage of Camera deep sea diving and of his past films, which fluctuate from a heavy grain source to a clear high definition look.
The 3D looks amazing in certain segments, whereas in others, the 3D seems very flat. It's all over the board here. There are some decent scenes where the creatures in the ocean give that 3D pop out look, as well as the submarine's mechanical arms. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are deep and inky in the brighter sequences. There is a bit of aliasing throughout as well as some heavy video noise, but other than that unfortunate business, the image looks good. This is by no means a demo worthy disc, but it does the job.
This release comes with a good lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix. Being a documentary, don't expect the same sound as 'Avatar' or 'Titanic'. That doesn't mean it's bad in any way. It means it's just not that immersive. But it is a very realistic sound track. The sound effects and ambient noises, whether it be on an island or on the ocean sounds very good. The waves crashing and the natives of the islands come across clearly and robust. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow as well, even in the 'on the fly' segments. The music score, while cheesy, sounds full and lively and always adds to the suspense of Cameron headed down into the depths of the ocean. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing to speak of, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
The Deepest Point on Earth (HD, 4 Mins.) - Here is a brief look at Cameron's journey to the bottom of the ocean with the Piccard-Walsh 1960 journey spliced in for good measure.
An Alien World (HD, 3 Mins.) - In this very brief extras, Cameron discusses some of the major aspects of the dive.
Trailers (HD, 8 Mins.) - A few trailers for other Millennium titles.
'James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge' is a fun and sometimes suspenseful documentary. It's mesmerizing to see how this submarine was built and all the manpower and hours that went into making this mission to the bottom of the ocean successful. Just don't expect big discoveries here. The 3D visuals are quite good and the audio is decent as well. The extras are interesting but very short. This is worth watching, but maybe just once.