The Abyss UHD Review

4.5 Stars It’s finally here!
The Abyss Review

The day many thought would never happen has arrived – James Cameron’s The Abyss makes its HD and UHD debut on physical media.

The Abyss (1989)
Released: 09 Aug 1989
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 140 min
Director: James Cameron
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
Writer(s): James Cameron
Plot: A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and faces danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.
IMDB rating: 7.5
MetaScore: 62

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: Theatrical Cut: 2 Hr. 20 Min., Special Edition Cut: 2 Hr. 31 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-spindle UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 03/12/2024
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4/5

When a US nuclear submarine sinks after a mysterious collision with an unknown object in the Cayman Trough, the military sends a team of Navy SEALS to join a team of underwater oil rig workers to mount a rescue mission. Along for the ride is Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the engineer who designed the deep sea oil rig, who is also separated from her husband, Virgil “Bud” Brigman (Ed Harris), who is the foreman. Leading the Navy SEALS is Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn). While investigating the crash site, it becomes apparent that something is down there with them. Up on the surface, a hurricane is about to wreak havoc while tensions between the US and Russia are at an all-time high, with the US suspecting it was the Russians who attacked the submarine, and when the hurricane hits, it disconnects the oil rig’s umbilical connection to the Benthic Explorer, taking its crane with it careening down the depths of the sea and eventually dragging the rig like an anchor to the edge of a steep cliff. Cut off and leaking like a sieve, the rig crew and SEALS find themselves trapped, with Coffey becoming increasingly paranoid about the bogeys trying to make contact with them, believing they are Russians. But Lindsey also has an encounter while tying additional oxygen tanks to the rig, and realizes they may be otherworldly. Tensions between the SEALS and the rig crew escalate as oxygen continues to run out, while the alien species continues to try and make contact.

The Abyss was a technological marvel when it was first released in the summer of 1989, containing the first fluid 3-dimensional computer generated character (the “water tentacle”) which helped the film earn an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year. However, the theatrical release was lacking an emotional payoff, an ending that felt like it came out of nowhere. This was due to the fact that the film was running long, nearly three hours, with some rather expensive visual effects still to be completed. Hoping to squeeze one more screening per day and saving additional money on the incomplete tidal wave visual effects, director James Cameron trimmed close to thirty minutes from the film, essentially deleting the subplot that better explained the alien presence. Three years later, Cameron was allowed to complete the film, receiving a very limited theatrical release before finding its way to Laserdisc in 1992 as a Special Edition cut. This cut better explained the aliens and delivered a much more emotional ending. The good news is that both versions are available thanks to seamless branching on both the UHD and Blu-ray editions.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Like True Lies, fans of The Abyss have been clamoring for something better than the non-anamorphic DVD released in 2000, and that was nothing more than a port of the same 1992 transfer created for Laserdisc, which had its own problems of single-frame jump cuts wherever new footage was added. The Abyss was photographed on 35mm film stock in the Super35 process and completed on 35mm film in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For this release, the original camera negative has been scanned in 4K, with additional clean up and processing completed by Park Road Post in New Zealand. It was then graded using Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range, all under the supervision of director James Cameron (and yes, despite this being a Disney release, the disc does include Dolby Vision).

This is a much better looking transfer than True Lies, as it does not appear as digitally processed. There is a very fine layer of film grain still visible, and there is a high level of fine detail visible including fabric textures. Colors are a bit more vivid than the 4K digital release last December and never appear over-saturated. Blacks are deep and inky with strong shadow detail. This is a huge improvement over the previous DVD release and HD broadcasts, and a slight improvement over the 4K digital version. Seamless branching on the Special Edition cut are seamless with no change in video quality when the disc cuts back and forth between editions.

Audio: 5/5

Default audio on the UHD disc is a Dolby Atmos mix (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core) for both cuts that sounds phenomenal, with a slightly wider dynamic range and better fidelity than the lossy Atmos track on the 4K digital. This is a very immersive track, with active surrounds, excellent use of heights (in quieter moments inside the rig, it actually sounds like you may have a water leak in your roof), and beefy LFE. Dialogue is clear and understandable. The UHD disc also includes DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix, although I am not sure if this is a mixdown or the original theatrical Dolby Stereo Surround. The included Blu-ray edition, per studio policy, is DTS-HD MA 5.1 rather than Dolby Atmos.

Special Features: 4/5

The Abyss is a 3-disc set – a UHD disc containing both cuts of the film, a Blu-ray containing both cuts of the film, and a Blu-ray dedicated to special features.

**NEW** Deep Dive: A Conversation with James Cameron (1080p; 32:23): James Cameron sits down to discuss his memories of making The Abyss.

**NEW** The Legacy of “The Abyss” (1080p; 24:39): James Cameron, Jon Landau, Walt Conti, Hoyt Yeatman, John Knoll, Denis Muren, Gale Anne Hurd and many other members of the crew discuss the making of the film thru recent and archival interviews. Much of what Cameron says was taken from the Deep Dive featurette.

Under Pressure: The Making of “The Abyss” (upscaled 1080i; 59:38): The excellent one-hour documentary that first appeared on the 2000 DVD release.

Archives (480i): The remaining special features can be found under this heading, and as a title card notes, these extras appeared previously under the Drill Room section of the original DVD release. Each chapter is a mixture of text, photo slideshows, and video as they originally appeared on the two-disc DVD release. Unfortunately, the disc does not provide direct access to specific video content.

Chapter 1: Table of Contents

Chapter 2: Introduction

Chapter 3: The Writer/Director and Screenplay

Chapter 4: Development and the Production Team

Chapter 5: The Design Team

Chapter 6: The Storyboarding Process

Chapter 7: Character Development and Casting

Chapter 8: Costume Design

Chapter 9: Training for the Production

Chapter 10: Filming Underwater

Chapter 11: ROVs and Video in “The Abyss”

Chapter 12: Production Chronology

Chapter 13: The Montana

Chapter 14: The Benthic Explorer

Chapter 15: Deepcore 2

Chapter 16: Flatbed

Chapter 17: Cab One and Cab Three

Chapter 18: NTI Scout and Manta

Chapter 19: Pseudopod

Chapter 20: Fluid Breathing and the Deep Suit

Chapter 21: The NTIs

Chapter 22: The Wave

Chapter 23: The NTI Ark

Chapter 24: Editing, Sound and Music

Chapter 25: Publicity/Advertising/Marketing

Chapter 26: The Restoration

Chapter 27: Closing Commentary

Chapter 28: Acknowledgements and Credits

Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included to redeem a digital copy of the film in 4K and earn reward points on Disney Movie Insiders. Content and resolution may vary by digital retailer.

As of March 8, 2024, when redeeming the included code on Movies Anywhere, the major digital retailers offered the following:

Movies Anywhere: Theatrical cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Special Edition cut included as a special feature in 1080p and Dolby 5.1.

Apple TV: Special Edition cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Theatrical cut as a special feature (on Apple TV devices only) in 1080p and Dolby 5.1.

Vudu: Theatrical cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Special Edition cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby 5.1.

Prime Video: Theatrical cut in 4K HDR10+ and Dolby 5.1.

Overall: 4.5/5

After decades of starts and stops, The Abyss has finally arrived on both HD and UHD physical media, and has never looked or sounded better, and seems to be the only assured way of having both cuts of the movie in your collection in pristine quality.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Share this post:

View thread (47 replies)

John Maher_289910

Supporting Actor
Joined
Nov 7, 2013
Messages
861
Real Name
John Maher
Thanks for the review! This may already have been answered, elsewhere, but is the digital copy that comes with the discs, the extended version. I know the solo digital release is, but is that the same included here?
 
Last edited:

Todd Erwin

Reviewer
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
10,440
Location
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
Thanks for the review! This may already have been answered, elsewhere, but is the digital copy that comes with the discs, the extended version. I know the solo digital release is, but is that the same included here?
I mention this in my review:

Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included to redeem a digital copy of the film in 4K and earn reward points on Disney Movie Insiders. Content and resolution may vary by digital retailer.

As of March 8, 2024, when redeeming the included code on Movies Anywhere, the major digital retailers offered the following:

Movies Anywhere: Theatrical cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Special Edition cut included as a special feature in 1080p and Dolby 5.1.

Apple TV: Special Edition cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Theatrical cut as a special feature (on Apple TV devices only) in 1080p and Dolby 5.1.

Vudu: Theatrical cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Special Edition cut in 4K Dolby Vision and Dolby 5.1.

Prime Video: Theatrical cut in 4K HDR10+ and Dolby 5.1.
 

Todd Erwin

Reviewer
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
10,440
Location
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
Anyone disappointed that the digital copies of Aliens and The Abyss did NOT include the Special Edition cuts in 4K can call Disney Home Entertainment customer service at 888-223-4369. Currently, they are only collecting feedback, but if they receive plenty of complaints, they may actually fix the issue retroactively.
 

Jeffrey D

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2018
Messages
5,204
Real Name
Jeffrey D Hanawalt
Awesome that we finally have a good disc release, with both cuts of the film, and new interviews. Can’t wait to watch it. Thanks for your review, Todd. 👍
 

Konstantinos

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2014
Messages
2,773
Real Name
Konstantinos
Has anyone checked the English subtitles in the UHD?
I've read that they're out of sync due to seamless branching of the 2 versions.
 
Most Popular
Available for Amazon Prime