Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics What's this?

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 57 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: When a nuclear submarine mysteriously sinks, one diver (Harris) soon finds himself on an odyssey 25,000 feet below the ocean's surface where he confronts a mysterious force that has the power to change the world or destroy it. (20th Century Fox)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 14
  2. Negative: 1 out of 14
  1. 100
    Stupendously exciting and emotionally engulfing... With probing intelligence and passionate feeling, Cameron has raised the adventure film very close to the level of art.
  2. Before this voyage plummets into Stevie Spielberg's locker, the human stuff is more than worth the descent.
  3. 75
    The Abyss is at its best during such moments of reverie-when the abstract metaphors and the unique physicality of the deep sea setting come together to produce powerful, unvoiced meanings. The film does have its beckoning depths; what it needs is a more polished surface. [9 Aug 1989, Tempo, p.1]
  4. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Weirdly, the film’s problem is that it revs up the tension so much that, like one character’s submersible sinking into the high pressure of the titular Abyss, it finally bursts. The climax – as Bud descends to defuse the nuke and meet the aliens – just doesn’t work.
  5. Reviewed by: Barbara Cramer
    It lacks the emotional impact and suspense of its predecessors and is spoiled by a disappointingly inane ending. What ultimately saves the film are its extraordinary sets and phenomenal Oscar-winning visual effects.
  6. But the climax of "Close Encounters" was breathtaking and the climax of The Abyss is downright embarrassing; in the light of day, its payoff effect looks like a glazed ceramic what's-it your 11-year-old made in crafts class. It's criminal. [9 Aug 1989, Calendar, p.6-1]
  7. The Abyss' isn't abysmal, but it's a replay of hits we've already seen - a recycled "close encounters of the wet kind'' with far too few ideas of its own. [18 Aug 1989, Arts, p.10]

See all 14 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Dec 18, 2012
    Riding tall on its still-majestic production design and visuals, James Cameron's "The Abyss" also scores high for its cleverly high-brow story and impressively varied display of performances. Expand
  2. Apr 7, 2013
    I absolutely loved this movie. Great effects, great story and some really memorable characters. Ed Harris in particular. Actually to go back, the effects in this were amazing back when it first came out. But even so, they only play a small part of the movie. Appearing at just the right moments.

    This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, still is today.
  3. Dec 22, 2012
    The plot of James Cameron's fourth film shares many similarities with his third film, Aliens. Teams of armed forces with ultimately ulterior motives sent in to claustrophobic and isolated environments to investigate missing groups. Oh and those environments are occupied by aliens.

    Three-quarters of The Abyss are great as the ever-present dangers of deep sea isolation coupled with Michael Biehn's stir crazy SEAL ratchet up the tension to a decompression sickness-causing level . As the mission begins to fall apart, the greater fear factor is provided by the underwater drama, cut off from the surface in a damaged platform with decreasing oxygen levels rather than the alien presence. This is a little disappointing considering the film followed Aliens, in which there was no doubt what was responsible for the suspense. Cameron obviously felt like giving the Abyss aliens a more mysterious rather than menacing persona. This leads to a slightly disappointing finale as the alien presence is gradually revealed and all threat along with it. It all becomes a little unnecessarily enchanting.

    Ed Harris leads the cast and gives an another excellent performance. Has this guy ever turned in a dud one? Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio gives an equally assured performance as Harris' estranged wife and platform designer. The rekindling affection between the two is key to the film's success and the scene following Harris' return to the platform with Mastrantonio's body is genuinely emotional and fantastically performed by Harris.

    For it's age, The Abyss still looks great and remains a good to great sci-fi thriller.
  4. [Anonymous]
    Jul 11, 2005
    Very good, but it's a bit too long. That female character was too irritating to like, even though she revealed her issues close to the end. The pacing of her development was developed too late, making her annoying and too hard to forgive in the end. Giving us a hook or two suggesting something more to her in the beginning would've solved this problem, and brought more life to the enchanting moments. Underwater scenes are excellent. Expand
  5. Nov 24, 2010
    The true wonder of the movie seems to take a direct nosedive toward the abyss after temporarily becoming a long war crime drama. Special effects will grab anyone's attention, especially in 1989's case. The characters: developed. Romance: average. Action is "average" as well. The plotline is the center of attention, and it wouldn't be much of a movie without it. James Cameron's vision of aliens under the sea are not what you would expect. They appear like giant electric sea creatures that are distorted in a way, making the line hazy between a giant sea creature never before discovered and something that actually came from space. By the end, everyone could be thinking "entertainment under the surface, who knew?" Expand

See all 14 User Reviews


Related Articles

  1. All Films Considered: James Cameron

    All Films Considered: James Cameron Image
    Published: December 18, 2009
    Now that the reviews are in for Avatar, we look back at the other James Cameron-directed films in our database, to see how the critics have responded to his work.