[Paleopsych] NYT: 'Aliens of the Deep': Extending a Hand, Hoping a Tentacle Might Shake It

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The New York Times > Movies > Movie Review | 'Aliens of the Deep':
Extending a Hand, Hoping a Tentacle Might Shake It
January 28, 2005


Extending a Hand, Hoping a Tentacle Might Shake It


    When the director [1]James Cameron proclaimed himself "king of the
    world" on winning the Oscar for [2]"Titanic," who knew that he also
    had designs on the rest of the solar system? His newest film,
    [3]"Aliens of the Deep," is a grandiose hybrid of undersea documentary
    and outer-space fantasy that begins on our planet's ocean floor and
    ends many miles under the ice crust that covers Europa, the second
    moon of Jupiter.

    The movie's sneaky transition from undersea documentary to speculative
    fantasy of a journey yet to be undertaken is so seamless that you
    could easily mistake the last part for the record of an actual space

    Filmed in IMAX-3D, this 48-minute film is a visual adventure worthy of
    that much degraded adjective, awesome. And when the movie is observing
    the ocean floor where lava from the Earth's inner core is leaking into
    the water, the strangeness and beauty of an autonomous, teeming
    ecosystem that has probably existed for two billion years matches any
    science fiction you could conjure.

    Mr. Cameron's theory, supported by astrobiologists, is that the life
    forms found at the deepest levels of the ocean, where no light from
    the sun penetrates, may hold clues to the nature of possible life in
    outer space. Even on the Earth, it turns out, the sun isn't the
    essential be-all and end-all for the existence of life, as was once

    Working with scientists at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mr.
    Cameron, who sporadically narrates the film, accompanied by a team of
    researchers, journeys several miles under the ocean's surface in
    submersible vehicles. There they observed and photographed the
    tumultuous undersea world clustered around cracks where emerging lava
    creates giant chimneys of superheated water.

    The submersibles resemble spacecraft, complete with smaller modules
    that venture out from the mother ship. One of the dangers faced by the
    explorers is venturing too close to a chimney whose heat could melt
    the windows.

    For all the caution expressed, the researchers voice no real fear,
    only wonder at the sights they behold. They include six-foot-long sea
    worms with crimson plumes; blind white crabs; and thousands, perhaps
    millions, of tiny white shrimp swarming in and out of the chimneys.
    Because the imagination of "Aliens of the Deep" is pure Hollywood, the
    movie can't resist giving us a "Close Encounters" moment when a human
    hand pressed against the window of a submersible is met by a
    welcoming, nonhuman tentacle.

    Could similar environments exist in outer space? Some astrobiologists
    speculate that a hidden ocean, twice the size of those on Earth,
    exists many miles under Europa's ice-covered shell. The movie imagines
    a robotic vehicle that drills through the ice and surveys that ocean,
    which teems with similar but even more exotic life forms. And so the
    primal human impulse to explore goes on.

    'Aliens of the Deep'

    Opens today at Imax theaters nationwide.

    Directed by [4]James Cameron and Steven Quale; director of
    photography, Vince Pace; edited by Ed W. Marsh, Fiona Wight and Matt
    Kregor; music by Jeehun Hwang; produced by Andrew Wight and Mr.
    Cameron; released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. Running
    time: 48 minutes. This film is rated G.

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