(60-minute version) **/**** (90-minute version)
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directed by James Cameron
by Bill Chambers Not often given enough credit for his speedy learning curve (how many filmmakers, metaphorically speaking, have gone straight from Piranha 2 to The Terminator?), it stands to reason that James Cameron's next documentary will be a gem. But for the time being there is only Ghosts of the Abyss to deal with, and it's a washout. A few minutes into the film, Bill Paxton finds out that the battery powering the MIR submersible in which he's exploring the wreckage of "R.M.S. Titanic" is worth $250,000; it was then that I realized I'm vastly more interested in expensive batteries than in the famously-drowned luxury liner, exhumed on film almost as many times now as Dracula. Maybe it's an issue of the arcane vs. the mundane: Ghosts of the Abyss dutifully oohs and aahs over every inch of the ship's rusticled décor, but it stops short of edifying the secondary observer, who suspects a show is being put on for the grumpy Russians piloting the hi-tech underwater explorers. I was that way every time my parents took me to the zoo.