Wow! The Power of Editing - The Abyss James Cameron



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  • Wow! The Power of Editing - The Abyss James Cameron

    In my life I have seen this film more times than I can remember, so I know the beats and how the story unfolds and escalates. I used to read multiple scripts a week and so, I have this screenplay as well.

    Today, I am outlining a new asteroid mining/contained thriller and wanted to look at the underwater drilling platform in The Abyss as a reference for concept design. Now, in addition to the script, I have the DVDs with "special edition" and commentary-- which i love.

    Those of you in the industry already know the power of editing, I imagine it's a hard thing to explain to those of us who haven't had anything produced yet, or have seen how impactful editing can be and how it can literally tell a better story than the original script.

    This was truly eye-opening. Not only is Cameron a brilliant writer, artist, director and producer, he is amazing at self-editing. It's as if his stories are so huge and filled with messages and messaging, that it can get away from him. His stories can be a bit preachy, and this special edition is no exception.

    However, his skillset, along side a fantastic editor, allows him to find what is the most compelling human story. In the case of The Abyss, the best story was the telling of a heartbreaking love story destroyed by ambition and self-serving desires in lieu of a competing story about how humanity is destroying the world and an alien force passing judgement on mankind. When I watched the special edition, I understood why he made certain choices.

    I don't know for certain, but I would venture a guess that the reason James Cameron edited the story to the final version is because THAT was the most emotional and compelling story he could tell. The universal story that we can all identify with. He got rid of everything that was exposition and backstory and just focused on the moments that make this film a favorite.

    The difference between the versions is astonishing.
    I am interested in the community's comments and insights.

    "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
    Hollywood producer

  • #2
    Besides the screenplay version, and the theatrical and special edition versions, there is a third version which is the novelisation by well-known sci-fi author Orson Scott Card. Unlike most cash-grab tie-in novelisations, this one really adds a whole new dimension to the Cameron-originated story. In addition to the human-centric storylines, Card devotes whole sections to the NTI point of view, why they are there, what they are thinking, their objectives, etc., unlike the movie in which they are largely a mystery up until the very end. Reading the novel is a similar experience to reading Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey after watching the Kubrick movie. Same story, but more insight into character and more details to the plot.

    If you are a fan you definitely want to get a hold of the book. Here’s a review: