Deepsea Challenge 3D (2014)

James Cameron, Frank Lotito, Lachlan Woods, Paul Henri
A 3D documentary chronicling filmmaker James Cameron's diving expeditions in his Deepsea Challenger submersible.
Deepsea Challenge 3D is more of a tribute to director James Cameron than a true nature documentary, but it still boasts enough passion and visual thrills to make for an immersive viewing experience.
  • National Geographic Company:
  • PG Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 21 Aug 2014 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • $0.1M Box office:
I had been been looking forward to this for years now. I love good documentaries, about science, the cosmos, nature or history. I love submarine movies. I am a geek. If anyone was going to love this, it was me.

But I didn't.

For starters, the geek in me was very disappointed next to no time was spent showing off the technology. How does it work? How do you build electronics and camera's and other equipment that can resist that pressure? How do you navigate or communicate at that depth ? I was dying to find out, but I learned nothing. Even when things go (very) wrong in early test dives, no explanation is given of what failed, why it failed, how they solved it. Meh!

Then there is the "plot"; I get it that some time will be spent on Cameron's history, why he wants to do that etc, but it takes forever. Is this movie about an expedition or about James Cameron? If only they spent half the time that Cameron claims to glorify himself to talk about the sub, I might have like this.

Finally, there is the (anti)climax of the film. Not sure if this should be considered a spoiler, but when he finally dives to the bottom of the Marianas trench, it seems like he spent all of 2 minutes on the bottom and the most exciting thing he saw was some mud sliding. You don't even get to see a trench or underwater relief, let alone anything alive. Just sand. Now I get it, this was a documentary, not a scripted movie, but really, if that is all there is to see there, what a waste of time and money. Not too mention a waste of my time.
An immersing and interesting documentary7/10
James Cameron loves the ocean. That much is true whether you have watched his documentaries, read about his adventures, or have seen some of his movies. Now Cameron is taking his love for the ocean and taking it to where a few people have gone before: deep within the deepest section of the ocean. This documentary is about Cameron's attempt to dive 36,000 ft deep in the Mariana Trench using a private company to build the sub. While the documentary is something fit for the Discovery Channel, it can't be denied how cinematic and enthralling it is.

Good: The scope is amazing with the ocean depths being shot beautifully. You really get the vastness of the deep ocean depths and it is presented in the most cinematic way possible. The journey itself is very fascinating with plenty of situations providing a lot of tension to keep it engaging.

Overall, while it isn't a mind blowing documentary, it is certainly one that provides insight into the need to seek out new discoveries and learns more about our oceans through some great visuals.
An Immersive Documentary8/10
The first thing that stands out about Deepsea Challenge 3D is that a lot of effort has gone into documenting the missions in a cinematic way. There are cameras everywhere: mounted on smaller submarines to show you the bigger ones; built into the walls; carried by divers; etc. All this is fluidly strung together to recount a fascinating story, and supported by a dramatic soundtrack.

The documentary doesn't only show you the Challenger Deep mission, but everything that has led up to it, and this includes tons of film-worthy material. We are given a track record of Cameron's almost romantic relationship with the deep, and this includes some deep sea exploration missions he has conducted using submersible robots, taking us into the monumental wrecks of the Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck.

A lot of attention is given to the design of the Deepsea Challenger itself, and the engineering exploits that were carried out during its construction and testing. Creating this one-of-a-kind "metal coffin" is an adventure in itself, especially considering that the conditions down there are in many ways more difficult to deal with than outer space.

Cameron's narration of his expedition log bears an uncanny resemblance to Jake Sully talking about Pandora, and while there are no straight-out action scenes, Deepsea Challenge 3D feels like a science fiction movie in the way it draws you in - but this time, you know that everything you see is completely real, even the crazy stuff. Some scenes are very tense and will have your jaw hanging in disbelief, such as the dramatic submersion from deck-mounted cranes in sketchy weather, or the extent of multiple systems failure during one of the manned test dives.

In the end, Cameron says he hopes this project will also inspire children to live up to their dreams, and indeed this film is likely to mesmerize most kids who see it. It sure made me feel like a kid, and it's very inspiring to witness the adventures of real life explorers.