A new DVD collection from visual effects legend Steve Johnson looks back at the making of James Cameron’s The Abyss, featuring never-before-seen footage.
Before Avatar, before Titanic, before even Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron wowed moviegoers with his undersea alien epic, The Abyss. The 1989 sci-fi film was noted at the time for its groundbreaking visual effects, which were created in large part by Hollywood veteran Steve Johnson, whose resume also includes classics like Big Trouble in Little China, Fright Night, Ghostbusters and Videodrome. Johnson has been working to preserve his decades of experience on DVD with Eon Entertainment, and their latest effort is the two-disc collection Back Into The Abyss, which takes another look at the Cameron classic.
The pair of discs serve up more than 250 behind the scenes photographs along with unseen footage and new interviews with Johnson. He also narrates the material, as you can see in the below video. One of the clips featured on the coming DVD is up over at io9. The never-before-seen footage highlights the film’s aliens without the smoke & mirrors of the finished film. It’s an enlightening look into the old school visual effects process, when computers and computer animation were a luxury.
In his commentary, Johnson praises Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd for putting their faith in a “23-year-old” moron like him. The entire film hinged on his creations looking like otherworldly beings, and his hindsight observation is the filmmakers were crazy to place that trust in him. As anyone who has seen and enjoyed The Abyss can attest to however, Johnson did a magnificent job with the tools he had available to him. The Na’vi of Avatar may be more elaborate constructions from a build time perspective, but practical, physical effects are an irreplaceable element in filmmaking and we should be thankful that guys like Johnson are around to remind us of that.