Research Paper, Visual Arts and Film Studies Evaluation and Critique The Abyss James Cameron’s The Abyss, released in 1989 can be interpreted as a commentary in postmodernism. Postmodernism is largely focused on the capitalists and political structures in the post-war era (Forsyth)…
The Montana edges an unidentified foreign object (UFO), which causes the submarine to stall as it malfunctions and sinks (The Abyss). In the meantime, media reports attribute the sinking of the Montana to a Soviet attack. The US military arrives at the location above the sinking, which happens to be near communist Cuba. Other vessels arriving in the area are believed to be Soviet spies. The US military dispatches group of SEAL officers to occupy an underwater exploration site with the intention of rescuing nuclear warheads carried by the Montana and to ensure that the ship is out of the Soviets’ reach. Tensions are building throughout, highlighting US-Soviet Cold War tensions, the dangers of environmental and nuclear damages as it becomes clear that a hurricane is fast approaching and could heighten the risk of a catastrophe. All the while SEAL officers dispatched below are showing signs of the ill-effects of the pressure associated with being under water (The Abyss). The alien encounter is perhaps more telling as it brings the preceding themes of political tensions to a head and underscores the dangers of capitalism, both of which are the hallmarks of postmodernism thought. The aliens come into contact with SEAL lieutenant and shows him video images depicting past, present and future damages caused by mankind. The underlying message is man’s greed and mismanagement have led to self-destructive behaviour. Images of tsunamis, nuclear explosions and even the Vietnam War (The Abyss). As Simpson explains, Cameron’s approach in The Abyss distinguishes it from other futuristic science fiction film. A majority of this genre predicts disaster at some time in the future or presents a disaster and focuses on who will come out alive. The Abyss however, draws attention to past disasters, disasters in the present and predicts disaster in the future and in doing so attributes this to man’s own behaviour (Simpson). In line with postmodern thought, The Abyss focuses on post-war behaviour which has set up a series of bad and destructive behaviour fuelled by political tensions and capitalist greed (Forsyth). The narrative in The Abyss does not directly comment on capitalism, but it is inferred from the underlying political tensions and the technological progression that is a part of the destruction of the environment. The film’s narrative is more direct in its political commentary. The alien encounter represents a confrontation in which the SEAL lieutenant is able to see the damages caused by post-war political tensions from the perspective of an outsider. The underlying message is that this behaviour is counterproductive and will only grow worse with time and the results will be catastrophic. Postmodernism is about commandeering positive change, by highlighting flawed ideology and its corresponding behaviour (Forsyth). In this regard, the alien encounter in The Abyss serves as a soul searching exercise and a moment of recognition. The underlying question for the viewer is whether or not the capitalist ideology is more sophisticated than the Communist ideology. After all, the capitalist structure shares equal responsibility for the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, and is arguably more responsible for environmental damages that contribute to and heighten the risk of natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes. The postmodern message in The Abyss is therefore that the world is divided into two factions: man against nature as opposed ...
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