We have a unique opportunity this week, folks. Two genuine action classics, James Cameron’s The Abyss and John McTiernan’s Die Hard, return to cinemas for a limited time. Here’s a tip: see them.
Even if you’re like me and have seen both films thousands of times, nothing beats watching a movie on the big screen. Nicole Kidman makes a great point. Movie theaters make movies better.
I missed The Abyss and Die Hard when they hit theaters in the late ’80s. My sister saw Cameron’s film with friends weeks after its initial release. She implored my parents to rent the VHS tape one Friday evening, and we were treated to a unique, albeit clunky, underwater epic packed with incredible action sequences, fantastic special effects, and a handful of solid performances. My parents thought it went on too long and made fun of the aliens at the end. The following day, I recall listening to my parents discussing how Aliens and The Terminator were better.
I loved it. At that point, I had seen Aliens a handful of times (edited, of course), but otherwise, my love affair with James Cameron hadn’t yet taken off. Even so, The Abyss left me wanting more of whatever that was—the action, romance, and tension combined so well. I didn’t mind the cheesy extraterrestrial finale—I was too busy staring at the purple lights.
Eventually, I saw the extended edition, but only in 2000 when it arrived via the special edition DVD. I couldn’t sleep the night before, and while the final product still had issues, I enjoyed the completed film more than the previous edition.
Now, as time has passed, Cameron has made even better films. Terminator 2: Judgment Day might be my favorite movie, True Lies is a darned action classic, Titanic remains a powerful, sweeping epic (and maybe his best film), while Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water are thrilling cinematic blockbusters that put all others to shame.
All that to say, The Abyss might be Cameron’s worst movie—and no, I’m not counting Piranha II: The Spawning. That’s quite remarkable and speaks volumes about the acclaimed filmmaker’s immense talent because The Abyss kicks ass. You can practically see Cameron’s ambition oozing off the screen, even as he struggles to combine the various elements into a cohesive whole.
Stars Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio didn’t mince words discussing the tumultuous making-of process. The effort shows. Here is a motion picture made by people who give a damn. As harrowing as it was to bring The Abyss to life, you can’t fault the final product.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see The Abyss on the largest screen possible, especially in 4K. If this looks half as good as Titanic and Avatar, we’re in for a treat.
As for Die Hard, I was too young to see Bruce Willis battle Alan Rickman on the big screen in 1988. I didn’t see Die Hard for the first time until high school and didn’t fully appreciate the action classic until the mid-2000s when I binged the trilogy ahead of Live Free or Die Hard. Now, it’s a must-watch in the Ames household, particularly around Christmas time. I watched it a few weeks ago while putting up our tree. Then, last weekend, I popped in Die Hard 2: Die Harder during an unusually quiet night. I love both films. With a Vengeance should find its way to my TV sometime next week.
When my brother sent me a text revealing that Die Hard was hitting cinemas in time for the Christmas season on AMC’s Dolby Digital, I didn’t hesitate to purchase my ticket. As of now, my theater has sold a single ticket—mine. To that, I say you’re missing out. As stated, there’s nothing quite like seeing a classic on the big screen where you can invest your full attention.
Last year, I also saw Jaws and ET on Imax. I’ve ventured to cinemas for films like Glory, Back to the Future, and Superman: The Movie. Each time, it’s like watching them for the first time. I suspect Die Hard will bring that same sense of wonder when I see it this Friday. I can’t wait.
So, again, I offer this tip: see The Abyss and Die Hard this week. Experience the magic of these stellar films on the big screen with a bucket of popcorn and a large soda. You won’t be disappointed. This is my gift to you.