THE STORY – The fate of the planet’s last untouched wilderness, the deep ocean, is under threat as a secretive organization is about to allow for the massive extraction of seabed metals to address the world’s energy crisis.
THE CAST – Jason Momoa
THE TEAM – Matthieu Rytz (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 93 Minutes
With James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” crossing $2 billion at the worldwide box office, one could say that water is having her “moment” right now (especially with that film reigniting interest in conversations about the preservation of our oceans and the creatures who call them home), which makes this the perfect time for a documentary like “Deep Rising,” a film that follows mining startup The Metals Company as it pursues funding, public favor, and permission from the International Seabed Authority to mine the Pacific Ocean Floor for metals deemed essential to the electric battery revolution. Naturally, putting “mining” and “ocean floor” in the same sentence raises some eyebrows, and “Deep Rising” seeks to explore the advantages and disadvantages of The Metals Company’s efforts in complete detail; but, unfortunately, even though this is an incredibly important issue that absolutely deserves the in-depth treatment it’s being given here, the way director Matthieu Rytz chooses to relay that information leaves much to be desired, leaving us straining for tangible narrative threads to latch onto and coming up short.
When “Deep Rising” starts, it’s quite promising, immersing us in the deep with vibrant visuals of the ocean and the animals who inhabit it, accompanied by engaging narration courtesy of Jason Momoa and a sweet, stirring score. However, these moments of magic are few and far between, occurring only every 20 minutes or so in five-minute-long spurts. What else fills “Deep Rising’s” runtime? That would be the neverending scenes centered around bureaucracy concerns regarding The Metals Company’s desire to mine the ocean floor. And instead of being guided through these events, allowing us to understand better what’s going on and become emotionally engaged in the matters at hand, we’re simply observing these events like flies on the wall. Yes, the issues being discussed are undoubtedly imperative on their own, but they alone are not enough to earn our investment when the manner in which it’s presented is so plain and perfunctory.
Outside of the underwater sequences, there is very little “style” to be found in “Deep Rising,” which becomes its biggest deficiency. Not every documentary has to be a flashy visual stunner, but if you’re not adding anything to the footage you captured, where’s the filmmaking in that? It feels like Rytz has simply placed his camera in these rooms and let the professionals do the talking. Still, it’s the documentarian’s job to make this information digestible for their audience and package it in a cinematically captivating way. The filmmaker serves as the intermediary between the authorities and their audience, but there is relatively little work done in “Deep Rising” to format these topics in a film that is accessible and absorbing to all. Sometimes, the subject matter speaks for itself, and less work is required to elicit this engagement, but that’s just not the case here.
It’s unfortunate, considering how timely these issues are, that most will probably fail to understand — or care — about these concerns after they’ve watched “Deep Rising,” simply because they’ve been lost by the scattered storytelling and drab debates over efforts that are only ever hastily and haphazardly explained to us. The aforementioned underwater footage remains ravishing the whole way through, and Momoa does infuse the film with a spirited sense of energy any time his voice reappears, bringing us back to life and proving to be the only one able to make this material mesmeric, but, since he’s so underused — in favor of heady, superfluous statements from the sources themselves that haven’t been adjusted for the film in any fashion — this is one fight Aquaman can’t finish.