Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Engrossing undersea expedition is kid friendly.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 85 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

If you set a goal and commit yourself, you'll probably succeed. Also, humankind's ability to explore the furthest reaches of the planet is limited only by our imagination.

Positive Role Models & Representations

James Cameron is certainly open to adventure, and he inspires the crew of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to give their all. The crew is indefatigable and doesn't let setbacks hamper their progress. 


Some clips from Cameron-directed movies are action-packed and suspenseful. Also, one stormy day at sea is nerve-wracking.




Cameron's movies, including Titanic and Avatar, get significant screen time; their themes are discussed and clips from the films are shown. Also, the expedition is partnered with National Geographic, so that brand has a strong presence, too.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D documents director/explorer James Cameron's attempts to reach Challenger Deep, the bottom-most part of the Mariana Trench. It's an exhilarating expedition, punctuated by moments of peril (storms, tension, etc. -- all of which can seem a bit more intense in 3D), although there isn't too much here that will scare older kids or tweens. In fact, the movie is a celebration of the can-do attitude that has propelled explorers since time began, and kids of all ages are likely to find it inspiring and interesting. Expect a little bit of language along the lines of "damn."

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What's the story?

The deepest point of the Mariana Trench lies nearly seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, yet its mystery feels bottomless. In this documentary, director James Cameron invites viewers to join him as he explores its depths. It also allows them a peek into the childhood that shaped the award-winning filmmaker and goes behind the scenes in the months and weeks leading up to the -- yes -- deepsea challenge he's spent years pursuing.

Is it any good?

In a mostly chronological, fairly straightforward style, Cameron weaves an engrossing, relatable story about the yearning to explore and the passions that shape us. As a subject, Cameron lays himself bare, explaining why he's so driven to go underwater and allowing cameras to catch him when he hears bad news about two beloved colleagues.

What makes DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D truly engrossing, if a tad overlong, is the journey itself. The months leading up to the dive are far from flawless, but with every setback, the audience becomes more committed to seeing it through, mirroring what Cameron and his crew must have felt. It's a neat trick; the footage underwater is otherworldly and lovely, but not always exciting. (No deepsea monsters that would show up in the filmmaker's fictional films, for instance.) Not that it matters: It's the story of Cameron and his supporters that compels the most. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what drives Cameron to set such lofty goals. What are the pitfalls and challenges of a private individual taking on a project like this?

  • Who's the star of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D -- Cameron or the submersible/expedition? Do you think this movie would have gotten made without Cameron's participation?

  • What is it about the ocean that makes it so mysterious? Do you find the sea alluring?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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