Dan's Review: "Underwater" sinks to new depths of laziness
Jan 10, 2020 12:13AM
● By Dan Metcalf
Vincent Cassel and Kristen Stewart in Underwater - © 2020 20th Century Fox.
Underwater (20th Century Fox)
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright.
Written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad.
Directed by William Eubank.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. An eclectic group of explorers/scientists/miners get trapped in an underwater facility or vessel and must fight to survive against some sort of creature or entity. If this sounds like the basic premise of movies like Leviathan, DeepStar Six, Sphere, The Abyss, and others, you’d be right. Swap out the deep sea for outer space and you get Alien, and a host of other subsequent knockoffs, too. This tired premise is retreaded once more in this weekend’s release of Underwater.
Kristen Stewart plays Norah, an electrical technician assigned to a mining facility somewhere in the depths of the Mariana Trench. When the facility is attacked by a mysterious creature (or creatures), the compartments collapse, killing off most of the 361 crewmembers. Norah uses her savvy to manipulate doors and get to safety, while encountering a few other survivors along the way, including Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie), Emily (Jessica Henwick), Paul (T.J. Miller), Liam (John Gallagher, Jr.), and Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel). The group devises a plan to use pressurized suits to walk across the seafloor to an abandoned part of the mining operation where they hope to use escape pods and reach the surface. As they navigate their path, the survivors encounter the creatures that pick most of them off, one by one. Three survivors, including Norah, reach the facility only to discover that the monster (or monsters) are a much bigger problem than they thought and one of them must make the ultimate sacrifice to save the other two and destroy the creature(s).
Despite a few cheap jump-scares and some comic-relief dialogue from T.J. Miller, there isn’t much to get excited about Underwater. The derivative, clichéd plot, fused with the dark, confusing photography and cut-rate special effects is less than impressive, even with a talented cast.
Perhaps even more annoying is the use of “fake news” headlines that appear in the opening and closing credits of Underwater, providing a lazy exposition device that sets up the “evil corporate” rape of the world’s natural resources and an even lazier epilogue that implies a coverup, leaving little to the imagination.
It should be noted that Underwater was filmed almost three years ago and has been held back for release many times until it landed in the wasteland of other insignificant January films, a place where studios dump their weakest content. “Underwater” might also be the perfect descriptor for the movie’s financial outlook, since it may have trouble recouping its estimated $60-80 million budget.