20,000 leagues under the sea.
You’ve probably never heard about William Eubank’s sci-fi horror Underwater. That’s because the movie actually finished filming over three years ago in 2017, but is only now receiving its theatrical release.
Should it have remained lost in the depths, or does it deserve to finally see the light the day?
Deep Blue Alien
Underwater is essentially Alien set under the sea, but it ultimately lacks originality and inspiration. It follows a crew of underwater researchers who must scramble to safety from a crumbling underwater deep-sea station in the Mariana Trench as mysterious ravenous creatures stalk them in the dark depths.
Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien has a beginning that acts as set-up, introducing the crew of the Nostromo and letting viewers spend time with them for a while before we even meet the Xenomorph alien. In comparison, Underwater has no set-up of any kind, instead just throwing viewers straight into the action just as we meet Kristen Stewart’s Norah, the lead character of the movie.
The high-octane action never lets up from then on, as we meet the other characters along the way, including T.J. Miller’s Paul, Jessica Henwick’s Emily and others. Unfortunately, it seems like the only purpose of Henwick’s Emily is to scream when the monsters attack or if someone dies, while T.J. Miller is typecast yet again as the cracking-wise comic relief.
However, I was surprised by Kristen Stewart, who delivers a decent performance as Norah, capable of carrying the movie. She is clearly channelling Alien‘s Ripley in her portrayal of the character. This might be a sign that those days of wooden and bland performances from her Twilight days might be behind her, which bodes well for her future.
Underwater Space Marines
Despite not offering much in terms of anything new, Underwater did impress me in some ways. I appreciated how intricate the practical effects for the sets are, especially with how claustrophobic some parts felt as the characters had to squeeze their way just to get to the other side. The rubble and water segments are pretty well done as well.
To me, the best thing about Underwater is the underwater suits worn by the characters. Most movies would just go for a cheap-looking alternative or what is usually a CGI suit (looking at you, Advanced Tech suits in Avengers Endgame).
However, the ones in Underwater look like the sort of detailed and bulky power armour space marines would wear. You know, like the Space Marines in Warhammer 40K or the good guys in the Gears Of War franchise. These are solid-looking suits, and it’s incredible to see the filmmakers put a lot of effort into this one aspect.
Besides that, the plot of the movie is predictable, though the entire movie feels more like a thrilling ride instead of a meaningful one. Its derivative nature means that most viewers probably won’t remember much about Underwater once it ends, with the sole exception of those awesome space marine power armour of course.
Final Score: 50/100
We received a preview screening courtesy of The Walt Disney Company Malaysia. Underwater premieres in Malaysian cinemas on 9 January 2020.