UNDERWATER: A GREAT PRODUCTION BUT NOTHING NEW FOR 20TH CENTURY FOX’S LAST FILM

For all intents and purposes UNDERWATER is a decent film. The cast is wonderful, the acting decent, the set pieces epic, the tension of pending doom and the story great. But for the last film released bearing the 20th Century Fox tag it went out like a wet paper bag. Most of the drama comes from UNDERWATER being made and set for release in the middle of the Disney/ Fox handover. Shot in 2017 the film kept getting pushed back until what we have now, nearly three years later.

UNDERWATER is out now from the fine folks no longer at 20th Century Fox, it is rated M and runs for 95mins.

Underwater Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

BY JASON KING

UNDERWATER SYNOPSIS:

A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.

Think ALIEN meets PACIFIC RIM meets LIFE (the Ryan Reynolds one), and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. A great combination but it never offers anything new. It’s a great oceanic horror film but don’t expect your mind to be blown.

Underwater Vincent Cassel, Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, and Mamoudou Athie
Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Kristen Stewart and Mamoudou Athie

GREAT POPCORN FILM:

UNDERWATER starts immediately and sets a pace that never relents. It commences with part of the underwater station exploding, lots of people dead, and tells you immediately shit has hit the fan. The tone is set – escape or die. The opening credits have already given you all the exposition you need, so basically it’s ‘hi, here’s Kristen, she’s brushing her teeth……BOOOOOOOM – strap in and watch people get bumped off one at a time.’ Easy as! It’s B-Grade cinema with A-Grade cast that made films like ALIEN, ALIENS, TOWERING INFERNO, POSEIDON ADVENTURE and many others huge box office successes.

But to make things work these days you must up the ante. So, it’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE 7kms down where there is a terrible addition to the scenario, pressure. But wait, there’s more; they have drilled into the lowest visited point on Earth and have let loose an ALIEN that apparently only wants to kill people for no reason whatsoever. It’s one thing after another, it never stops and people are picked off one at a time, while Kristen Stewart survives over and over again to save the day.

Underwater Vincent Cassel
Vincent Cassel

PASTICHE FILM MAKING:

UNDERWATER really does embrace pastiche filmmaking – and i’m not complaining. It’s the film LIFE and/or ALIEN underwater and it’s passable on every level but I did leave flat with no fat smile on my face. Back in the 80s and 90s this would have been applauded as a master action film, but, the problem is, we’ve seen it all before.

I do love that most of the underwater scenes really are the cast in underwater tanks all wearing 70+kg sealed suits. They struggled to hear direction and are lucky they never sprung a leak. The crew shot on dark stages with no lights for the underwater scenes. They used “volumetric scanning,” by putting some atmosphere around the actors and letting the flashlights move through the particles. They were able to measure the approximate density about which the water should be moving around them. Mind blown on the technical side of the filming.

Then there is the aliens, monsters, weird pissed off aqua-xenomorphs; THEY ARE AWESOME!!! Terrifying and quick…..and then their mother arrives and the bitch is a bloody Kaiju – there is no reason this film could not be linked, as a side story, to PACIFIC RIM/ GODZILLA – hell it could be a Godzilla origin movie. Again see pastiche.

Underwater Movie image
Submerging to the Bottom

GREAT CASTING BUT WASTED POTENTIAL:

The casting is great. Every time I see Kristen I fall more and more in love with her and her acting. She is a hard ass at heart, she can play any part and I no longer care that smiling must terrify her – I literally believe every character she portrays and I want more of her films. She carries this with ease.

One of the greatest traveties of the film is Vincent Cassel, not the sublime actor himself, the fact he is so underutilised it made me angry. Cassel needed to be the Hicks to Stewart’s Ripley. But the film lacked time with character development because it was like the 5th most important thing in the film behind action, aliens, tension, drama and dying. Shame shame shame!!

Same goes for T.J. Miller – I love the guy on film and his dry sense of humour. But lucky the film was put on hold, around the time this finished filming was about the same time he was accused of sexual harassment. No idea what came of the accusations and I can’t find anything more besides “accused.”

Sadly the film follows the 80s/90s cliche of killing off the black guy at the start – thanks for showing up Mamoudou Athie. Jessica Henwick did nothing for me in the film, I found her soulless and not someone I was rooting for. But i’ll always root for John Gallagher Jr. ever since I saw THE NEWSROOM – he plays a fairly lame character that may or may not get slaughtered.

Underwater Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

RISING FROM UNDERWATER:

I enjoyed UNDERWATER and would happily watch it again on 4K Blu Ray, it warrants a giant screen and a powerful sound system. As I have rambled throughout the review – it is a decent B-Grade film but is a pastiche of everything else in a similar genre, it just brings nothing new. A great rainy day film to watch with a large Cola, a Boysenberry Choc Top and maybe a Popcorn, Salty of course.

SALTY’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. A movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict he is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. 

He believes all it takes to make a good movie is a bloody good story, with a little luck the rest should fall in line. He is getting a little sick of saying “story story story” in his reviews with so much shite releasing in the last decade. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.