Underwater (2020)

Alien Underwater follows a bunch of scientists who are in space the great depths of the ocean, and sees their ship laboratory destroyed. So, they have to find a way to get to some escape pods, while wearing spacesuits (they look like them, anyway), and avoid being killed by aliens alien-like sea creatures in the process. Okay, so the film isn’t exactly like Alien, but if you billed it as “Alien but under the sea,” you’re in the right ballpark.

The protagonist is Ellen Ripley Norah Price (Kristen Stewart), who does engineering, and she’s joined on this journey by the captain (Vincent Cassel) and others (Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, and T.J. Miller). Their plan, after assessing their situation—broken lab, no way to escape to the surface, T.J. Miller being in the cast—is to put on special suits and walk along the ocean floor to a nearby station. They know it’ll probably kill them, but they go for it anyway since there aren’t a lot of options. Along the way, they encounter a whole host of problems, chief among them being previously undiscovered creatures that want to do some killing. They figured the pressure and lack of oxygen would be an issue; they didn’t account for this.

I would have told you more about the other characters but they can barely be called that. Underwater is a movie that doesn’t feel the need to waste time with arcs, development, or depth. These people have their basic archetype and that’s as much as they’re going to get. It’s a workmanlike movie. After the initial exposition, the film gets on going and doesn’t take much time to pause or breathe. It doesn’t have time for perfunctory dialogue or character-building. It has to move to the next time a silly-looking sea creature is going to try to eat someone’s leg.

That approach does allow Underwater some advantages. It’s never exactly boring, since it moves along at a good enough pace to ensure that something is always happening. Its setting gives it an inherent sense of atmosphere, and it hides its sea creatures long enough that it keeps them something of a mystery—which makes them scarier. The jump startles aren’t very effective, but the premise alone and the constant fear that something is out there is good enough.

Underwater loses a lot of its luster due to its derivativeness and lack of strong characters. The former makes it predictable and makes us feel like we should just be watching the better movies from which it’s borrowing a lot of its material. The latter leads to a lack of emotional resonance. These don’t feel like people; they feel like placeholders who exist just to be eaten, maimed, or otherwise written out. It’s atmospheric and moves at a good clip, but it struggles to give us a reason to watch it.

Conclusion: Underwater is too similar to other, better movies to swim on its own two fins.

Recommendation: Just go re-watch Alien.

  • 4/10
    Rating - 4/10

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