Trailers for deep-sea thriller Underwater gave off a tension-filled Alien vibe, with a crew of plucky survivors battling an unknown monster threat in a hostile environment. Though the film is beautifully shot and features amazingly atmospheric visuals, its weak script and lack of a really scary monster design holds it back.
When a deepwater drilling station located on the ocean floor is damaged, the crew is forced to fight for survival. In addition to contending with the inhospitable environment, they are also stalked by mysterious aquatic creatures that are attracted to light.
Kristen Stewart stars as Norah Price, a mechanical engineer dealing with a tragic past. Though she tries to channel the toughness, intelligence, and charisma that Sigourney Weaver brought to the Ellen Ripley role in Alien, she is not able to pull it off and instead comes off as bland and emotionally detached.
This is not entirely her fault, as the dialogue she is given to work with is dull and uninspired. Even though the crew is literally under several thousand tonnes of pressure throughout the movie, there doesn’t ever seem to be a sense of urgency to what they are doing. The design of the mutant monster is lacking as well, being a vaguely kraken-like creature with mouldy skin that doesn’t instil fear as a good bogeyman should.
The rest of the cast does the best they can with the lines they are given. Vincent Cassel is convincing as the courageous captain of the expedition, and T.J. Miller provides passable comic relief.
All is not lost though, because the visual spectacle of the film is worth the price of admission alone. The design of the drilling station is suitably spartan, gloomy and functional, with a strong attention to detail.
The scenes in the underwater environment are beautiful and give a glimpse of the awesome vastness and alien-ness of the ocean floor. Some of the actions scenes in mechanised pressure suits are also creative and well done.
Although this is definitely not the start of another great monster-movie franchise, Underwater is still worth a watch on the big screen just to enjoy the superior cinematography.