The newest sci-fi horror joint, Underwater, has been out for a couple of weeks now, but worry not if you didn’t drop everything to run out and see it—you’re not alone. And, honestly, you’re not missing a ton either.
Most people are going to tell you that William Eubank’s Underwater is a total Alien rip-off that trades the practically interchangeable deep space for the deep sea to results that are far less magnificent than its 40-year-old inspiration. And those people are definitely right, yes, but I don’t think it’s fair to stop there.
I’ll proffer that most everything that makes up the last four decades of sci-fi horror is derivative of Alien because, yeah, it’s fucking Alien. It is inarguably one of the most genre-defining films of before my lifetime and probably yours too. After all this time, it’s still a benchmark and its existence is the reason movies like Underwater are being made in the first place.
So, yeah—put a commercial crew of scientists and such together, send them to deep whatever, and you know what you’re putting yourself in a league with. Not only did Underwater do all of those things, but it also added some deep space sea aliens to the mix, so I mean… comparison is inevitable. So does Underwater live up the company it positioned itself to keep? No, of course it doesn’t. Please. What does?
But now that that’s out of the way, I’ll keep my actual review of Underwater quite pithy because one of the first things I’ll tell you about it is that if you’re going to interact with it at all, just go ahead and watch it. Skip the trailer, skip the review (but finish this one, since you’re here…), don’t check Rotten Tomatoes—just see it.
It’s just about an hour and a half long (perfect), and there’s only four and a half seconds of voiceover exposition in the very opening of the movie before the action takes off and continues pretty steadily the entire time. This was a very good move, kicking things off early, and served pretty well to distract from the otherwise very thin and paltry plot.
Kristen Stewart wears her Eminem haircut like a boss, definitely channels Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, and is an altogether fine hero to follow. Her character, like all of the others, is fairly one-note, definitely on account of the action being prioritized as the far more important attraction—and, again, I’m fine with that.
Around Stewart, the crew was all there: TJ Miller classically filled the funny one-liner guy spot, there was a rough-around-the-edges but trustworthy captain, a crew member who needed saving, a short-term hero we never got to know, the surprisingly capable weak person, etc. etc.
It’s really all of the usual suspects playing all of the usual positions, with all of the expected plot devices—kind of as if this movie was made Mad Libs-style, just popping nouns and verbs into a template.
And still, it’s very watchable. It probably won’t blow you away, you’re not likely to get lost in the emotion of it all or in its brilliance because there probably isn’t any. But honestly, that’s totally fine. It ain’t an awful movie by any means. There’s really no pressing reason to run out and buy a ticket to Underwater, sure, but it’s not going to waste what little time it takes from you if you do. And that’s a lot more than I can say about a lot of others in this weight class.
If you’re like me and you enjoy these kinds of movies—or just find yourself in the mood for a very decent, effectively uncomfortable sci-fi thriller—you should check it out. You might get just lost enough to make it worth it your while.