2020’s Underwater or “So, you’ve summoned Cthulhu” is a movie in a rush. Everything has to happen now Now NOW! Quick! Kill those guys! Blow that up! Blow THAT up! BLOW EVERYTHING UP. Now run! Run faster! Get thrown around like a goldfish in a washing machine! Blow more things up! Eviscerate that dude!
Even the opening credits can’t resist spoiling things rather than allowing the plot to evolve in its own time. Even this review is rushed! In fact here’s your end score – three stars out of five. Can’t stop to explain why! Gotta rush! Gotta go fast! Wait, no, that’s Sonic the Hedgehog and his movie isn’t out yet.
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So the plot of Underwater is ludicrously simple. Take The Abyss, blend with Cloverfield and chill at a depth of over 6 miles at a pressure of 15,750 psi. Then add one undersea drilling rig, one catastrophic disaster within the first five minutes of the movie, and toss in a motley crew of survivors desperately trying to not get crushed, drowned, frozen, imploded, exploded, eaten or otherwise mutilated, before serving over ice and you have the storyline of Underwater. Shit gets rekt and our characters must try to find a way back to the surface by whatever means they can lay their hands on, preferably while not getting eaten.
And that’s the biggest gripe here. There is not even the pretence of this being anything other than a monster movie. As mentioned previously, the spoilers are right there in the opening credits with constant references to strange sightings, disappearances, blahdeblah, so when they DO finally try to build some tension it falls utterly flat as the audience already knows that there are nasty sea monsters lurking about and the only real mystery left to be revealed is A: What they look like and B: Do they have any interesting ways of killing our cast?
Now all this said, all complaints aired, Underwater is still a fun ride. It never lets off the gas once it gets going, and there’s scant chance to draw breath. The cast are easy to tell apart, each one quickly introduced and given their own particular little quirk to endear them to us. Kristen Stewart (playing lead character Norah) is… decent enough. She’s also got a mean punch. T.J. Miller (playing Paul) lays it on a LITTLE too thick with the comedy shtick but hey, people have all manners of coping with high pressure situations so we can cut the guy a little slack.
The visual effects are decent enough, if somewhat irritatingly murky and overly dark. Yes, the movie is set at the bottom of the ocean and yes, that does mean it’s dark, but look at The Abyss, or Leviathan, or hell even Deep Star Six, and you could still pretty much see what was going on. In this film, though, almost every water scene is filled with a snow of silt or oceanic crap that make it difficult to see what’s going on when the action picks up pace. The CGI for the creatures themselves is serviceable, if nothing particularly stand-out. Props to the set designers and whoever designed the suits the characters wear. The whole place feels lived in and believable as something that might exist someday. It has that rough and ready aesthetic from films like The Abyss and Alien, feeling like a real place filled with working men and women.
Underwater is nothing revolutionary. The plot is fairly bare bones, the action is sometimes too murky for its own good and the soundtrack from Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts is sometimes really unnecessarily bombastic, but it’s still a well told and well executed story, with surprisingly memorable characters, decent action and most importantly it never jars you from your suspension of disbelief. The audience is solidly along for the ride from the moments the opening credits start right to when the end credits roll.