The first VOD (video on demand) that has been on my list to view was Underwater, which was released Jan. 12, 2020. Again, to look for VODs you can go to Apple TV; YouTube; or Amazon Prime. One of my favorite movies of all time was the Abyss by James Cameron which was a wonderful sci-fi movie. After watching the movie trailer, I felt that Underwater looked to be a mix between Alien and the Abyss.
Underwater is about a crew of oceanic researchers, while working on their deep water research/ drilling rig near the Mariana Trench, who are affected by an unnatural earthquake. While they are trying to save themselves, they must confront the threat of what their drilling might have accidentally uncovered.
The movie’s opening scene put us right into the middle of the earthquake that hits the drilling rig. It sounds like a great way to begin a story right, jumping us right into the action, right? Unfortunately, in this case, it actually weakens the story. We are never introduced to our characters until about 15 minutes into the film. To make matters worse, the characters act like they already know each other which shuts us, the audience, out of learning about the relationships between the characters. In the movie Alien, the audience is given some time with the crew before the alien shows up which allows us to get to know the characters and allows us to be more invested in them. Because Underwater doesn’t take any time to introduce us to its main characters and their relationships with one another before the earthquake, the actions the characters take during this time are less impactful for us the viewers.
The other creative decision I didn’t agree with writers, Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, was to not give the main characters agency in the events that caused the earthquake. Using the movie Alien reference again, the crew found the alien eggs and interacted with them which caused the rest of the events of the movie to happen. They caused what happened to them, they had agency. However, in Underwater, the characters had a passive role in the story. None of them had anything to do with why the earthquake happened or how the creature(s) were unleashed. When characters have an active role in events it makes it more interesting for us the audience.
Even with all these flaws, Underwater is a pretty solid movie. This should not have been released in January, as this was a good solid movie, more than the garbage which is traditionally released at this time. There are some storytelling flaws, but I really appreciated the action, the set pieces and the acting. Kristin Stewart, yes, the one from Twilight fame, does a great job with her character. I felt she really gave a lot of depth to her character who I bet didn’t really have a depth, no pun intended.
Overall, I would give this movie a B- (A Good Movie). The overall story is well done, and the characters are likable and distinct from one another. Kristin Stewart, from Twilight fame, is pretty engaging as the main protagonist. She does a good job of showing a greater character depth than probably what she was given. I also really enjoyed the costumes and set pieces, they created a unique and interesting visual. Underwater is a creature film in the same vein as Alien. Unfortunately, Underwater, didn’t learn the lessons that Alien taught about how to make this type of movie so that it tension filled and makes us care about the characters. To be honest, it is only a couple of scenes away from accomplishing this. I was wondering if some of these screens would have shown up in the deleted scenes for the film. Two other minor areas that I also was not enamored with was the several scenes were too dark to see what was going on and the monsters/ monsters’ history themselves could have been fleshed out a little more. If you like creature movies and movies set underwater, I would definitely rent this on VOD.
Underwater is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language. The film was directed by William Eubank. It was written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. Underwater stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel and Mamoudou Athie.