Who says the “Alien” franchise is dead? Ridley Scott may have exhausted the storytelling possibilities of the original franchise but don’t tell that to Kristen Stewart and the annoying T.J. Miller, stars of the new thriller “Underwater,” a.k.a. “Aquatic Alien,” new this week on VOD.
Stewart is Norah an engineer working on a rig at the bottom of the ocean. She and the crew of nautical scientists, (Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright and Miller) are at the mercy of the watery depths when an earthquake destroys their subterranean laboratory. As they fight for survival they discover they may have woken a fierce enemy. “This better not be some ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ crap,” says Paul (Miller).
On the ocean floor no one can hear you scream but we can hear lots of heavy breathing as the cast grunt their lines into their deep-sea diving suits.
“Underwater” is an ocean floor people in peril flick with loads of wet, claustrophobic atmosphere but little in the way of actual thrills. The earthquake happens in the opening minutes of the film, throwing the characters into danger right off the bat so we don’t get to know anything about them other than their “never say die” attitude and Norah’s wondrous ability to squeeze through very tight spaces before the bad stuff happens. There is no emotional connection, just characters navigating the murky depths with the occasional jump scare thrown in. The final showdown with the deep-sea beast has a certain majesty to it but by then echoes of better movies like “Alien,” “The Abyss” and ”Leviathan” have done in the film’s chances of making an impression.
Lots of movies have mined similar territory but the ones that stand out add something interesting to the mix. Unfortunately “Underwater” brings nothing new to the outer space/underwater monster genre.