A small crew of engineers and scientists are put in peril when their underwater drilling expedition is threatened by mysterious creatures intent on destroying their work, with dire results.
[Review contains some spoilers.]
Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is a savvy mechanical engineer with perfect eye makeup aboard the Kepler 822 Station – a massive drilling outpost of (the in no way obviously named) Titan Industries. The Kepler is located seven miles underwater with the mission to drill into the bottom of the Marianas Trench for resources.
Norah is clad in her underwear, brushing her teeth while playing with a daddy long legs spider (as you do), when a massive earthquake rocks the station, sending her into panic mode as she races barefoot towards safety. Along the way, she meets up with her few surviving coworkers and the group bans together to make the one-mile trek to the Roebuck Station 641 (in pressurized suits), where the remaining escape pods are located. While attempting to surmount numerous life-threatening situations, the crew realizes an earthquake is the least of their worries when it becomes apparent that nefarious beasts are actually the source of the Kepler’s demise, making their race to safety even more challenging. Will they make it to the surface in time? And, most importantly, will the daddy long legs be credited with a mere cameo, or recognized as the star it truly is?
January is a notorious dumping grounds for bad films, so it’s no surprise that 20th Century Fox decided to release Underwater during this quiet month. Believe me, it’s appropriate. The real question is why they decided to release it all. I guess when you’ve spent $80 million dollars on a project, you’d better figure out what to do with it, even if everyone involved is surely hoping they could bury this turkey forever.
I was (somehow) surprised that Underwater was such a spectacular failure, given the Alien-esque vibe, and the fact that it’s helmed by the talented Kristen Stewart. I was confident that it would at least fall into the “so bad it’s good” B movie category. Instead, despite the short 95-minute runtime, it’s a giant yawn. I guess someone forgot to allocate some of that $80 million towards the script?
Yep, the script – or lack thereof – is a huge problem here. This is one of the few instances where more buildup and backstory would’ve been welcome. Instead, scant information is given as to the purpose of the drilling project (mainly through magazine clippings shown during the opening credits), as well as to what life is like that far below sea level, before the action hits. Sure, it’s nice to get things going quickly. But so quickly that we don’t know or care about the characters at all before they’re put into peril? Yes, K. Stew in panties is compelling; I will give you that. But so compelling that I’m expected to be invested in her survival for the next hour or so? Nope, sorry. Give the audience a little something more to go on.
Same goes for the other crew members, each supplied with the faintest of personality traits, barely discernible, and all while delivering stock dialogue. (“How far is it?” “I don’t know, I can’t see.” “Is something out there?” “I don’t know, I can’t see.” – you get the drift.) In fact, each person is imbued less with “personality,” and more as, “people holding items that are supposed to infer character traits.” For instance, TJ Miller (more on him in a moment) as Paul carries around a stuffed bunny and sports a ridiculously giant chest tattoo. I guess we’re supposed to assume he’s both whimsical and tough? What a combo! Meanwhile, the ship’s commander (Vincent Cassel as Captain Lucien) keeps a program from his daughter’s memorial hidden in his locker. This means Lucien is secretive, in mourning, and has nothing left to lose. Cue the tropes!
Speaking of TJ Miller, the entitled idiot who douched his career along with his Silicon Valley goodwill, is a giant distraction here. In fact, I was confused and concerned as to why Kristen Stewart would agree to star alongside this bozo and was relieved to find out this movie was filmed three years ago, before TJ’s numerous/various meltdowns and accusations of sexual assault. (Not to hold Kristen accountable for the decisions or repercussions of TJ’s actions – I was just surprised she’d agree to work with him. But this was in the Deadpool era, when his star was still considered “on the rise,” so it makes a bit more sense.)
Beyond Miller’s troubled private life, he is frankly miscast here. He comes across in no way believable or capable as a crew member – an extremely dangerous and complicated job on its best day – much less funny. He remains predictable as the “comic relief” while continuing to essentially play himself – an untalented and undeserving schlub.
The most disappointing part of the film is the lack of screen time for the much-anticipated monsters. What is built up of the suspense goes nowhere, as director William Eubank relies heavily on jump scares and murky water to stand in for the actual sea creature sightings. And when we do finally see them? Well, think of a pink hairless cat merged with Godzilla and you’re on the right track. In short, nothing you haven’t seen before in any science fiction-themed creature feature.
Oh, plot holes galore! There are so many, I lost track. Honestly, I got so bored that I started thinking about where my husband and I were going to head for dinner after finally being released from the theater. That’s how little I was invested in this claustrophobic mess. Needless to say, anyone with a passing knowledge of science will at least get a good laugh out of the many improbabilities of the safety of this crew. Not that you’ll care.
The name of the film is Underwater, but I think they meant to call it Underwhelmed. A completely forgettable offering that got buried in January and should stay there.
Underwater (2020) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time science and plot don’t mesh.
Take a Drink: every time someone fondles that plush bunny.
Take a Drink: every time a crew member runs around in their underwear.
Do a Shot: A shout-out to Moon Pies! If you’re not following the Moon Pie account on Twitter, treat yourself to that right now – one of the best!
Do a shot: if you feel bad for K. Stew – she didn’t deserve this.
Do a shot: for Jessica Henwick (Emily, Norah’s friend and coworker) who almost got Daisy Ridley’s job as Rey in the latest Star Wars franchise and booked this instead. Ouch.
Are there any extra scenes? Maybe. Will you be compelled to stick around for them? My guess is no – I sure as hell didn’t!