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Underwater – Movie Review

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Underwater – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The concept of people underwater encountering something terrifying is not the most original idea, but there are creative routes to take with it. Early on, Underwater seems like it has the potential to be an exciting survival thriller as this crew battles with the natural elements causing their submarine lab to fall apart. However, the film eventually becomes yet another creature feature with characters existing to be killed off one by one. There is some visual inspiration in the ways director William Eubank puts together some shots as we travel through this facility, but as a whole, Underwater falls disappointingly short of being anything memorable.

Underwater doesn’t waste much time in getting the plot moving as it immediately launches Kristen Stewart’s aquatic researcher Norah into action. We are eventually introduced to every participant as they deal with the ramifications of this disaster. The film does begin with promise as we see the characters thinking on their feet and trying to survive this ordeal. They’re not the most fleshed out people, but there are stakes presented, even though we don’t truly grow to care about them. Stewart does give a solid performance, while most of the other actors are serviceable. They’re in cumbersome underwater suits through a good chunk of the movie, which probably weren’t the easiest to act in.

The most bothersome element comes from T.J. Miller, who serves as the movie’s comic relief. Every time he opens his mouth, it’s primarily to give some quip and sarcastic remark. Unfortunately, none of them are particularly funny and merely grate on the nerves. With so many of the characters speaking in technobabble and saying their lines as seriously as possible, it makes sense to have someone there to lighten the mood. If only what he was saying was actually amusing. When the monsters show up, the movie goes down a predictable nature as we wait for each character to be picked off. The final act is especially a slog, since these aren’t people who have been developed into interesting personalities.

Eubank and his director of photography Bojan Bazelli do come up with some impressive shots under the water and know how to use the space of this crumbling vessel. The special effects team do a good job of compositing all of the different elements and while the monsters could be designed in a more fun way, the artists and animators are able to successfully bring them to life. There’s one creature that stands out as an terrific effect. Something that is nicely appreciated is the use of opening titles. This has become a lost art form over the past number of years, so it’s good to see them included in Underwater.

Underwater is essentially a B-movie that is one part survival thriller and the other part is a familiar horror film. While we get a few good performances, they aren’t enough to overcome the thinly written characters. Even at ninety-five minutes, the movie feels dragged out near the end and definitely could have used far less of T.J. Miller’s ad-libbing and attempts at comedy. There are a few creative ideas on display that allow the movie to rise a little above mediocre, but not enough to create the necessary exciting and thrilling ride.

Stefan Ellison

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