Director: William Eubank (‘The Signal‘)
Following some of the world’s smartest people as they work to continuously develop science, and ultimately further advance humanity, is an intriguing, but ultimately familiar, plot point in cinema’s sci-fi horror genre. That’s certainly true with the upcoming film, ‘Underwater,’ as it’s noticeably influenced by the 1979 classic, ‘Alien,’ which was a triumphant for its time, when it was released almost 41 years ago. The two share the element of working-class heroes inadvertently awakening harmful creatures from the deep. The characters from both movies are working-class heroes, who must fight terrifying odds in order to survive an out-of-this-world disaster.
The lavishly atmospheric nature of ‘Underwater,’ which 20th Century Fox is set to release in theaters this Friday, January 10, was crafted in part by screenwriters Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. The new drama was directed by ‘The Signal’ helmer, William Eubank, who helped further the story’s tense environment by casting Kristen Stewart as Norah. The protagonist is a notable heroine who resembles ‘Alien’s Ellen Ripley, as she challenges gender roles in the sci-fi, action and horror genres.
‘Underwater’ is set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, which leaves Norah and her team of researchers, who are living in an undersea research facility, trapped beneath the surface. The structure begins to rapidly flood, which results in Norah and her colleagues, including Captain (Vincent Cassel), Paul (T.J. Miller), Emily (Jessica Henwick), Smith (John Gallagher Jr.) and Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) realizing that their only shot at survival lies in walking across the ocean floor to a distant abandoned rig. In addition to the physical challenges of the journey they quickly discover they’re being hunted by monstrous sea predators that are determined to kill them.
The visual effects, which are meant to be the stars of creature features such as ‘Underwater,’ ultimately served as the sci-fi-horror film’s equal savior and adversary. The movie’s director of photography, Bojan Bazelli, as well as its production designer, Naaman Marshall, stunningly showcased the harrowing experience that Norah and her team endured during their escape. Bazelli effortlessly captured the protagonist and her co-workers’ fear as they fight for their lives, which intensifies the further they walk. By putting secondary camera into the scientists’ helmets, the cinematographer helps Eubank showcase how trapped they are within their suits, especially during the violent scenes.
Marshall also helped increase the tension that Stewart and her co-stars infuse into their equally terrified and brave researchers as they both physically and emotionally push themselves to keep pursuing their survival. From the industrial and impersonal work stations that the scientists work in that emphasize success over the workers’ individuality, to the ominously looming and never-ending abundance of the ocean floor that Norah and her colleagues must overcome in order to ensure their survival, the overall environment of the drama is captivatingly intriguing and eerie.
While some of the visuals that are featured in ‘Underwater’ are enthralling and memorable, not all of the effects hold up to the high standards that make creature features enduringly captivating. Norah and her co-workers’ determination to make it back to the surface, especially after they discover the new dangerous fish species that’s determined to kill everything in its path, remains difficult to fully visually decipher throughout the drama’s 95 minute run time. Even though it’s easy to recognize Norah and her fellow scientists’ continuous fear through their helmets after they first glimpse their animal opponents, the limited view and glimpses of the attackers through the sediment-clouded environment takes away from the film crew’s hard work on the animal’s design.
Following some of the world’s smartest people as they work to continuously develop science, and ultimately further advance and protect humanity, is an intriguing, but ultimately familiar, plot point in cinema’s sci-fi horror genre. That’s certainly true with ‘Underwater,’ which is noticeably influenced by ‘Alien.’
The two movies share the element of working-class heroes inadvertently awakening harmful creatures from the deep. The diverse heroes band together to fearlessly fight back against terrifying odds in order to survive an out-of-this-world disaster. The lavishly atmospheric nature of ‘Underwater’ features Stewart as the courageous heroine and leader, Norah, who, much like ‘Alien’s Ripley, challenges gender roles in the sci-fic, action and horror genres.