I’ve found that writing a review for Underwater has been a bit of a challenge. By no means is it a bad film, but it’s not an outstanding film either. The description of “jack of all trades, but master of none” definitely applies with this movie. It’s a science fiction disaster and horror film at both ends of it with the enduring tone of a survival movie throughout. This is one of those films that we’ve all seen before, just not rolled into one. Looking at some other reviews online, you’ll see phrases repeated comparing it to “Alien” and “The Abyss”, and it certainly has those aspects to it.
I liked it, I’m not sorry I watched it, but I feel it could’ve been better than what it wound up being. If I had paid money to see it, then maybe I might feel differently, but since it’s on a streaming service the cost is offset by other content. I see a lot of hate in the reviews for how it’s boring, and although there are slow points in it, I wouldn’t say it was boring. Quite the contrary actually, the thing that stands out in this film the most is it’s pacing, it wastes no time getting right into the action. There are slower spots, but I found myself reaching for the remote to back up and see what I’d missed (or to try to make out more detail, more on that in a minute) because once it gets going it’s a decent pace.
The cast is virtually unknown to me (admittedly I’m not up on who’s popular currently) except for the bartender from Deadpool and the gal from that sparkly vampire movie I never watched. They all did a decent job, I have no complaints with the acting in this movie (everyone played their overused trope appropriately). Like I’ve said, we’ve all seen this movie before, right down to vampire girl’s Alien 3 buzzcut. They applied themselves well enough that I can’t fault them for playing their part, the writers on the other hand could’ve given them a little more to work with. TJ Miller could’ve been utilized a little differently, as I feel they wrote him a little more annoying than he should’ve been, and Kristen Stewart had a disconnected feel to her character. However Stewart’s disconnect could also be explained by my theory on this film that we’ll get into at the end, so perhaps all is as it should’ve been.
To get into the technical side of things for a moment I’d like to talk about the cinematography. This was very well done for the most part, and everything looked as I’d expect it to at 7 miles down in the trench. The sense of being there was very well conveyed, and I appreciate that attention to detail, as it adds to the feel of the film. HOWEVER…. I like to be able to see the monsters in my monster movies, call me old fashioned. I understand that the murkiness helps set the tension and all that, but I want to be able to see what just pulled a guy out of his suit through the leg joint. The creatures themselves are a character as well, and I want to be able to see them clearly, if only for a moment that I have to pause to appreciate. This is hands down my second biggest complaint with the film, my biggest is it’s heresy.
I’m looking at you William Eubanks…you invoked his name, BY NAME, you have a responsibility to show him in all his glory and clearly. Had you not confirmed the Kaiju-like Leviathan was in fact Cthulhu then I wouldn’t be cross. Don’t tell me you made a movie with Cthulhu in it, and not show him clearly, bad form sir! It wasn’t until looking at reviews that I realized you had made such an egregious error, especially since your take on his depiction isn’t traditional, and looked more like Venom and Godzilla had some special alone time. A “secret Lovecraft love story” indeed sir!
There are other little personal things that I like to see in a movie as well that were absent or quickly glossed over or merely alluded to. Where the monsters came from is never clearly explained, but you get that Cloverfield vibe that the company knew all along, and went all Khazad-dum (Moria) in the trench delving too deep. It’s hinted at a little bit, and you’ll see other reviews talking about the message we should take from this movie, although I’m a believer that not ever movie needs to tell a message. In this day and age I find that entirely too many people are trying to tell too many other people what they should think, say, or do. Especially in Hollywood. I want to be entertained, dance for me monkeys, keep your politics and your opinions to yourself, because I don’t give a shit about anyone’s but my own. Ironic that I’m writing a movie review right? I know, but I needed the money, and I wouldn’t listen to me either.
The end has come, so I should talk about my theory with this film as I’d promised. Throughout the course of the movie it was mentioned about time having no meaning or blurring at the bottom of the ocean. In the beginning and ending it was discussed specifically about not knowing whether you’re awake or you’re dreaming. By now I’m sure all the Lovecraft fans are on the same page with me, so I’ll break it down for anyone still scratching their head and looking at me like I’ve grown a second one. Cthulhu sleeps and dreams in the Lovecraftian Mythos, this whole thing could’ve simply been a dream, either Norah’s or Cthulhu’s. Nothing is certain where Cthulhu is concerned, and I could write for hours and not cover all the different permutations of the possibilities of what actually might have happened compared to what is depicted. I could, but I’m not going to, because I’m not getting paid enough for that.
In closing I’ll say that it’s a solid enough movie you won’t be sorry you watched it, and it’s a good way to kill 90 minutes without feeling like you wasted your time. Besides, where else are you going to see a guy implode, and hear the line “oh you flat chested elven goddess”? For the parents out there, it’s got a couple jump scares, no real gore to speak of (blood splattering inside the helmet is about it) and is rated PG-13.
Underwater is currently available on HBOMax.