The writers and studio folks who helped craft William Eubank’s Underwater could have gone with many other titles. “Roebuck 641” might have been considered, but that title probably not snappy enough. If they wanted to be cute, they could have called the film’s aquatic research facility and film “Eventide” as a slight nod (or jab) at the Twilight movie franchise, which Underwater‘s main star, Kristen Stewart, is most famous for.

Instead, they went with Underwater, which is totally on-the-nose and totally okay. It’s a movie that invites us along with its characters to “probe” inside an undersea facility as it starts breaking apart. The characters are both literally and figuratively underwater, and we’re right along with them.

What would we do in their situation? What tools would we have to communicate with the surface? Would damage control teams be sent, and rescuers? What about sharks or, yes, other mysterious monsters in the water? All of these questions, and more, await us in this film.

Why I Like ‘Underwater’

By no means is this a complex film, and it was almost destined to have failed (even coming out in January, considered to be the worst month for film releases). However, I don’t think it deserves hate, because it’s at least a competently done movie. I also don’t agree so much with the dismissals of this film as “derivative.” It’s actually not that much like Alien or Aliens, especially with so much of it involving their initial survival situation.

And yes, this is not really a character-driven film. You’re most likely to only remember two characters: Kristen Stewart’s character, Norah, and T.J. Miller as Paul Abel (an obvious choice, as he provides most of whatever could be considered “comic relief”).

However, what I like is that, instead of taking place on a spaceship, these scientists are (of course!) underwater. I think that’s a more relatable setting, simply because most of us have been in the water, and recognize how harrowing it is to risk drowning. Compound those basic fears with an unknown presence and hey, you might have something.

Suspension of Disbelief? Not Much Seems Requires, Actually

To me, this movie at first barely seems like sci-fi. As suggested, most of the dangers are the initial crisis and the uncertainty of exactly what to do, and the viewer will wonder if help is going to arrive. When their facility begins to take on water from an earthquake (which seems like an explosion), the characters are forced to make what may be final choices, for themselves and their crewmates. Whatever they do, everyone will face the consequences of their actions.

Much like outer space, the ocean will always represent the unknown. Anyone who wishes to explore either place will need every act to be a deliberate act, and there are endless scenarios of things going wrong. Would you manage to come up with an escape plan?

A lot would need to happen correctly in order to properly prepare a mission underwater, let alone a mission to Mars. Underwater reminds us that, no matter how well-planned things are, something can always go wrong. We need to hear that sometimes, if not most of the time.

What are your thoughts on Underwater? Explore the depths in the comments!

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Wade Wanio is an author.

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