It was 30 degrees outside Friday and sleeting a bit. The public library closed at 1:30 p.m., so I went on to the grocery store. It was open, and busy. No 2% milk quarts.
Then I went on to the movie theater, which was open and relatively busy. I went in to see a new movie about folks living under distressing circumstances, “Underwater.”
For those readers who have seen and can remember movies made in the last century, it should be noted that “Underwater” is just “Alien” (1979) in the Mariana Trench. Here, Kristen Stewart is the replacement for Sigourney Weaver. That may tell you everything you need to know about the new movie.
No disrespect for Stewart’s talents is intended. But she ain’t Weaver. The star of “Alien” had the special set of characteristics that made it possible for her to be both a sex symbol and a cold-hearted action star all at the same time. And she could also do comedy — remember “Galaxy Quest”?
In “Alien,” she was directed by Ridley Scott and was surrounded by a fine cast. She played Ripley, a sailor on an interstellar space tug. She and the crew are awakened from hyper-sleep while the ship is still far from its destination.
After investigating a distress call from a deserted ship, they discover a deadly, speechless and eyeless alien had somehow gotten onto the tug and had laid eggs. The last quarter of the film had Ripley in a t-shirt and panties hiding from and fighting this previously unknown killer.
So guess what the last bit of “Underwater” is? Stewart in a bra and panties running around an oil-seeking rig on the bottom of the ocean. She is hiding from and fighting a previously unknown sightless, speechless and steadily reproducing killer.
There are all sorts of other parallels. And there are some other ways in which the movies are different. “Underwater” begins and ends with voice-over narration (by Stewart) that comes close to waxing philosophic.
Soon after her short opening statement, Stewart’s mechanical engineer character, Nora, feels tremors in the tunnels of the underwater platform on which she has been living and working for some time. The thing is coming apart at the joints.
For the rest of the film, Nora is finding other people, jury-rigging failing electronic controls, crawling through tiny wet spaces and making progress to a faraway section of the oversized gerbil habitat maintained by the company.
Some of her sojourns include treks outside, on the soft bottom seven miles down. During these stretches, the explorers keep seeing monsters that look like gigantic jumbo shrimp or vast squid or eventually like a summer thundercloud. The as yet unborn monsters look like hosiery hanging up to dry.
As you can imagine, her party keeps losing human members. And the monsters make scary sounds by bumping along the tops of the tunnels. Some of the music sounds like Tangerine Dream about the time of “Sorcerer.”
“Underwater” is emotionally effective. One likes Stewart. That’s why she is a movie star.
But there isn’t anything new about the movie. Even the undersea element has been done in film before. Frequently. And “The Meg,” its second-most obvious forerunner, was just out in 2018.
Maybe the smart folks and those sent home because of the “horrible” storm curled up in their living rooms and looked at “Alien” on DVD or via streaming. Or at “The Abyss,” “The Deep,” or “The Deep Blue Sea” (everybody likes L.L. Cool J as a chef). “Sharknado,” anyone?
Those of us who showed up despite the “treacherous” weather and sat through the derivative “Underwater” still managed to have some fun. The movie has decent pace, some likable characters, and moments of decent cinematic tension.
When I got home, the paper was waiting on the porch.