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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
This movie was released in 1989 when Hollywood was going through one of its periodical Water movie eras. LORDS OF THE DEEP, LEVIATHAN and DEEPSTAR SIX were all released in anticipation of the success that would surely follow James Cameron's THE ABYSS. As it turned out, THE ABYSS was both over budget and behind schedule, with the downshot being that the weaker wannabees LORDS OF THE DEEP, LEVIATHAN and DEEPSTAR SIX flopped as they were all released prior to the big movie that was supposed to set the stage for them. THE ABYSS flopped too. 1989 just wasn't the right time for dopey Horror/SF movies in the water*.
LEVIATHAN stars Peter Weller (ROBOCOP, ROBOCOP 2, NAKED LUNCH, SCREAMERS) as Steven Beck, a geologist stationed aboard a deep underwater mining operation that is digging for silver. The crew of the mining facility is on the last 3 days of a 90 day tour and everybody is getting punchy. Steven seems to be one of the few people on the station who has his act together.
Who doesn't have their act together?
Certainly not Six-Pack, played by Daniel Stern (BLUE THUNDER, FRANKENWEENIE, C.H.U.D., VERY BAD THINGS) in a role I wouldn't even give to Police Academy alumni.
The station's Doctor, Glen Thompson (Richard Crenna: WAIT UNTIL DARK, THE EVIL, DEATH SHIP) has a real don't-give-a-shit attitude that is going to get somebody killed if he doesn't take his job more seriously. In fact, only Cobb (Hector Elizondo: THE FAN ) and Elizabeth Williams (Amanda Pays: MAX HEADROOM [TV], THE KINDRED) seem to have their heads on tight.
The music was orchestrated by the hardest working composer in Hollywood, Jerry Goldsmith~.
With all this greatness where did the movie go wrong?
It has a horribly bad script for one thing. The character development is plastic, and the events leading up to the various crises are laughably contrived. This plus the movie shouts rip off at every turn. When it is not sloppily stealing from John Carpenter's THE THING, it is doing a poor job of robbing from ALIEN. This horribly bad tale was an original story by David Peoples, a man who has done far, far better in his film writing career with movies like BLADE RUNNER (co-writer), UNFORGIVEN, TWELVE MONKEYS (co-writer), and the BLADE RUNNER storyline for the Video game.
The screenplay was co-wrote by David Peoples and Jeb Stuart. Jeb has an impressive list of co-writing screenplays for popular movies throughout his career and on his own wrote and directed 1997's fascinating Thriller SWITCHBACK. Between the two of them, they really haven't had an actual bad movie besides this one, so I can't help but feel that LEVIATHAN became one of two things during the course of filming:
The movie was Directed by George P. Cosmatos, who in the past nearly 30 years has written and / or directed only 10 movies and they all range from mediocre to the worst crap ever. He has only directed one good movie in the past 3 decades, and LEVIATHAN ain't one of them. So naturally I'm inclined to put the failure of this movie on his shoulders.
The movie starts underwater with all the staff bitchin' at each other. All of their complaints are mostly centered on Daniel Stern's character of Buzz Six-Pack. Stern plays the consumate asshole quite well, but is such an overbearing jerk it's astounding that, after 3 months in close quarters with this guy, no one has cleaned his clock in a proper "attitude adjustment".
Ernie Hudson is Justin Jones. In the movie he is generally friends with everyone and is sick of Six-Pack's constant bullshit.
Lisa Eilbacher plays Bridget Bowman. She generally gets along with everybody but is getting really sick of Sick-Pack's perpetual bullshit.
Michael Carmine plays Tony Rodero. He does his job, fantasizes about someday living in Switzerland, snow skiing all the time, and has just about had all he is going to take from Sick-Pack's endless stream of bullshit.
Hector Elizondo is perfect in his role like he is perfect in every role he plays, regardless of direction or script. As G.P. Cobb, he is a man who misses his family back home, does his job as best he can, gets along pretty well with everybody, and is fed up with Six-Pack's eternal bullshit.
Amanda Pays struggles through her role as only Amanda Pays can. She stars as Elizabeth Williams, sometimes called Willie. She keeps her business to herself, dreams of being an astronaut one day, kinda likes Geologist Steven Beck, and is through putting up with Six-Pack's unending stream of bullshit.
After a minor skirmish between Willie and Six-pack, Beck sends them both back out into the briney deep to do some busy work and relieve some of that aggression.
In the next stupidly contrived scene, Six-Pack walks off a cliff, drops about 35 feet, and discovers a sunken ship only about 100 yards from the station. Amazingly enough, They Never Knew It Was There!
Come on now!
When they constructed this station they never scouted the area? Never used Radar? They never looked around? Not even 100 yards??? It turns out this Russian wessel is none other than the Leviathan: purported by the Russians to still be operational in the Black Sea, as opposed to sunk in the trenches of the Atlantic. Film frames are wasted as Willie hunts for Six-Pack (HA! Like She Cares!). Six-Pack on the other hand, discovers a sunken chest, brings it onboard the station, drinks some vodka found in the trunk, and Merry Mishaps ensue.
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
Go to the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT page for the larger list. Now back to the review:
The creature was designed by Creature Effects man par excellance Stan Winston!
Never the less, the monster is an awful job.
Part Deep Sea Critter, yet at the same time a conglomeration of all of its victims a la THE THING (which Stan Winston assisted the great Rob Bottin in creating varmints for), the creature is neither here nor there or scary in the least. While there are a few scenes that COULD have been scary, these moments are destroyed by the awkward body appearance and movements of the monster.
Far scarier in terms of suspense are simply the dwindling crew's chances of making it out alive before their underwater station implodes. The Monster becomes a useless add-on, used to artificially create tension. The movie could have been just as good if the crew members say, went crazy with the disease in a rabid state, able to infect the others with a bite or scratch. Or perhaps the disease is in an incubation stage where it can only infect via bodily fluid transfer in the first 48 hours, after that, it becomes airborne.
Or! Or! Or!
A Russian military vessel called LEVIATHAN has an operational disaster onboard, and with its cache of ordinance exploding, goes sinking to its watery grave at the bottom of the ocean, impacting close enough to the DeepStar Six, to cause enough damage to leave the survivors scrambling against the clock to stay alive.
ANYTHING would have been better than the Scooby-Doo goofball varmint that makes its appearance in this flick. How fortunate that Stan redeemed himself with the PREDATOR creature a few years later.
Still, if you just LOVE them cheesy rubber suit varmints, you might like the ridiculous tom-foolery of LEVIATHAN.
Two Shriek Girls.
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