Underwater is an often intense movie with some innovative production design and cinematography, charming actors (and uh, T.J. Miller) and it's not based on a comic book. So why was I so underwhelmed by it? It's simply, really: the script.
The film takes obvious inspiration from Alien and The Abyss. But both of those movies – in addition to being made by top-notch filmmakers – did the legwork to make us care about the characters before things started going horribly wrong. Underwater kicks off the action immediately, gives its characters some traits (dead loved one, quirky sense of humor, nervousness) and calls it a day. There's absolutely no reason to care, and that kills any sense of urgency the film has. It's also so opaque that I kept waiting for a big twist that never came to pass.
Kristen Stewart plays Norah, a mechanical engineer on a deep sea rig. When their living quarters are torn apart by an earthquake, she crawls through debris with Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) and Paul (T.J. Miller) to rendezvous with the Captain (Vincent Cassel), Emily (Jessica Henwick) and Liam (John Gallagher, Jr.) With the rig about to blow, they have to walk along the ocean floor to the drilling platform, where they can then make their escape.
The good news is the film mostly captures the confusion of walking in total darkness while still being able to see and understand what's going on. And there are some occasionally terrifying moments as the survivors are picked off by... something. Of course, once the creatures are revealed, they're far less menacing. Underwater takes its time in showing us the monsters, but they still look extremely silly once we see their CGI bodies.
All this may be enough for some viewers hunting for something, anything mildly original and thrilling. But to make something lasting, Underwater needed to come up for air to let its characters breathe.