1989 - R - 98 Mins.
|Director: George P. Cosmatos
|Producer: Aurelio De Laurentiis, Luigi De Laurentiis
|Written By: David Webb Peoples, Jeb Stuart
|Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern and Ernie Hudson
|Review by: Bill King
As far as monster movies go, "Leviathan" isn't all bad. It's derivative of John Carpenter's "The Thing," right down to the wacko doctor who tries to save humanity by cutting off all means of rescue, but in its own way, it's competent, exciting and overall a good thrill ride. This is an example of a director taking an old concept and making it look fresh, and in the case of "Leviathan," the experiment worked. The special effects are excellent, the setting is claustrophobic and the characters are a colorful bunch.
In an unspecified future, technology has enabled man to construct underwater mining facilities in order to extract precious metals found on the ocean floor. Crews rotate every 90 days, and this particular group is ready to leave. With only a few more days to go, trouble rears its head when the reckless Sixpack (Daniel Stern) stumbles onto a sunken Russian ship housing a monstrous secret. After piecing together various clues obtained from the ship, Dr. Thompson (Richard Crenna) deduces that the Russians sank one of its own ships to protect the world from a biological threat. Genetic experiments have yielded an intelligent creature that can survive underwater and withstand extreme cold and pressure.
The catalytic agent finds it way onboard the mining facility, and it first affects Sixpack, then goes for Bridget Bowman (Lisa Eilbacher). Soon, the creature is loose and the remaining survivors must stay alive long enough to be rescued. Being trapped several miles below the surface isn't much help, especially with a hurricane raging through the area. The leader, Steven Beck (Peter Weller), tries to keep everyone together, but the clock is ticking away. The creature is capable of acquiring the knowledge of its victims, so it has that advantage when it starts tearing up the station. It can survive underwater, but it knows the humans can't.
When gathering actors who are going to be trapped in an inescapable situation, it's best to assemble a varied bunch. Peter Weller, fresh off the success of "Robocop," provides the strong center for the other characters to revolve around. Ernie Hudson's Justin Jones is low on patience and high on anxiety. Daniel Stern makes a surprisingly creepy pervert. This performance is in deep contrast to the poignant narration he provided for "The Wonder Years," which was on TV at the time of "Leviathan"'s release. Amanda Pays is tough, athletic; she plays a astronaut hopeful, so she has to be athletic, which comes in handy when running from a monster. She doesn't have to be yanked along by the male hero.
If there's anything disappointing about the movie, that would be its lack of curiosity with its monster. We get a little bit of background information concerning its origins, and it's really interesting. Director George P. Cosmatos was probably too anxious to get to the action. When John Carpenter made "The Thing," he was fascinated by the story on which it was based, John Campbell's "Who Goes There?", and he brilliantly showcased the paranoia and fear that could be garnered from such material. That doesn't happen with "Leviathan." We get the initial setup, but once the characters realize their peril, they only think about preservation. Granted, if a monster was chasing you, there's no time to learn about it, but the better horror movies focus as much on the monster as they do on the people.
"Leviathan" is still a fast-paced and enjoyable monster movie. It doesn't go wrong in many places, unless you really take exception to the borrowed elements from other movies. The film redeems itself by only taking the basics from its betters and surrounding them with a new environment and a different kind of origin for its creature. A wild urgency in the script also doesn't hurt, because urgency is what this movie is about.