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Non-Review Review: Underwater

There’s a surprising charm to Underwater, which largely extends from its sense of propulsive forward momentum.

Underwater is not necessarily a good movie. It often feels like two radically different and highly derivative science-fiction movies stitched together, transposed from deep space to the deep sea. Underwater is never entirely sure whether it wants to be Gravity… but in the ocean” or Alien… but in the ocean”, and so repeatedly finds itself caught between the two extremes. It is a film populated by archetypes rather than characters, and which is pushed from one set piece to the next by percussive force rather than any coherent throughline.

A deep dive.

And yet, in spite of all that, there’s something strangely appealing about the mismatch of elements at play in Underwater. It isn’t just the way in which the film bounces haphazardly between a disaster film and a monster movie, it is also reflected in the casting. Underwater is a B-movie that brings together quite an eclectic set of leads. Kristen Stewart continues the gentle transition back towards the mainstream that began with Charlie’s Angels, but finds herself working opposite a cast including arthouse favourite Vincent Cassel and broader performers like T.J. Miller.

These seemingly contradictory elements create a strange frisson within the film, one that is just as volatile as the energy reactor that (inevitably) threatens to got critical to add an extra layer of pressure to the already beleaguered characters. However, director William Eubank seems to understand that these components are highly unstable, and so Underwater moves a dizzying pace that helps to prevent any of internal imbalances from reaching critical mass. It’s hardly the stuff of create cinema, but it’s a surprisingly sturdy and energised B-movie.

Suited to the task.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Thirty Days (Review)

Thirty Days is a fascinating misfire.

Thirty Days is build around a number of interesting ideas. In terms of character, there is the framing device that finds Tom Paris sentenced to spend one month in the brig after an act of crass insubordination, suggesting a relapse into the “bad boy” persona that was largely forgotten after Ex Post Facto, barring the occasional revival for episodes like Vis á Vis. It also hints at questions of discipline on the ship, something around which Star Trek: Voyager has skirted in the past in episodes like Prime Factors and Manoeuvres. There is a compelling story here, somewhere.

Watching Thirty Days can feel like…

In terms of science-fiction plot elements, Thirty Days features the first ocean planet in the history of the Star Trek franchise. That is interesting of itself. What wonders lurk within an ocean world? What would life look like had it never left the sea and set foot on land? There is something decidedly pulpy and magical about a planet that has no surface of which to speak, instead comprised of waves and tides. Even with the flimsiest of plots, this element alone should provide fodder for an exciting installment.

Unfortunately, Thirty Days fumbles both of these interesting elements, falling victim to a recurring issue with the plotting on Voyager. The pacing is awkward, the plot points are under-developed, the framing device is hackneyed. The script for Thirty Days seems far more concerned about hitting the forty-five minute mark than it does with using these elements to tell a compelling story. The result is a bit of a wash.

Water conservation.

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The X-Files – Død Kälm (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Død Kälm is probably the most explicitly “science-fiction-y” premise that we’ve had in the show’s run to date. And by “science-fiction-y”, I don’t necessarily mean “anchored in any meaningful science.” After all, the amount of sense that Død Kälm makes is questionable at best. Instead, the term “science-fiction-y” means “most likely to pop up in a pulpy science-fiction television show.”

The past few episodes have seen the show on a bit of a science-fiction kick, with clones and colonists and invisible abducted zoo animals. However “accelerated aging” is such a science-fiction staple that it feels like The X-Files is enthusiastically embracing science-fiction conventions at this point in the second season.

Old school...

Old school…

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