Leviathan (1989)

*. Leviathan is usually — and by “usually” I mean “universally” — described as a rip-off of Alien and The Thing, with the action this time being set on the ocean floor. It’s only real borrowing from The Thing, however, is the appearance of the creature.
*. Which means it’s an Alien rip-off. And by “rip-off” what I mean is “remake.” Instead of spacesuits there are futuristic deep-sea diving suits, which look exactly the same. The union crew of the mining base argue over their contracts and when their time will be up. They explore a wreck that has been overcome by a dangerous parasitic life form and inadvertently bring it back on board. It proceeds to slime its way through various dark industrial corridors, picking off the crew one by one. You get the picture.
*. Fun fact: before calling it the Nostromo, the spaceship in Alien was going to be called Leviathan.
*. Even the crew is the same old gang. Peter Weller is Tom Skerritt, the resourceful and self-sacrificing team leader. Amanda Pays is Sigourney Weaver, right down to her sexy underwear. Ernie Hudson is Yaphet Kotto, the token black man. Daniel Stern is Harry Dean Stanton. Richard Crenna is Ian Holm, the doctor who is hard to trust. Hell, even Megan Foster is “Mother,” the sinister, inhuman corporate head who treats the crew as expendable.
*. When you’re watching a movie that’s this much of a copycat you fall into the trap of having the audience say, “This is just like Alien.” And, since Alien was a great movie, this quickly turns into “This is just like Alien, only not as good.”
*. Leviathan is a long way from being as good as Alien. Just for starters, the creature here looks silly. Actually, it looks like about a dozen different things at different stages of its development, all of them silly.
*. The script also seems to be working too hard. Poor Ernie Hudson in particular is stuck repeating lines on numerous occasions when it appears that nobody is paying attention to him. He does, however, have one saving moment when the CEO says that she realizes the crew must have gone through hell and he responds “Gone? Bitch, we’re still here!”
*. Then there is the premise. Wouldn’t it be easier to gentically mutate a deep-sea creature into a deep-sea monster than to do the same to a human?
*. Things really fall apart at the end. It’s hard to exaggerate how bad this is. It is very, very bad. First Weller, Pays and Hudson escape to the surface only to be surrounded by sharks. The sharks don’t do anything. Then the creature surfaces, looking quite ridiculous while . . . treading water? Things look very much like the end of DeepStar Six at this point. Then poor Ernie is killed, for no reason at all aside from the fact that the black guy always gets it. This was still the ’80s. Weller manages to dispose of the monster by tossing an explosive into its mouth with a circus shot. This gives him the chance to yell out a defiant last line: “Say ah! motherfucker!” Then he coldcocks Megan Foster, which makes him feel “much better,” despite almost all of his crew being dead.
*. 1989 was the year of the underwater action flick. The Abyss and DeepStar Six were the other two biggies. Leviathan isn’t much worse in any particular regard, but then it isn’t any better either (and in fact very little of it was shot underwater). I saw it in the theatres when it was first released, and this latest time was the first time I’ve seen it since. I doubt I’ll be watching it again, but I do remember it being fun back when I was younger and less critical.

2 thoughts on “Leviathan (1989)

  1. nscovell

    Have you seen Harbinger Down? I think that movie is a “how leviathan should have been” kind of film?

    I remember being so scared of this film when I was a kid, especially when the larva stage monster makes it’s first kill. But now I kind of laugh.


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