Matinee Price and something chewy tasty
I was all ready to dub this one Gorge Rising but I can’t. I had too much fun. OK, I’ll start with a new rating system. Bottom to top: Anaconda, Phantoms, The Relic, Deep Rising. Why does Deep Rising win? It’s no Aliens, but it attempts to develop Aliensesque character – driven humor and see-no-bad-stuff tension – we don’t see the (later poorly explained or justified) critters for a full hour – just their damage & ripples in metal. Therefore, class, genuine tension is created in a laboratory environment.
The people in this movie are not as grey-matter challenged as the subsimians in the Relic, Phantoms, or Anaconda, and the acting is…if not better, at least more enjoyable. These guys are having a great time. An example – 3 people firing insanely at the beast (a Cthuluesque mass of coils and sharp things) with hysterical terror on their faces. Both kinds of hysterical. The dialogue is clearly silly on purpose and the lack of the overseriousness that generally plagues movies like this is refreshing. To reword – the fun stuff makes it fun. And I genuinely believe these people’s terror and mania.
Our heroes’ theme music is this insane late 60’s muscle car rockin’ adventure music with that old school monster movie feel (Jerry Goldsmith, orchestrated by Alexander Courage – you know, the Star Trek guy!) – it’s hilarious. It totally sets the tone which is this is wacky, high tech, SFX fun stuff. MITCHELL!
Pop quiz: What movie released this winter features a humongous luxe ship named after Greek badasses and stuffed with ritzy passengers, which on its maiden voyage is run into unexpected mass destruction and death by its hubris-laden top banana, and includes a clever, hot babe in a red dress, a diamond necklace, a safe, and a zillion stunt people thrown around like confetti?
B. Deep Rising
Yes C. No attempt is made to disguise its derivativeness (Is derivativeness a word? It’s not an homage) – we’ve got The Poseidon Adventure, Alien Resurrection, any number of heist movies, Jaws, and the sleeper hit of the week, a little art house flick called Titanic. But the newer of those stole from the older – big deal! It all works out nicely for everyone this way.
It’s amusing, not entirely stupid for the genre, and it’s meant to be fun and amusing and entertaining. Instead of being vapidly empty and retarded, like say, oh, Anaconda, or accidentally stupid like The Relic, it’s definitely written with a droll lack of self-importance, and therefore becomes fun.
Anthony Heald always seems stuck in the Mr. Pride Before The Fall guy, and Kevin J. O’Connor is a resilient bit of comic relief (think Bill Paxton’s Hudson but more inept and unlucky). You would recognize their faces, and others. Famke Janssen, former Bond girl, is clever and sexy and thank god they didn’t make her wear her party dress the whole movie. Lucky thing Argonautica crewmen keep bras in their lockers. Treat Williams, still enjoying the beauty and the splendor and the wonder of his hair, is somehow studly and vital and still believable saying stuff like “jeez louise!” He has one of my favorite lines, which really has to be seen in context. But it starts with Jeez Louise and is delivered to Janssen.
Director Stephen Sommers would do well to keep his comic sensibilities alive – he’s a breath of fresh sea air in the laboring monster/FX genre. I also need to mention the computer effects. When an FX house is creating a nonreal creature, they have a lot of freedom to create something unreal and unlikely, or at least enough freedom to match the puppets used on set. The critter, while looking entirely supernatural (it’s not, by the way) in its alienness, really has a tremendous sense of mass – the coils are oily and quick moving but they definitely captured the illusion of the displacement of air and water and its environment, a quality too frequently lacking in computer generated creatures (dinos excepted of course). No matter what you might think of the movie, you have to watch and sense the pure poundage of creature bearing down on these people and think, wow, nice job, gang.
And I can’t emphasize strongly enough how horrible Anaconda is in every way but cinematographically.
If this were summer, I would say get a beach ball and chill in the theatre. But it’s early in the year, when they release nothing but remainders, so catch it. It’s a lark.
MPAA Rating R for sci-fi violence and gore.
Release date 1997
Time in minutes 106
Director Stephen Sommers
Studio Hollywood Pictures