I have 469 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Leviathan (1989)
What’s it rated? R for Ernie Hudson’s muscles, Stan Winston’s genius and Daniel Stern’s greasiness.
Did people make it? Written by David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart. Directed by George P. Cosmatos. Acted by Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Michael Carmine, Daniel Stern, Lisa Eilbacher and Meg Foster.
What’s it like in one sentence? A mash-up of The Abyss, Alien and The Thing.
Why did you watch it? Chewers andrewhawkins and Gabe T. were adamant that it ruled all and they were pretty much correct.
What’s it about in one paragraph? A team of undersea miners working for the Tri-Oceeanic Corp. and led by Peter Weller find a sunken Russian ship named Leviathan. The Leviathan is supposed to be on active duty in the Baltic sea, but as the crew discovers, the ship’s hull looks like it was hit by a torpedo and the fact that it is sunk appears to be covered up by the Russian government. When the team finds a safe filled with personal items from the captain and crew, they bring back a few things onto their own ship that turn out not to be so good for their health. As the crew starts slowly mutating, and the corporation that’s paying them starts disavowing knowledge of their existence, the surviving miners will have to use their brains to get them back to the surface, or else they’ll drown in a sea of monsters.
Play or remove from my queue? Oh, play them shits most definitely. This was a really fun one that I can’t believe I missed out on back when I was 9 or 10. I’ve been seeing the cover for this and for DeepStar Six from the Great Underwater Movie Boom of 1989 (also including The Abyss) and I’ve been meaning to get to all of them eventually. Let me know in the comments if DeepStar Six is worth my time (even though I’m sure it is due to the inclusion of Miguel Ferrer in the cast). Leviathan is definitely no The Abyss, but not a lot is for me since that film holds a weird place in my heart that’s connected to a certain time in my childhood, so when I watch it I get the sense memory explosion with the smells and tastes and everything. Anyway, back to Leviathan.
Easily the best thing about the film is the nostalgic feel of it. I had never seen it before, yet it made me long for the movies of the late ’80’s in a way that I never had before. Wide eyed, Buckaroo Banzai looking Peter Weller with a young and ripped Ernie Hudson just hit all the right notes for me and Amanda Pays… my god. Max Headroom will always be my friend for introducing me to her. I forgot how incredibly hot she was (more than likely still is) and Leviathan not only reminded me of her, but made me realize it’s time to track down that Flash TV series from 1990 that I never missed a week of and rekindle a bit of the old Pays love affair I used to have. That sounded so much less creepy before I typed it out. Daniel Stern is also fun to watch, basically playing an early prototype of Marv from the Home Alone franchise (but really amping up the greasy creep factor by one hundred fold). Honestly, if there’s any weak link in the cast it’s Weller, who I know has always been a bit monotone, but in this it almost comes across as comatose. I love the man and his fairly recent turn on Fringe made for the best episode of the series to date. He just doesn’t seem fully committed to this one. Maybe he wished he was cast in The Abyss, or something.
The real winner in Leviathan is the production design. I loved the way the ship looked regardless of how mildly derivative it was of Alien (as a matter of fact that might have made me love it more) and other sci-fi features from that time. I think the fact that the movie feels like such a throwback\mash-up of such great movies that it works (sometimes even in spite of itself). I loved the moment the flamethrower was brought out to battle the creature because it made me think of The Thing, and when the mutation started bursting out of poor Hector Elizondo’s chest, my flash of the same thing happening to John Hurt made me love it even more.
Director George P. Cosmatos notoriously came in to take over for Kevin Jarre after he was fired from directing Tombstone, although reports have it that Kurt Russell took over directing once Jarre left so the film wouldn’t get shut down and Cosmatos came on just to keep the wheels turning. Watching Leviathan and having seen his two previous directorial efforts (Cobra and Rambo 2), I can’t see how the same man could have directed Tombstone, as well. I suppose Rambo 2 and Tombstone both have a fairly bombastic, operatic quality to them but that’s the only throughline I see.
The writers of Leviathan have probably had the most interesting careers of anyone involved. David Peoples wrote fucking Blade Runner AND Ladyhawke before Leviathan and then followed that up with Unforgiven and 12 Monkeys (also the Hero with Dustin Hoffman which I don’t like to talk about), but then he wrote Soldier in 1998 and hasn’t done a thing since. I have a feeling that Soldier had a good script and then it all turned to shit when Paul W.S. Anderson got his grimy little hands on it. The other writer of Leviathan, Jeb Stuart, wrote fucking Die Hard before Leviathan and then followed it up with Stallone’s Lock Up, Another 48 Hours, The Fugitive and, one of my biggest guilty pleasure movies, Switchback. Of course Steven Seagal’s Fire Down Below is in that filmography as well, so who knows. My point is, Jeb Stuart and David Peoples know how to craft a blockbuster, but this one only grossed 15 Million worldwide and I think the blame might go to Cosmatos, who had all the pieces to make a classic, but made a cult classic, instead.
I’m not surprised this movie flopped back in 1989 (especially with how amazing The Abyss turned out to be), but it definitely deserves a resurgence now. It’s a shit ton of fun and filled to the brim with character actors that people still love to this day. The creature is gross and gooey (and designed by Stan “Fucking” Winston), Amanda Pays takes a shower and the scene where a few select characters make it to the surface and then have to battle sharks is one for the ages. A lot of this really works if you look past the sometimes clunky direction and special effects. Hell, Jerry Goldsmith even does the score. If you haven’t seen this then what are you waiting for (other than awesomeness to pass you by).
Do you have a favorite line? I’m sure it’s everyone’s favorite line, but “Say ‘Ahhhh’, motherfucker” made me pretty happy.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? When DeJesus starts running out of air in his giant fucking underwater mech suit, Weller starts dicking around on the computer to find a way to help him and we see a brief flash of Luxo, Pixar’s logo fella playing with a ball. This was a shout out to Pixar’s first short, Luxo Jr., from 1986.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Sphere (I remember loving the book and hating the movie but it’s all sort of a blur), The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai (well, yeah), The Thaw (almost a good movie but not quite), Body Snatchers (I remember not really digging this one either, but it’s been 10 years) and Stranded (fuck Vincent Gallo).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? The Abyss, Alien, The Thing, Encounters at the End of the World and probably DeepStar Six.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.7
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.5
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? Just that I’m falling in love with movies from the late ’80’s all over again. Keep the recommendations coming.
Did you watch anything else this week? Troll Hunter was consumed and loved and Drive is my second favorite movie I’ve seen this year so far.
Next Week? Vigilante!!!!!!!