The Film: Leviatahan
The Principles: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson
The Premise: A massive craft, futuristic, isolated and sterile, is filled with a rag-tag group of blue-collar workers. A multinational corporation funds their mission. Just days before they are due to go home, the crew discovers a sinister (perhaps even otherworldly) presence on their craft. Gore happens. Crew members are whittled down. The company does everything it can to screw over our heroes. Peter Weller does heroic stuff and manages to outsmart the company and the monster. Then he punches a woman full on in the face to close out the final shots. I kid you not. [Does the premise feel familiar at all, minus the woman punching?]
Is It Good?: Tough call, but ultimately no, this is not a good film. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t kind of love every minute of it. Because I did. It is just that Leviathan is aggressively aping better science fiction and horror films that came before it. And when I say aggressively I mean, just read the premise above!
The set up is so fundamentally identical to the set up of Alien that I genuinely wonder if lawsuits ever happened. However, once act two kicks in, Leviathan begins to become John Carpenter’s The Thing. Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t have all that different of a set up than Alien either!
By act three, when Macready Peter Weller, picks up his flame thrower to hunt down the freakish and twisted aquatic abomination that has formed from the melded-together bodies of his friends, I had pretty much settled in to Leviathan being a low rent Alien/The Thing knockoff that I was highly enjoying. BUT, the movie veers dramatically into Jaws territory with its final action set piece. Peter Weller might as well have shouted “Smile you son of a bitch” while delivering the death blow to our film’s water monster.
So, while Leviathan is an unabashed cash-in on better films that came before it, there is a certain joy that comes from seeing a movie like Leviathan here in 2012. The model work, production design, and practical creature effects are things of beauty (mostly) that just aren’t done in a mid to low budget film these days.
Is It Worth A Look?: No question, this is a fun blast of 1980s cheese that will provide more grins than groans. George P. Cosmatos had a pretty awesome run as a director in the 1980s, with Rambo II, Cobra, Leviathan, and Tombstone all under his direction, and in that chronological order no less! And apparently Stan Winston and his workshop generated the look of the monster for the film and the dive suits as well. Plus, look at that cast! Isn’t it awesome to realize that there was a time and place when Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, and Daniel Stern could headline a film? I love it. So there is some fabulous 1980s pedigree that is injected into Leviathan which should not be ignored just because the movie is derivative as hell.
Random Anecdote: The female lead in Leviathan looked and sounded so blasted familiar that I found myself aggravated and had to figure out where I knew her from. My brain came through before I needed to resort to IMDB and that’s right folks, Amanda Pays (who plays Elizabeth “Willie” Williams in Leviathan) was none other than the lead actress in the early ‘90s TV series The Flash!
Cinematic Soulmates: The aforementioned Alien, The Thing, and Jaws, any of the three of which Leviathan isn’t even a hair on the ass of.