Year: 1989

Production: MGM / Gordon Company

Director: George Pan Cosmatos

Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster

Screenwriter: David Peoples

98 minutes; Color

Amid the 1989 school of underwater sf films, Leviathan is distinguished by having production values that approximate to those of The Abyss (1989), and a plot that mimics that of the cheapskate Deepstar Six (1989), which is to say that, like Sean S. Cunningham's film, it is a slavish, waterlogged remake of Alien (1979).

Set in a mining facility of Florida, it has a Russian genetic experiment running riot as various crew members are killed by, or turned into, monsters. Among the carry-overs from the Ridley Scott film are production designer Ron Cobb's sets and a Jerry Goldsmith score; a grouchy mixed-sex, mixed-race crew of blue-collar types, who keep up a constant stream of nervous patter to puncture the script's sillier stretches - when Dr Crenna concludes "Whatever it is, it appears to be a genetic aberration", someone is in there quickly with a skeptical "No shit!" Equally derivative are the monster that is found in a wrecked ship and grows inside its discoverer; the treacherous and coolly feminine representative of the evil corporation (there, a computer; here, Foster with a severe hairstyle); the scientist whose motives turn out to override his commitment to keeping his crewmates alive; the two-fisted heroine whose sexuality is apparent only in the number of excuses the film finds to strip her down to her white underwear; the final countdown to disaster that leads to the destruction of the ship; and a multi-functioned monstrosity, designed by Stan Winston of Aliens (1986), that bloodily rampages through the supporting cast.

Given the familiarity of it all, Leviathan is at least an enjoyable widescreen rip-off, with only the weedy Pays, who gets the film's biggest laugh when her reason for refusing a shot of monster-tainted vodka ("My astronaut training starts in two days"), letting the side down among a crew of straight-faced victims who give their stereotyped roles enough tics to make them welcome. After all, Alien was itself hightly derivative of 1950s monster movies, so it is hardly in a position to be unset about the plagiarism, and the current screenwriters have even taken the trouble to go back to Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956) for the plot twist about the monster absorbing the memories of its victims, which lends the whole cycle of a pleasing circularity since the next glub-glub-glub picture in the cycle was the Corman-produced rip-off of The Abyss, Lords of the Deep (1989).

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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