This is a UFO Production,
which doesn't scare me because I've reviewed a couple of their films
and they've actually been decent entertainment. And the box has this
really cool looking vicious monster on it. Now, now, I know that the
monsters which grace boxes and those that grace the videos therein
rarely have any common ground, but still—they went to the
trouble to make a cool box. That should count for something.
Plus, the movie has Sean Whalen, who, if memory serves, along with Peter Pitovsky and Rob LaBelle, was one of the three Amazing Live Sea Monkeys! And that was a pretty cool show, well, I liked it. I was one of the ten who did, yes, thank you. For those of you who remember the show, I believe Sean played “Bill” who was kind of the “Curly” of the group. [Editor's note: Sean Whalen actually played “Aquarius” on the show, and we could either correct this fact as it occurs throughout this review, or we could make a parenthetical correction here. We will leave you to imagine which is easier.]
Well, enough of that. We zoom in on a CGI map of Antarctica, and then zoom through ice tunnels (also CGI) to the opening credits and some pretty decent music. And wouldn't you know, the credit is for Rich McHugh, who has done work on some Christian McIntyre films that I liked (Silent Warnings and the soon-to-be-reviewed-I-promise-this-time Lost Voyage).
And we zoom in on a CGI submarine with one huge engine on the back. It's hard to see cos the credits are over it, and it's dark, but it looks like a torpedo with a conning tower. And the camera smacks into the tower, and passes through, and we're inside with some crew folks.
And just like that, a title screen flaps up: “SEAWOLF CLASS ATTACK SUB: Jimmy Carter. ARTIC OCEAN.”
Does that mean that the sub is played by Jimmy Carter, or is the sub called Jimmy Carter? Man, I almost hope it is the former, it must really suck to work in the USS Jimmy Carter. I'll refrain from the political commentary except to note that, as has been said in other quarters, Jimmy Carter is history's greatest monster.
Anyway, they're a few minutes away from “the Pole,” and then they'll be on the Russian side of “the Artic.” So forget what I said earlier about the map of Antarctica. Obviously, I was wrong. Anyway, the crew are talking about the good old days when they could play chicken with Russian subs, but now it's no fun anymore since we are all one, big, happy fleet! But then the radar guy gets a signal. They look at it, and on the graphical radar-type map screen the word UNKNOWN appears. The radar guy helpfully says, “Unknown, sir.” The commander says, “Give it to Mother” which I am assuming is the onboard computer and not his mom, because while Mom knows best, she doesn't always know what “unknown objects” are especially if they've just made stains on your jeans.
But the computer doesn't know what it is either, except a transmission of some kind. One of the guys suggests it's from “Hubris Research Station.” The USS Jimmy Carter, and Hubris Research Station? Is this a damn comedy?
Anyway, they contact this station but get no reply. And something, also unknown, is now approaching fast. “Nothing that big can be unknown, check your program.” Radar guy agrees it would be good to do this.
They go to evasive anyway. But the object is countering. They decide to go up, but the object is still closing. They arm torpedoes, try to warn the vessel (it's the only decent thing to do), and get some...well, monster noises over the radio. (Come on, there's an all right and fine monster right on the front cover! No one's going to rent this and think, gosh, what COULD be the problem?)
Radar guy gives a countdown, they finally fire the torpedo, countdown goes to zero, and everyone relaxes as they are NOT hit (yet). Then they are hit, lights start flickering, sub starts rockin', the whole nine yards.
Outside the sub, we see this huge, vague glowing ball approaching. No one knows what to do. “What is it, sir?”
“I don't know.”
And...cut, to New York City. Somewhere in the harbor, that has to be the UN building, and there's a tugboat chugging colorfully in the foreground. We cut to a lecture hall filled maybe 20%, and get another title card flapped on us: UNITED NATIONS.
Now, okay, movie, you are making fun of me, aren't you? First Jimmy Carter, now the UN. Talk about Hubris! I swear, if the secret weapon is called the Bill Clinton...!
Anyway, there's a scientist lady addressing the sparsely populated lecture hall. Someone asks her if she knows about the “study” claiming that “Arctic warming” is bad for the planet, and she says, in a British accent so icy that you just know she's a villain, that of course she's read the study but everyone knows it was politically motivated.
And we cut to a close up of That Guy (the one who asked about the Study), he was in Lost Voyage as well, and he played Cecil L'Ively in the X-Files episode about the guy who could start fires.
Anyway, they have this rather pointless argument, she thinks there is no danger, he is sure that there is, blah blah blah. I'm starting to really sink low in my seat, here. I wanted a simple little monster movie, I certainly wasn't prepared for this to become a charged political debate!
She thinks there are transmissions under the ice that are causing the problem (those damn Seatopians!) while Cecil, um, thinks, well, he hasn't actually said what he thinks except We're Ruining The Planet and We're Stupid People and It's Bad That the Artic is Getting Warmer and such like.
Anyway, Cecil asks her to summarize her position. She says that during the first warming series, there were several transmissions received from the bottom of the polar ice cap. Everyone starts shuffling in their seats and muttering about “That's a lot of hooey!” and throwing vegetables and such. So, maybe she's not the villain?
She mentions the Jimmy Carter received another such pulse and was almost lost. Cecil thinks it was the torpedo, prematurely detonating. She asks, what about the object the sub was firing at, “don't you think that deserves some further study?”
He doesn't answer this, but says that the pulses could be from moving magma, or errors in the sensor equipment. He thinks the “objects” could be nothing more than falling ice.
Okay, now I'd like to change my bet, please, I bet Cecil will be killed by the monsters. I just freeze-framed and he's got this incredibly smug expression he is playing for the crowd.
Anyway, it's his turn to talk, and he smugly speaks about how “Miss Fletcher” (Science Lady) and he disagree about how to solve the problem of the warming in the Arctic, and also about what to do: he wants to fix it using seismic torpedoes, while she wants to sit on her ass. No, he doesn't say that, but that's what he means, and she takes objection. Nonetheless, he turns this charged political debate into an attempt to fire Science Lady from the commission! She's pretty peeved about this. Cecil, you bastard! The vote goes against her, of course. And the meeting breaks up. On the way out, a guy reminds Miss Fletcher about the confidentiality agreement she signed; she has not forgotten. “We wouldn't want the world to know that the G8 nations are planning on nuking the North Pole, now would we?”
And we cut to a pretty impressive CGI model of the Hubris, I guess and—damn it! We get another title card slammed into our faces. HUBRIS RESEARCH STATION [new line] NORTH POLE. Jimmy Carter, you stop that!
Some guys are walking around barking and relaying orders, about lowering two “one-megaton” probes to a deep level, no slip ups, blah blah blah. The commander (the barking order guy with more hair and more close-ups) is informed that there is a fax for him. With all the wireless communications here, a fax seems old fashioned, but hey, here it is. The Commander wants it right away. I hope it is not an offer for cheap toner cartridges, as I am sure my tax dollars are being spent here.
Anyway, there are a few Significant Looks passed among the crew, and they prepare to launch their one megaton probes. And of course, we cut to Dr. Fletcher jogging. I mean, that's natural, right? From an impending launch to someone jogging. And a damn title card WASHINGTON DC!
I'm sure the film-makers felt that was far too much for our tender hearts, so we immediately cut back to the Hubris (I figured it out, Mr. Sign Guy, thanks for not having another sign). The Commander gets into this chair that looks like a bitchin' Xbox setup and moves forward into some tube. He talks to the crew about the probes being launched, and says this is phase one, we're about to go to phase two. Lots of footage of folks prepping everything. The Commander goes on, saying isn't it great that despite some disagreements (cut to Dr. Fletcher jogging, we pan to her feet), it's been decided this is the best way to do...something. Re-Freeze the Arctic using “one-megaton probes.” Now, I'm no scientist, but--
And in the probe launch area, a guy says to the others, “I know you don't agree with me, but delay launch as long as possible.” An MP pulls a gun on him, asks him to leave, but the Delay Guy kicks him and takes the gun, and a general fist fight breaks out. But Delay Guy gets the upper hand and delays the launch. He then calls Dr. Fletcher on her cell phone.
They chat a bit about this whole launch thing, and Dr. Fletcher admits it's a legit order, and Delay Guy kind of says, “Oopsie.” And it turns out that Commander is listening in to the whole thing. He leaves his bitchin' Xbox setup (he's kind of peeved) and he tells Delay Guy that if he just leaves, we'll forget the whole thing ever happened. Delay Guy says he can't do that.
Let me just step in here, and say that it would be a whole lot easier to sympathize with one side over the other, if we had any idea of what is going on, and what the consequences are supposed to be given our current course of action. Cecil wanted to launch missiles into the Arctic ice, Dr. Fletcher said that was a bad idea, but no one really explained why one course of action was better than another. What we're dealing with is that the Arctic ice is warming, some how. How are nukes going to help? Is there a reason we should think this is a good idea? What is Dr. Fletcher's plan? We know she wanted to study the “objects” in more depth, but what then?
I'm pretty sure we are supposed to be in Dr. Fletcher and Delay Guy's corner, but that's only based on the how the people are being presented to us, as Concerned Heroes and Heartless Villains. (We're told Delay Guy has a great service record, which he is throwing away; fine. What about Commander? Dr. Fletcher? Cecil? Who the hell are these people?) So, yeah, other than that, we don't know what's going on! Who are we supposed to take into our hearts, here!
Well, back to this. Commander orders some folks to take care of the situ, re: Delay Guy. Dr. Fletcher advises Delay Guy to take Commander's offer ("forget the whole thing"). Delay Guy says that the plan is to drop two bombs into “a hole” and “hope to seal it. We both know there's a lot more going on down there.” Well, yes, you two know this, but I don't. I just see you waving a gun around.
She continues to argue, while I continue to wonder if Delay Guy is Bill Seamonkey. I'm kind of thinking he is. [See note above.] Also, David Keith is top billed on this, and he hasn't even shown up yet. I could make predictions but I won't.
The Commander-ordered folks show up, and blow a few holes in Delay Guy, and Dr. Fletcher hears it all over the cell phone. Yes, I imagine it is sad and all. Well, yes, even Commander and his pal are sad, but they are ready to go forth.
And we cut to Cecil, back at the (title card UNITED NATIONS—argh!) and he asks if everything is okay. He is told yes, we're back on the Hubris.
And they're ready to launch again. Except that damned unknown object is back again! But they launch the two torpedoes, and they're tracking them, and it all looks cool, man, it's cool. But one guy at another radar station says, “Sir, you should see this, I've got something way off the charts.” And it's a Britney Spears video! No, it isn't, ha ha, it's something vague and blurry. So maybe I was right. Anyway, it is sending a huge electro-magnetic pulse at the Hubris, which makes them lose contact with the torpedoes. They get a transmission, which Commander orders on the speakers, and we get the monster noises from earlier.
“What the hell is that?”
“Well, it ain't mermaids!” says the Commander.
Guy points out, “We have multiple targets heading straight for us, 80 knots per [something], at least 25 tons of [something] each.”
Commander asks what are they, and Guy yells that he doesn't know, “they're unknown!” The computer screen helpfully shows this.
And we get some kind of odd solarized camera view of the hubris, rushing right at us. I would suggest that this is the view from the attacking “unknown objects” (I won't say “monsters” as I don't want to spoil it for you).
One of them bursts up from the “Moon Pool” (every underwater station has one) and it is a...dragon. The three guys there shoot at it, and it looks kind of bemused by this attention, then it uses its...electrical power against each of them in turn. Then it leaves, and joins its dozens of fellows out swimming around the Hubris. They have sinewy, snake-like bodies, and there are a bunch of them.
“What the hell are they?” asks Commander.
Well, aside from the fact that they have electrical energy crawling all over them, I would say they are Ribbon Fish (even the dragon head kind of fits), but I'm sure that's not exciting enough for this movie, so they're probably electric eels.
Anyway, the station now has a power failure (though the transmission to the UNITED NATIONS is coming through loud and clear) and the Commander starts saying that they are “under attack, repeat, we are under attack” and we have lots of panicky hand-held shots of people running around in a panic as sparks fly and lights flicker.
And, from what I am seeing, these eels can shoot electric beams at the Hubris. This electrifies the infrastructure, and kills a bunch of folks. The electrical effect travels up the outside of the Hubris, like the V'ger beams did along the Klingon vessels.
“We've lost the satellite link!” shouts some UNITED NATIONS guy.
“No,” Cecil deduces. “We've lost the Station!”
Sure enough, we cut back to the Hubris (no title card) and it looks pretty lifeless. Their work done, the last couple of eels swoop back to their submarine nest.
Back inside the Hubris, the alarm klaxons are still sounding and the terminals just show rolling lines, except for one which springs into life and says the following:
X>p...” ? ? .”~,? ? .)~
Exactly as it appears on the screen. (What I do for you guys....) I'm sure that will mean a lot to you giant electric eels in the audience (hello! Check out my online store! Buy a t-shirt so I can live!).
Back to a snowy bunch of trees, I was figuring this was WASHINGTON DC and Dr. Fletcher was resuming her jogging, but that wily black screen title guy, he had a trick up his sleeve! For the screen says SUGARBUSH – MAINE and we see Dr. Fletcher, now in the red ski suit of mourning, skiing. Now, I have never skiied, ever, so you will have to forgive my ignorance if I say this looks like a bad area to ski. There are a bunch little trees all over, there is no stretch of open ground, and, well, there isn't a hill. It's all flat. Now, you skiiers who have been in such a place, and think it is the best skiing ever, be sure to let me know. I'll put an update in here and we'll get this straightened out, because, well, quite honestly, I am thinking Dr. Fletcher may know her stuff in some areas, but skiing is not one of them. Also, any form of the verb “ski” is really weird to type.
Anyway, there are a lot of shots of chamo-suited figures with guns running through this same woods, and Dr. Fletcher seeing them out of the corner of her eye, and the music goes all eerie, and I...well, I'm expecting one of them to show up in front of her and say “NI!!!”
“We are the Secret Agents Who Say NI and we demand a sacrifice! We expect you to take an expedition to the Arctic ice with...some expendable extras! NI! NI! NI!”
Well, of course nothing that entertaining happens, but David Keith finally shows up and surprises Dr. Fletcher. Apparently, they have A History together. And he has a hat with an orange “T” on it, which is the University of Tennessee's symbol. (I think actor Keith is from Knoxville.) And I'm out of cheese.
Anyway, he says he is going to the Hubris, and she is to come along. She says she was fired, he says she doesn't have a choice. She's mad. “You sold me out to Chomsky,” she says bitterly.
Wait a minute—the “Jimmy Carter” totally ineffective...the United Nations, orders danger with no responsibility...a “Chomsky” full of dangerous, crackpot theories....
--naah, couldn't be.
Anyway, he says “You've got another shot,” and she says, “Fine” and he looks bemused as she goes off camera and the music shifts to “change the scene” mode. But first, some backstory, as David Keith tells another guy he used to be married to Dr. Fletcher. And then we go back to the UN. No, Mr. Title Card, no! ...Whew!
Cecil is presiding over a bunch of guys with computers, all arranged in a kind of triangle over this big area. In the center of this triangle is a large plant, which I am sure helps them to get in touch with their sensitive vibes, and thus, through harmony with nature, type faster and do more mouse-clicks.
And David Keith and Dr. Fletcher show up.
DAMN YOU Mr. Title Card! UNITED NATIONS COMMAND CENTER. (Now there's an oxymoron...oh, sorry, yes, trying to keep political commentary to a minimum, yes, sorry.)
Cecil and Dr. Fletcher engage in some banter. She says she was enjoying some cross-country skiing, but then she realized, if she left the world in Cecil's hands, she'd have to take up “water-skiing” and David Keith laughs at that. Though he shouldn't. Evil as he is, Cecil was trying to stop the Arctic warming, while Dr. Fletcher wanted to sit on her hands and study the “objects” before doing anything. Now, you might say here that Cecil is evil and will bring ruin to all, and I'm sure you're right, but think on this: it is far riskier to take action than to simple sit back and wait to take re-action. Besides, let me point out the obvious again and say we don't know Cecil's plan won't work. We don't know it will either.
David Keith points out that they lost contact with the Hubris, and they're putting a team together. There's more bantering between Dr. Fletcher and Cecil (I guess a kind of scientist pissing-contest, sorry for the language) which David Keith interrupts with “Should, coulda, woulda,” meaning he is as tired of this as the (theoretical) audience.
Cecil jumps in with an “87% increase” in the heat from the trench. He punches a button, and Dr. Fletcher watches a schematic globe...um, do something. Hang on--
--okay, near as I can tell from their crappy animation, we see Europe disappear (except for Spain) and some other flooding.
“Well, at that rate, “ Dr. Fletcher educates-the-audience, “we've got less than ten years.” So I'm using my noggin to guess that this was some sort of “Projected Scenario of What the Heck is Going to Happen to the World if We Don't Stop This Arctic Warming” program on the computer.
David Keith says there's a plane waiting to go now. Dr. Fletcher gets her own slow-mo close-up as we fade to another spinning globe simulation. Can't get enough of those, I guess. We zoom in some more on this globe, and from what I can gather, it is basically saying that everything but the highest mountains are gonna be underwater after that ten year time-frame. Good time to buy a house boat, methinks.
And we cut to an airplane traveling through snowy weather, as a map traces its route toward the North Pole. There's some dull talk in the plane, but we see that on board are Cecil, Dr. Fletcher, David Keith and two new victims, I mean characters, please replace with “characters.” One looks like Dean Cain, the other could be Steve Buscemi's clone [Editor's note: This latter is Sean Whalen]. Anyway, like too many movies I've seen, these two think that a roaring plane is the best place to have small talk.
One of them says he can't talk because “there's a lady present.”
“Don't worry about me, boys,” Dr. Fletcher says, “I was married to the military for three years.”
“Seemed more like six,” says David Keith.
Steve Buscemi says, “You signed on to a mission with your ex?”
“Orders are orders,” he replies. Gosh, doesn't that just open up your vision of the human experience? Whaddaya mean, “No”?
Anyway, they're getting close to Alaska, but David Keith wants another topo reading. Cecil overrides him. This is supposed to be tense but, really, just eats up running time. They land, they plow through an ice wall or something (which breaks up the windows) but no matter, as Title Guy gets up off his chair and slams NORTH POLE at us, and then we zoom into the H of the title card, like it was the H that stands for Hell! Take a bow, Mr. Title Guy, and please, please don't bother us any more. But weren't they heading for Alaska? That's close to the North Pole, but not quite there. Kind of like landing in Spain if you wanted to land in England. Sigh. Well, perhaps the plane took a really, really long skid. I'm sure that must be it.
Long fade in, as we see (in extreme slo-mo) that the pilots are dead, David Keith and Dr. Fletcher and everyone else is okay. They gotta get “inside,” which they do. (I'm skipping the boring bits.)
And...I have no idea where they are. I thought they were supposed to be at an Alaskan airport, now it seems they are at some kind of hatchway, out in the middle of a frozen wilderness. Could happen to anyone I suppose. Excuse me, movie, but you are being badly directed.
Now, David Keith is going to go down this hatch alone, and he explains that if there is a breach in Hubris' hull, there will be a lot of water. Okay, I give up. No, no, here is an explanation maybe. They were going to land in Alaska, hit an ice-wall, which shot them straight toward the North Pole. And they landed mere yards from the Hubris', um, surface entry way. Which we just hadn't seen before. Yes, yes, it all makes sense! Ha ha ha, and they called me mad, the fools!
David Keith goes in, and opens the main door. He calls for everyone to come on down for fabulous prizes. We see some of the previous folks, dead, and everyone comes down and sees them too.
“These guys are totally fried,” says Dr. Fletcher, and I think she may be talking about the screenwriters.
“What the hell happened here?” asks Dean Cain.
“You all read the report,” says Cecil, “right after we lost contact they were hit with a massive electrical pulse.” Uh, if they lost contact, who sent the report?
Dean and Steve go to get the generator back on line. Cecil is going to head to the control room. Everyone moves off to do his or her thing. Including Title Guy, who slams up
HUBRIS RESEARCH STATION [new line] NORTH POLE.
Oh, Title Guy, now you are just relying on your previous successes! We know it's the Hubris. An artist has to explore new territories if he (or she!) is to grow. Don't repeat yourself, man! In fact, more titles in this movie would be repeating yourself. You won't have anywhere to go. You'll do titles like THIS GUY IS GOING TO DIE and I BET GIANT EELS ARE THE CULPRIT and DR FLETCHER'S KIND OF CUTE ISN'T SHE and you should really stretch more. Go to another movie, man, the world is out there!
Anyway, back at this thing, David Keith is walking through the corridors with gun drawn, and he opens the Moon Pool door. But that is too plebian for us, so we see (I am guessing—where are you, Title Guy?) the Commander all fried up bad in his bitchin' Xbox setup. Who knows? Who really knows?
Anyway, everyone meets up back in the main control center. The computers are dead, except for one Cecil found which is “on battery.” And some ominous stuff is said.
Dean and Steve are still in the Moon Pool area, they say it'll be “a minute” before the power is brought back online.
Turns out to be less than that, as Steve flicks a switch and lights come back on. “Okay...less than a minute,” Steve says. So...these creature shock the base to death, but they turn the switches to the DOWN position? Good for them! I hope they have their pets spayed and neutered because it is important.
David Keith watches the progress of the power flow, and says the station is “100% operational.” If only those fools had known!
“So, can I have fnt now?” asks Dr. Fletcher. No idea what she said, and I have tried.
“Be my guest,” says David Keith. But David, you don't know what fnt will do!
Some buttons are pushed, and Commander's bitchin' Xbox setup rolls back into the room, with a fried, icky dead Commander in the chair. No one likes this at all.
David Keith wants help to get Commander out of the chair. Cecil says, “Ain't my job.”
David Keith gives him the LOOK and says, before we do anything, we're gonna police our dead, and Cecil says “sure” with all the conviction of someone who will later claim “Oh, I would help, Major West, but my back...it's so delicate.” And the Robot will make that laughing noise.
Dr. Fletcher goes to the front of the bitchin' Xbox setup and looks upon the vastness of the icy Arctic sea, or something, the music swells a bit to let us know this is important, or awe-inspiring, or cool, or something.
And we cut to Dean and Steve, carting dead bodies around. They complain about this, but then Steve says that Dr. Fletcher was “eyeing” him, and he mentions “carnal knowledge” which is pretty much signing his death warrant right then and there.
They complain a lot more about how handling dead guys was “not in [their] contract” and Steve suggests they “bail, man.” Dean wants to know how. Which is a good question. Bail to...the frozen wastes above? Hey, good plan.
Rather than answer that, we cut to another argument between Dr. Fletcher and Cecil. Cecil wants to launch another nuke, while Dr. Fletcher wants to analyze the transmissions and stuff, and stuff. David Keith is tired of all this bickering, and just then Dean and Steve show up, “Hey, what's goin' on?”
“We're about to find out,” says David Keith, and we focus on Dr Fletcher and we get some serious minor key organ music.
“Five years ago,” she expositions, “there was a study, electric eels in the Amazon. Now, the theory was that the electrical current wasn't a biological reaction—it was neurological.”
“So?” says Steve Buscemi.
“The brain thinks with electrical energy, so really the eels are using hyper-electrical thought, to understand the cause of the trench is to understand the transmission. When we first started detecting the rift, we intercepted transmissions that almost duplicated the transmissions made by the electric eels, and as the rift grew, we detected increasing transmissions.”
“Transmissions to who?” asks David Keith.
“There were general transmissions broadcast out of the trench, straight up,” she says.
“You mean to space,” says Dean Cain.
“Possibly,” she answers.
“So...let me understand your theory,” says Steve Buscemi. “You think giant electrical eels opened the Polaris rift, to melt the icecaps, and are now sending signals to someone in space?”
“And our government hired you,” Dean Cain sarcasms.
“Stow it,” says David Keith.
“This is why I believe that some kind of intelligent creature is behind the opening of the trench,” she says, but Cecil interrupts.
“Intelligent or not,” he says, “humans inhabit the earth, we have to prevent the destruction of our own race.”
“Yes, this station tried, and twenty-seven men AND WOMEN [her emphasis] died.”
“Now we're going to learn from their mistakes,” says Cecil. After a moment for everyone to digest this, he continues: “I want to launch another data probe into the trench.”
Everyone seems to get indigestion from this. “How long before we can launch?” he asks.
“Ten minutes to configure, fifteen minutes to launch--” begins Steve Buscemi, before Cecil cuts him short with a simple DO IT.
They go off to repeat the disaster of the previous crew, which then brought them here to their own deaths....no, no, I am only guessing.
“What if I'm right?” asks Dr. Fletcher. “What if they interpret this launch as an attack?”
...Oh man, don't tell me you are hommag-ing The Abyss? That movie stank, and stank a lot! No, no, you're wrong. The Abyss was a bad movie.
“If you're right, it's the way the movie is supposed to go,” says Cecil. Well no, no, he doesn't. He points out that there have been a lot of probes, the only ones that caused trouble were the ones designed to close the trench.
Well, to me, that indicates discernment, which implies intelligence, but then, I'm just watching this crap. Everyone else points out that this means...well, nothing much. So they all settle back to watch a nuclear “probe” blow up in a deep trench. Despite the fact that this has caused trouble each time it has been attempted. Screenwriters, are you even trying or what?
David Keith asks what Dr. Fletcher is going to do now, since they're going to invite trouble and ignore her suggestions. She says she is going to try and interpret the transmissions, to decide why the trench is opening up. “That's easy,” says David Keith, “the water creatures, right? They're going to melt the North Pole, flood the whole world, more room for them.”
They seem to have suddenly jumped to another room. She points out, with a dollop of irony, that his job is to destroy them, yes? He says he's a member of the human race and he's going to make sure there's enough “real estate.”
As he starts keying in stuff, she asks if he remembers something from his military training, “Know your enemy? Maybe one of us should try and figure out who or what these creatures are before we start nuking them again.”
“Well, that's why they brought you,” David Keith says, giving her a big wink.
Meanwhile, Steve Buscemi and Dean Cain are checking out the missile store. They start flicking switches and things too, because, if you're in an undersea (or outer-space) station, flicking switches is about all the entertainment you get. Might as well start flicking!
“Launch sequence initialized,” says Steve Buscemi, and we cut to outside and a decent look at this trench everyone's so excited about. It's a kind of circular or semi-circular, um, trench, that goes down for a considerable distance. Inside, we can kind of make out things that glow with a faint orange light. Some electric ribbon fish eel dragons shoot down into it.
Back on board, Cecil's getting into the chair that Captain got fried in earlier. He punches up some charts. Down in the nuke room, Steve and Dean haul (by hand) one of the rockets into its launch tube. Outside, a couple of electric eels go back toward the Hubris.
The probe gets launched and travels down to the trench. They start getting some data, but just then an alarm goes off, and David Keith says “We have three targets heading our way at 40 knots.” Cecil looks worried at this. Cecil, if I were you (and I am glad I am not) I would get out of that electric chair about now.
Then we see the probe heading downward, and three dragons are standing right in its path. One of them shoots a beam at it (from the middle of its back), and the probe is destroyed. I don't feel there's really a need to repeat that sentence, you can re-read it in disbelief on your own time.
Anyway, watching this, David Keith orders a “wide-dispersal” torpedo loaded, and Dr. Fletcher basically says, you shouldn't do that, you're an idiot, we should see what they are going to do. David Keith has a doubt. Cecil doesn't, and he orders Steve and Dean to load the second torpedo. But David Keith tells them to wait. (I should point out that all this is discussed via radio; David Keith, Dr. Fletcher, Steve & Dean, and Cecil are all in separate parts of the Hubris.)
There's a bit of arguing as Cecil points out that the creatures destroyed everyone on the Hubris, Dr. Fletcher points out “only after they were fired upon,” and so on. And then the radio crackles with monster-talk.
The computer screen, listening to the talk, starts filling up with the same garbage I typed earlier in this review (no, no, not that garbage; I meant the garbled letters and numbers and such. You silly, you!). It is not in the same format, though (it's just a block of type).
“It coincides with a warning, or caution,” says Dr. Fletcher after looking intently at the screen.
“I need more,” says Cecil, after a pause. Like, I need to know how you translated that, perhaps?
She stares at the screen a bit more, then punches some buttons and calls up some waveforms. David Keith points out that the creatures are slowing down, breaking off their line of attack. The radar imaging screen he is looking at, however, shows the three still heading directly for the Hubris. He then says the creatures are circling the base. On another display, we see one “unknown object” settle in under the Moon Pool.
“What did you transmit?” Cecil asks Dr. Fletcher.
“I reversed their transmissions,” she replies. Which I guess would show these creatures we are intelligent beings, able to receive their messages and respond, but we also just told them something like, “Hi, we are giant electric eels and we don't like big things that shoot torpedoes, either!” It's kind of a mixed message, yes?
Outside, the eel who called “Dive Pool!” sticks his head up into it. Cecil points this out to David Keith, who starts calling for Dr. Fletcher.
We next see Dr. Fletcher backing away from something, so I guess she was using the computer in the Moon Pool room. David Keith goes off to the unnecessary rescue.
In a virtual replay of the “water-tentacle” scene in The Abyss, Dr. Fletcher, her face full of wonder, walks up to the calmly glowing...DAMN IT it is a Dragon it is not an eel!
She reaches out to this dangerously-sparking creature as the normally reliable Rich McHugh goes all choir on us. She touches it, and instantly she is seeing through either its or another eel's eyes as it shoots through the water, free as a bir—er, an eel.
It then electrifies her, or something. The screen goes all negative. We cut to David Keith jumping down a stairwell to the rescue, as the eel suddenly loses its electric sparking stuff, releases Dr. Fletcher, and dives back through the Moon Pool. Just as David Keith arrives to catch her as she falls. He calls for medical aid. Would that be Dean Cain, Steve Buscemi or Cecil?
Fade to some eel-dragon-ribbon fish as they snake through the depths along the sea bottom. They swoop over a huge trench, in which are a bunch of energy-lit--
THE POLARIS TRENCH
Oh thanks, I was hoping you'd tell me. I might have gotten confused and thought this was some other trench.
Anyway, the trench is filled with these giant structures, like transparent bridges between the two sides of the trench. A bit reminiscent of some of the V'ger effects from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. As we swoop though them, they glow and hum with energy, and you know what, I bet the eels have been trying to repair the trench all this time. You see, they know that the human race is too immature to coexist with giant electric eels, that their superior way of life would be, you know, all superior and stuff, and we'd be totally bummed-out hairless apes and be constantly trying to start fights. So they want to seal the trench with them away from humans.
Still, who wants to bet that the original break in the trench was caused by Man's Foolhardiness? I bet Cecil's to blame, too.
Cut to Dr. Fletcher, waking up in the sick bay one assumes. He asks what happened, and she says she touched one of the eels, and “it hit me with some sort of electrical current.”
“You just reached out and touched it,” he says, in one of those if-I've-told-you-once tones of voice. “That's not the approach I would have taken.”
Cecil checks in via intercom, and is informed that Dr. Fletcher seems to be okay. (So I guess when David Keith called for medical, he himself answered that call.) Cecil says the creatures moved off, and he says some other stuff which is hard to understand through the intercom. Funnily enough, it sounds like there is a guy just off camera making “static crunch” noises with his mouth when Cecil speaks.
Anyway, Dr. Fletcher and David Keith are going to go back on duty, when she suddenly grabs his arm, and says, “I didn't tell him everything.”
“Why not?” asks David Keith, whereas my question would have been, who are you talking about? If she means Cecil, no, she didn't tell him everything, all she said was, “I'm okay” and “Where are the creatures?” Maybe she means her agent.
Dr. Fletcher mutters something about how she trusts David Keith. That's the gist of it, anyway, I hope it is, cause it is all mush-mouthed.
Anyway, she says she “was in contact. I understand.” The music swells a bit so we know this is a Big Revelation Scene, But Obliquely Rendered So As Not to Let The Audience In On It. Sure enough, as soon as David Keith says, “Tell me...” we cut to Cecil trying to contact the outside world. He's not having any luck, though, and he tells the arriving Dean Cain and Steve Buscemi that the communications antenna must have shorted out. He says Dean and Steve have to take the mini sub and push a new one through to the surface.
Dean points out that he's going to have to blast through the ice to do this, and the creatures don't like explosives. But they're going to do it. Which is good, you have no idea how tiring it is to type “Steve Buscemi and Dean Cain” over and over again. Yes, I believe they are going to their deaths.
Oh heck, it is only Dean Cain who is going. Steve Buscemi wishes him luck and closes the hatch behind him. Dead—er, DEAN Cain launches and goes pretty far away from the Hubris to the antenna planting site. (They must have good wireless I guess.)
Dean finds a good spot (an odd bubble-like place under the ice, so it is only a few yards to the surface—it's the only place like it, everywhere else is extremely thick. Ha ha, like the screenwriters! I kid, of course.)
He nervously asks what his situ is, and when Cecil tells him he is clear, he launches his first missile (he has four).
Of course, as soon as he does, the monster-talk starts up again and three (what do you want to bet it is the same three) eel-ribbon fish-dragons shoot out of the trench. (“We says NO explosions, you damn humans!”)
Anyway, the missile breaks most of the ice, he fires a second and it breaks through to the surface. He then launches the, um, antenna missile? He asks Cecil how things are, and Cecil says he is still clear, then turns off the display of monster-talk garbage so he is not guilty of lying.
Dean says, “We are transmitting!” He then peeks at his sonar and says a bad word as he sees the three blips heading toward him. He turns the sub around and zips back toward the Hubris as fast as he can go, and the three eel-things are right behind him. Then, instead of blasting him with an eel-beam, they start ramming into the sub. (“Your primitive brains obviously cannot associate our weapons with their effect, so we are using a form of attack you can understand!” No, they don't actually say this but I was reminded of that Robert Sheckley short story, “The Gun Without A Bang.”)
David Keith shows up next to Cecil and, learning what is going on, starts telling Cecil he is an inconsiderate jerk, and he “could have used the access tunnel [he points behind him] to plant that transmitter.”
Oh...now he tells us!
I suppose in some alternate version where his actions make sense, Cecil answers, “Only by using their rage can I free my genetically altered eels, and I will then be able to obtain absolute power over the entire world!” In this version, though, he doesn't say that. He doesn't really say anything memorable.
David Keith takes the radio, and advises Dean Cain to stay dead in the water and not move. All the while, lights are flashing in the mini-sub and there is the sound of someone making popcorn (well, there is!). However, he comes to a stop. The eels circle the sub. Dean Cain is losing ballast but David Keith tells him he will be okay, they will rescue him.
Meanwhile, in the torpedo room, Steve Buscemi is loading a torpedo all by himself. We get more of Dean Cain panicking, David Keith trying to calm him, stuff and stuff. Dean Cain, panicking some more (a sea dragon just, you know, stopped in front of the main window and looked at him, probably meanly), fires his last torpedo.
Unfortunately, it is heading right toward the Hubris. Dean Cain yells at Steve Buscemi to fire his torpedo at the other torpedo, but David Keith orders him not to, then leaves to go down to the torpedo bay. Just when he does, Cecil countermands the order and tells Steve Buscemi to fire. He does.
Just then, the eels decide they are tired of playing with Dean Cain and give him a big jolt of good ole electricity. He dies, and Steve Buscemi's torpedo hits the mini sub, and there is a huuuuuuge explosion (“Is it atomic?!”) which shakes everything up quite a bit.
Dr. Fletcher asks what happened. Me, I'm not sure since a lot of it took place on screens which just say “Unknown Object” and like that. David Keith tells her to hold on.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, Dean Cain's torpedo. It's following an eel, and they are both heading toward the Hubris, but the eel ducks at the last moment and the torpedo...bounces off the roof of the Hubris. It breaks a door or something anyway, but, boy, they were lucky, huh? It could have exploded and all.
Of course, it turns out that the door won't close now, and there is a hull breach, so the whole place is flooding. But David Keith runs to this door and with his whole manliness manages to shut it. So much for those wimps in other movies who complain about water pressure! Dr. Fletcher shows up after and asks if he's all right. He says he's fine but doesn't look manly enough, so he peels off his wet sweater. Steve Buscemi shows up behind and slaps the door and says, “Damn!” Then they all go off to confront Cecil.
David Keith accuses him of making Dean Cain set off those torpedoes just to make the eels mad. He says, no, no, it's the communications antenna and all, but no one buys this.
Dr. Fletcher decides to talk about her mind-meld with the eel. “These creatures weren't released from the trench,” she says, “they've created it.”
There's some bickering about this and that, then she continues: “These creatures have come out of a very long hibernation to prepare Earth for their children. To them, the human race is simply an infestation.”
“This infestation,” Cecil says, pointing to himself, “is wanting to survive.”
You know, much as Cecil is an ooky villain and all, I kind of agree with him here. Despite the fact that Dr. Fletcher has tried to make the base cease doing things which bother the eels, the eels, from what she says, look upon her kindness as irrelevant to their purpose and are going to kill us all anyway. Much as I might dislike our species at times, I vote for the humans. Who's with me?
Cecil says there's a giant nuke on the way to close the trench permanently. There's a rescue plane on the way, but Steve Buscemi points out that the access to the surface is flooded (this was the door that David Keith closed). Still, no one seems to think this will be a big problem, or perhaps they're too busy beaming bad thoughts to Cecil.
Dr. Fletcher says the new attack will end up just like the first one. Well, no, it won't; the nuke is being delivered by plane, I thought they said. Unless these eels can fly, or their death rays have a considerable range, there's not a lot they can do to stop it.
Oh, and it does look like I was wrong, earlier, about the eels being misunderstood good guys, but I'd like to point out, that that is just how it appears right now. The night is still young, fortunately, the movie is an hour gone.
Everyone leaves Cecil in the control room, and they all look at him with that You've Got Cooties look. He looks after them with villainy in his eyes.
Back at the UNITED NATIONS COMMAND CENTER, important people are discussing how much the ice cap is going to melt. That's about it. Except everyone has a Slavic accent, except one guy who sounds like Ricardo Montalbon. Oh, and apparently, the nukes are going to be delivered by sub, there are just going to be a lot of subs, and they hope to overwhelm the “entities.” Everyone votes for the plan, and the plan is unanimously approved. (I suspect Mr. Sign Guy to tell us that U.N. PLAN APPROVED. And perhaps SAUCERS SEEN OVER CALIFORNIA for good measure.)
Back to the Hubris, we briefly fade over the trench, then look in on Dr. Fletcher studying the creature's waveforms. David Keith, with a newly dry sweater, shows up and they banter a bit. She says she's figured out a new way to translate the waveforms, but David Keith doesn't want to break out the Champaign as he's kinda down that they're all gonna die and such. She continues with her research, then he grabs her in his manly arms and wants to know how she can be all scientific and such-like now that they are going to die. I suspect a swell of romantic music momentarily, and I'm not disappointed, though the scene itself isn't as bad as it could have been. He complains that she should be doing something, “I don't know, more...end-of-the-world-ish.”
“End-of-the-world-ish?” she asks, amused, and then says something like, “What? What?” Then she leans in close and kisses him.
“That more like it?” she asks.
“It's a start,” he says and they start getting busy. But she complains how close she is to breaking the “code” the creatures use. He takes the hint, though not with any bad feelings. Though they both sure act like, “Well, I'm glad we got that gratuitous scene out of the way, let's do other stuff now.” On the other hand, she looks after the closing door with a...well, a look. I'm sure I don't have to say more.
Cut to some subs swimming through the water, Mr. Screen Guy helpfully identifies them as two Russian subs and an American one. The American one is the Jimmy Carter again, which I'm sure makes us all feel a whole bunch better. But the eels don't have hands, how can they hold the pen to sign the peace agreement?
Anyway, there's some dull banter aboard the Jimmy Carter. What other kind would you expect?
Back aboard the Hubris, the orders about the nukes are received. “You never even told them” about Dr. Fletcher's discovery, says David Keith.
“What am I going to say--the fate of the world rests on some woman who's been contacted by a billion-year-old fish?”
David Keith wants to know why Cecil even brought her along, then.
“Sometimes being right just isn't enough,” he says.
...kay. I'm sure that makes sense in some context, I just don't happen to see it.
Then...there's some confusing talk between Cecil and David Keith. David Keith wants to know why he was brought along, and Cecil says he figured David Keith wouldn't trust her, because she left David Keith for Bill Seamonkey (the guy who was shot on the Jimmy Carter), who believed her, and David Keith didn't believe her, which is why she left him for Bill Seamonkey. As David Keith smolders and leaves, Cecil calls out, “Don't let her destroy you, the way she did Bill Seamonkey!” Okay, he doesn't use that name but it would be pretty funny if he did, wouldn't it.
Aboard the Jimmy Carter, the course plotting guy plots courses for all the subs through the ice, which, wouldn't you just know it, all happen to converge in one spot. Sure hope nothing happens there!
On board the Hubris, Cecil goes into the bitchin' Xbox setup, because hey a couple of games of Halo will probably do a lot to ease the tension.
Anyway, the subs all fire some torpedoes, but they're just to break up the ice, and, of course, to piss off the eels royally. As the Hubris rocks in the explosions, Dr. Fletcher complains that she hasn't completed her research and Cecil says, in so many words, tough beans.
She and David Keith meet up in a corridor, and they're going to take one of the remaining mini-subs down to use her new computer program to talk to the eels. As they prepare to depart, David Keith asks why she left him for Bill Seamonkey. She says, because you broke my heart. She then says that she never slept with Bill, because she had one big problem.
“What was that,” asks lunkhead David Keith.
“Still in love with you,” Dr. Fletcher says. Awwwwwwwww....
She wants to know, now, why he is helping her with the mini-sub and everything. “Is it because you finally believe me...or because you're still in love with me?”
“Little of both,” he says, with a wink. Awwwwwwwwww!
Back with the regular subs, the eels show up and blast one of the Russian subs. The Jimmy Carter asks what they should do, continue or abort, and the UN says continue.
Cecil spots that the mini-sub is ready to launch, and he starts saying “Stop using the mini-sub” and generally being mean, and David Keith says “We're going to give the world another option.”
The subs launch their torpedoes (over a hundred, says Cecil) and Cecil calls the sub to say, in essence, nanny-nanny-boo-boo. David Keith says I'm rubber and you're glue, etc.
Dr. Fletcher loads her eel-talk program and types, “We tried to prevent the firing of the weapons being launched towards you but people on Earth will die if the trench continues to melt the ice...” She then presses transmit, and the sub seems to lose power.
David Keith says that the transmission they are receiving is at such a high frequency that it is shorting out the transceivers. Funny, the Hubris didn't have the same problem when they got monster noises, maybe they put really cheap radios in the mini-subs. It's a theory.
But the eels reply. “@#@$%^, the place you call earth... not your world... it is #$&&^%$...”
Yes, okay, fine, but that doesn't really answer the question. Besides, what to the eels expect us to do? “Oh, really? We don't belong on Earth? Well, guess we'll build rockets and fly to Mars, then. Hello everyone, we're all going to Mars, see you there.”
It turns out, by the way, that the symbol-typing up there is not the eels trying to send their email with a JPG banner, it is the words we have no translation for. Glad to have that cleared up.
“You must leave this area or you will be killed...” transmits Dr. Fletcher. It's nice that while whomping up this program, by the way, she had time to put a nice GUI on it, with menu options Data, Edit, Tools, Search, Transfer, and Help. Search and Help? She must have had a really long time to write this.
The eels answer “We must complete our mission for others....” Well, at least they acknowledged her concerns this time, though they still don't seem to care about all the dead people.
Back at the Hubris, Cecil orders Steve Buscemi to launch high-explosive torpedoes, and Steve Buscemi has to handle them all by himself, so it is slow going. But he loads 'em and Cecil locks 'em onto the eels, and fires 'em.
Something big detonates and while the Hubris shakes, rattles and rolls, Steve Buscemi complains that Cecil wasn't supposed to detonate the torpedoes, and Cecil says he didn't, but they're really busy rolling on the floor so the conversation never really develops. If you're curious, it looked to me as if the explosion happened in the trench itself, but the nukes weren't supposed to get there yet.
Well, guess what? Cecil wants to fire some more torpedoes, and Steve Buscemi says “Nertz” to that plan but it looks like it will go ahead anyway. There are some rapid shots of computer screens showing “Damage” in this and that area, which I think means that the Hubris' own torpedo will fail to launch and detonate while still inside the station. Let's see if I'm right for once. Answer: no.
An eel shows up at Cecil's window, and looks at him like, “You are a mean man and you want to make us cry,” and then the eel does a lot of zapping. More “Damage” screens, which since I am not a technician on an underwater station (sorry) don't tell me a lot other than, “This is bad.”
Sure enough, Steve Buscemi starts a-wailin' and a-cryin', and a big wall of water bursts through somewhere and smacks into him. See you in Armageddon II, Steve!
In the bitchin' Xbox console, it seems to dawn on Cecil that he is in Real Trouble Now. So he leaves the console (man, I hope you saved your game) and starts gaping at the walls around him. We see a bunch of eels all converging on the station, while electrical shorts and flashes of light happen all over the place. He leaves the control room just as water starts filling up the Xbox Console chamber. He descends further and further into the interior of the Hubris, hoping to escape his colorful destruction--er, I mean, the electrical blasts of the eels, while outside, the eels are just having an electrical beam party.
David Keith tries to contact the Hubris, but I'm sure it's just to gloat so it's not a big deal that he can't get through. He's going to head to the surface where the antenna (and that convenient thin ice) is, and she says it's hopeless, but he goes anyway, and she gets this li'l smile and says, “That's what I like about you, you never give up.” Awwww!
Back to Cecil, he is running along the corridors looking for a place that is either not electrified or filled with water, and not having a lot of luck. This bit goes on rather longer than is necessary. Yes, we know Cecil is a Bad Guy who Doesn't Care About The Earth and puts Dr. Fletcher Down Because He Is Only Concerned With Himself. But come on, just kill the guy.
He gets to where Dr. Fletcher was running her program, and he calls the sub saying Okay I was very bad and naughty and I am a stinky guy and I will be your slave for one whole day, if you will help me!
Dr. Fletcher says they just can't leave him there, he has to have a much more ironic death. Okay, she didn't say the last bit, but you'd be surprised what you think of while watching this, I can't help it.
Of course, Cecil is in the Moon Pool room, and while he is waiting an eel pokes up through the hole. Wouldn't they have shut that? Just asking. Anyway, his face full of awe, Cecil approaches the eel...there's a flash of bright light and we cut back to the mini-sub heading back to the rescue. They go into the Moon Pool, and Cecil is kinda bloody but he is alive. Hey, I bet he has the consciousness of an eel implanted in his mind, now, so he is, in essence, their ambassador to the humans! No, you're right, that's a stupid idea, and I am a stinky guy.
Anyway, David Keith and Dr. Fletcher go to Cecil, and he says he was “contacted” and she's pretty mad and wants to know what the eels found out from him. He says nothing. Then he confesses that the “plan” was to distract the eels away from the torpedoes, using the Hubris.
Excuse me...huh? I can't imagine why Cecil would agree to this plan, unless he is far more altruistic than I've given him credit. “I have but one life to give for my species...” Anyway, he walks off. Dr. Fletcher is still miffed (though I am wondering if it is because the eels contacted Cecil, and she isn't “special” any more) but David Keith says to let him go. He then asks what she wants to do. She wants to contact them.
But there's an email from them already on screen. “We do not Xxlk;cd the power stop ] torpedoes. The.” It's all in caps which I understand is internet-talk for shouting.
It continues: “The.? Are many XNLG we will die....] There? ? Are many more coming but we JKL kss;==-o Call them to go back home....”
David Keith changes his tune to say that being in the Hubris is the best change for them, as it was designed to withstand “catastrophic” stuff. Dr. Fletcher suggests moving the Hubris even further away. David Keith says it's half full of water (52% according to one of the earlier screens) but Dr. Fletcher points out it's their “best shot.”
So the two of them (no sign of Cecil, whose last line heard was to tell Dr. Fletcher and David Keith to “leave [him] alone”) go to start the engines, and wow, what luck! The engines are just fine and start up just like that. Apparently David Keith can drive the whole complex with two little handles, and he doesn't need an Xbox or even a PS2. And he trips some explosive bolts, which make a big lower part of the Hubris separate from the small upper part. The lower part contains our heroes, but it turns out it's too heavy with all that flooding (“!!!WARNING!!!” says the computer screen) to be maneuvered into anything other than...The Abyss. I mean, the Trench! I meant the trench, honestly I did, I was just...mesmerized.
But David Keith pulls another lever and the station “dodged that bullet.” Oh, how lame! But my protestations are drowned out by the fact that Dr. Fletcher's universal translator is getting another email!
“25% off inkjet cartridges!” says this exciting communiqué. Ha ha, I kid of course, it says nothing like that, it is, in fact, from a Nigerian bank official and I don't want to disclose the contents because, well, money, here we come!
In the real world, we're not allowed to see this exciting email, but that's okay, I'm sure my heart would have exploded anyway. Dr. Fletcher gets This Look on her, and she asks David Keith if they could escape in the mini-sub after all. He says, yeah, I suppose so, why?
“They can use the Hubris as a cocoon, for the next thousand years,” she says.
As she runs off to do something, David Keith turns kind of toward us. “I had to ask,” he says and the audience bursts into frenzied laughter at this display of razor-sharp wit. Come on, play along, please. I think we're almost done. (I hope we're almost done.)
Dr. Fletcher runs back to her original computer (we get the same shot of her putting some kind of cartridge in a disk drive). She types in “Open DEV>hda1>r>Track001.dat” but then Cecil shows up, and the “up” is “up to no good.” Dr. Fletcher in fact asks him what he is doing, but he doesn't answer, he just goes around and touches stuff, until finally, under her badgering, he says he's taking the mini-sub.
I can't hear the rest of the discussion, but it seems to come down to this:
Cecil: I'm going to take the mini-sub by myself and you two will just have to cry about that.
Dr. Fletcher: You are a bad man, and a stinky man, and you...you, you, you!
But it turns out that Dr. Fletcher knows quite a bit about self-defense, and gives Cecil some whacking, until Cecil suddenly has a gun (which means she has to retreat). He has certainly been taught that he had better respect women or else.
She has to escape while being shot at, and she then tells David Keith that Cecil is going to take the mini-sub with just him in it (see earlier remarks about Cecil being a bad, stinky person and how no one likes him).
He wants to go stop him, but she insists that “it doesn't matter” and sure enough, Cecil gets away in the mini-sub. Of course, I mean “gets away” only in the most limited sense. Oddly enough, in the footage of the mini-sub escaping, Cecil seems to be heading right toward the trench, which really can't be a good idea (unless he is in the thrall of the eels).
On the Hubris, David Keith says they have less than 6 minutes of power remaining. “Then we sink.” No, that is typed correctly, I did not leave out a “t”. “Sink” is the word he used.
Back to the UNITED NATIONS COMMAND CENTER, we waste a bit of time with stuff and stuff that I feel sure was a significant part of the budget, otherwise...well, there really isn't a good reason.
At the Hubris, they watch stuff happen, and Dr. Fletcher asks David Keith to flood a goodly portion of the base. “Trust me,” she says, and he does.
While, in the mini-sub, Cecil encounters a bunch of eels and he has the GALL to call the Hubris for help. Actually, it's not clear who he is calling, but come on, who else is there? I myself imagine the cough Jimmy Carter cough has headed back to base by now, hoping for prizes.
At any rate, or rather because of, back at the Hubris, David Keith is flooding parts of the ship. He tells Dr. Fletcher that they are still sinking. Letting more water on board, I imagine, would do that, but I point out again that I am untrained in this stuff.
But, as the Hubris sinks, the eels think that it would be wicked cool to go inside the now flooded corridors of this station. And they do, a lot of them.
“Loss of power, going down,” shouts someone, and I guess it is David Keith. He and Dr. Fletcher embrace as their lives intertwine with those of the eels, and a bridge between species is linked, as the...um...er...well, see, the humans (the good humans) have chosen to...which of course means that the eels see this....uh, selfless act...and well I'm sure they revise their attitude toward us, because, well, who wouldn't?
The torpedoes reach their target, and detonate, and the Hubris is in for a rough ride, but Cecil looks pretty, well, unhappy because I bet he's going to be fried.
Or at least, he thinks so. As he frantically yells out “Mayday, mayday!” huge chunks of ice start descending all around him. Oh, the irony, that he was killed not by Man nor by Eel, but by his own cough Hubris, etc...
The guy who does the Obvious Title Screens must have been fired, as we get “WARNING Maximum Operational Depth Exceeded” on a computer screen instead of a title screen. But maybe Title Guy will pop up with a CECIL IS DEAD card.
At any rate, the implosion of Cecil's mini-sub is quite well done. Yes, yes, he is dead and all, I didn't mean it like that...I meant from a technical standpoint. It's quick and effective. This movie wants to have everything both gross and subtle, and I am going to award points when something goes right.
Back on the Hubris, David Keith notes that they are out of power and dead in the water. The descending chord piano music also notes that this is kind of sad.
“Well, we gave it a good shot, didn't we,” David Keith notes, and Dr. Fletcher puts her arm on his shoulder, and embraces him.
But as she does, suddenly the power is restored. The piano music becomes kind of triumphant. “We got power,” David Keith redundances. In fact, if I hear him right, they have 150% power! So, they will make it to the surface, “just,” says David Keith, before the Hubris will sink again. “But you'll have your cocoon,” he adds.
“They'll have it,” she corrects.
And we fade through various parts to a CGI montage of the Hubris rising, and crashing through the ice layer. And we fade, again, to a hatch being raised on the surface, and fade again, again, to the eels inside the Hubris, looking like they are saying, Oh, wow, this is totally cool, dudes, and it rocks, and it rules, and it is perfect for us to put our young-uns in.
Then we're back to David Keith and Dr. Fletcher getting out of the hatch onto the frozen, empty wilderness of the North Pole. I bet Santa saves them, though. (It'll make my movie prediction score a complete zero.)
Anyway, we fade from them, then fade to a plane, and hear a rescue signal, and the plane acknowledges, and we fade again...to some time in the future, where Dr. Fletcher is saying to the UN (there's no title card, but I bet it is) that “any traces of the species were wiped out by the nuclear torpedoes” and behind her, looking really stiff, is David Keith in a very spiffy uniform.
Anyway, she suggests that any search be delayed for five years until the radiation has reached a “safer level.”
UNITED NATIONS COMMAND CENTER, says Title Guy.
And we cut to...just where we were. Okay, title guy, um...good...job. Sure.
Anyway, a UN guy asks David Keith if he agrees with Dr. Fletcher's opinion.
He strides forth, and says, “I agree with my...with Dr. Fletcher, yes.”
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! (You know he was going to say wife.)
And so, UN guy, who despite his accent doesn't really match up with the soundtrack at all, says that there will be a moratorium on looking for giant electric eel-dragon-ribbon fish at the North Pole for “five years.”
And everyone thinks, cool, let's go home. David Keith opines to Dr. Fletcher that he hopes he'll be long gone when the eels come out of hibernation. Dr. Fletcher says she's sure they'll both be long gone.
“So...how's the house? You finish that remodel we started?” asks David Keith.
“Why don't you come over and see for yourself?” she asks. She gives him a bit of a kiss, he gets a bit of a grin, and we leave them as a door closes behind them as they leave.
But no, that's not the end. We go back to the sunken Hubris, and lights light up the various windows, undulating in a way that says this isn't over, but we, secure in our dreams, cut to the credits.
Like a lot of UFO productions, lots of Slavic names. Note: just an observation not a criticism.
The guy I thought was Bill Seamonkey, well, he wasn't. He was played by Todd Kimsey. Sean Whalen played “Arclero” who I do not remember at all. He is, however, listed fourth in the credits after David Keith, Dr. Fletcher, and Cecil, so he must have been way important...maybe he was Steve Buscemi? Who knows? [Ed's note: see way above for the exciting answer.] Me, I just want to keep the memory of our sea-monkey brethren alive, so we don't end up in a situ like this when they start melting ice caps...so, sorry Sea Monkeys, and Sorry Bill that I could not spot you guys.
I guess my questions (aside from "Who was Bill Seamonkey"—sorry!) then have to do with the actual content of this thing. Don't misunderstand me, food-for-thought is definitely something that will get a given film high marks...but how does one define food? I mean, there are “foods” that make you no-longer-hungry, and foods that are good for you, and foods that taste great. And they are not always the same foods.
This movie is a remake of The Abyss, pure and simple. Now, I hated The Abyss, in both its original and its "special deluxe collector's version" or whatever the longer one was. It was a rare film that was both stupid and condescending at the same time, but The Abyss pulled it off neatly. This one is still kind of stupid, but not nearly as condescending (in fact, I wonder if the names used--Jimmy Carter, Chomsky, Hubris--aren't some kind of satire on condescension). Stupid I can take, condescending I don't like at all. Definitely points in this movie's favor.
And while the characters in Deep Shock are only a little bit better painted than the cardboard cut-outs in The Abyss, that little bit is enough so that you can, if not exactly sympathize, and least understand motivation. David Keith is competent and efficient, and can figure things out on his own; he's a stand up guy who doesn't pass judgment and has an open mind. Ed Harris in The Abyss also had an open mind; in fact, it was so open that everything fell out of it. He was a lunkhead, who had to be told everything. The scientist, Dr. Fletcher, is much more sympathetic and likeable than her counterpart in The Abyss; you actually listen to what she's saying, rather than wishing she would stop grating on your nerves. "Strong" doesn't have to mean "shrill." Likewise, Cecil is simply a more rounded person than Michael Biehn's character in The Abyss. He's unpleasant and wrong, but he has ideas, he has reasonable objections, and he's simply more complex. More importantly, both he and Dr. Fletcher want to save the world, they just disagree about the means. Michael Biehn, in The Abyss, was a Bad Guy because he was a Bad Guy and he was in the military (ewww), what more do you need? "Psychopathic villain" was a given for any military figure higher than sergeant in those days.
For the minor characters in both films, well, the crew-clowns on The Abyss each had to have his or her spotlight, so we could see that these were real people, and we should care about them, and believe them. Didn't work. Cardboard is still cardboard--they were stock types straight out of central casting--and they just irritated me. In Deep Shock, Steve Buscemi and Dean Cain are, appropriately, background characters whose outlines are barely sketched in. But no one pretends otherwise. They help move the plot along but are not central characters, so the film can concentrate on advancing the story. It's very simple. (And no one here is named "Hippy.")
Those sorts of positive things go a long way toward making the difference between a decent film laced with a message (Deep Shock) and an illustrated screed (The Abyss). But Deep Shock, while avoiding many of the same holes that sank The Abyss, finds new ones to step in, mostly to do with the fact that it is such a complete remake.
It's hard to think of a more famous scene in The Abyss than the "water tentacle" scene, and it's hard to imagine what the film-makers were thinking when they decided to remake it. Is there anyone who doesn't know about that part of The Abyss? It was one of the pioneering uses of CGI. The duplication isn't done badly, but it is so bald that it's distracting. Likewise, we have the opening scene of the disabling of the sub, and the death of the main human villain, both very similar to their earlier counterparts. I won't bring up the estranged husband-wife bit since it had pretty limited impact here, though it was resolved in the same way.
An important difference between the films was the treatment of the "menace." The Abyss had kindly, wise aliens who were better than us and didn't want to do anything harmful; naturally, the military (ewww) wanted them to die. (Let's ignore the fact that the aliens casually destroyed a submarine, just cos it had icky nukes in it. That'll just make everyone mad.) These aliens finally got riled enough to want to teach us a harsh lesson, but when they learned about LOVE, they decided to go back to being benevolent.
In Deep Shock, however, the eels are neither good nor bad. They don't care about us at all except when we annoy them. In short, instead of being benevolent sea-gods on a higher plane of being, they're just as self-centered and single-minded as Cecil. It's interesting (and perhaps unique in cinema) that they are presented this way, but what are we supposed to think about them? Other than Dr. Fletcher's brief encounter (hey!) we never really see the eels as anything other than destructive. They blow stuff up. Oh, and they send emails. Is there a reason we in the audience shouldn't want them destroyed? Other than general distaste about killing "animals," I mean.
It's hard for me to complain about lack of subtlety and lack of use of shades of gray, and at the same time ask that a movie delineate its heroes and villains in clearer terms. I plead guilty to that. But this movie wants to have it both ways—to have Cecil a villain, and Dr. Fletcher a hero, while painting the eels in an odd hue of “seem to be working towards humanity's destruction," and "yet let's not judge them too harshly" all in the same breath. Where are we, the audience, supposed to place our sympathies?
The eels in this movie were just as bad as the humans, selfish and short sighted, not really giving a tinker's damn about humans or any other creatures they might be threatening with extinction. Perhaps the film-makers wanted to put humanity's shoe on its other foot, er, or something. Which was interesting, and made the eels slightly more compelling than the goody-goody candy starfish of The Abyss. We had no common ground with those aliens, while the eels seem remarkably like us. Interestingly, the basic conflict between man and eel was not resolved, just delayed for a thousand years, with Dr. Fletcher (seemingly) willing to not tell anyone about the cocoon. So her solution seems just as short-sighted (Hope I'm not alive then) as the eels' plans. Maybe this is an acknowledgment that while humans are bad, other species might be just as bad, or at least, driven by their own agenda. Hope we find a solution in a thousand years, or maybe, as is hinted, we will all have left the earth by then and no one will care.
I think the admission that other intelligences might be just as self-centered as us (without being overtly aggressive) is a good start toward honest inter-species communication, somehow. The acknowledgement that perfection is not species-exclusive, and that while humans are bad, greedy, selfish and so on, maybe those things are common throughout the universe. Not the best start to a good understanding, but at least both sides are checking their wallets when they sit down to the negotiating table. And they'll be more willing to compromise.
Okay, while I can appreciate a version of The Abyss that doesn't suck as much as The Abyss, the question I have is, who would want to re-make The Abyss?
My guess is that the emergence of DVD technology has put a 180 degree spin on low-budget film-making. Just over ten years ago, when Roger Corman learned that Steven Spielberg was making Jurassic Park, he rushed out Carnosaur in the time (and budget, no doubt) that Spielberg probably spent debating the t-shirt designs for the crew. The fact that Carnosaur was pretty bad, and Jurassic Park was not too bad, is irrelevant; Corman was able to tap into the market before Spielberg, and drained off some of the available cash floating around for this sort of thing.
Now, we have this rip-off of The Abyss, but unlike Carnosaur, this movie was made many years after the fact. In a way, instead of feeding off a projected success (Carnosaur-Jurassic), it is riding the coat-tails of a known "success" (The Abyss was not successful in the theatres but is certainly a well-known and well-regarded film. And, before it was released, there were two low-budget films [Leviathan and Deep Star Six] exploiting its basic premise, of an underwater base menaced by the unknown). The emergence of the home video market makes this kind of thing profitable, it would seem; now, instead of being first into theatres, you want to be latest onto the "New Releases" rack. Before, by being produced first, your movie was the more likely to get those "underwater menace" box-office dollars. Now, being produced last means (I guess), you are fresher in memory and again more likely to be rented and get those same dollars. It's a theory.
As to the details of the film itself, the production is competent, with the story moving along nicely and no real dead spots. The actors do well with what they have, but really only stand out well in comparison to their Abyss counterparts. The CGI is pretty decent throughout, you're not going to be fooled by the eels, but the underwater stuff is pretty good. The underwater scenery does have a vast, cold expanse to it. And I like Rich McHugh; he does good work.
Probably the worst aspect of the movie is Title Guy. I figure he must be the producer's nephew. Sure, a few screens at the beginning to tell us where we are, but throughout the movie? They must have felt people would fall asleep and not know what was going on upon waking up. He should have been sacked, and the people responsible for him being sacked, be sacked, and the titles done in a new way and at great expense at the last minute.
Because this movie is so blatantly The Abyss Reborn, the biggest drawback of the film is that we simply don't have the sense of wonder, of a new world being made more real for us. We already got that out of The Abyss, and you really can't be innocent twice. So you may have a good time watching this movie, but you're not really going to go somewhere you've never been.
So, not a bad movie by any stretch, but you've seen better, and if you're a fan of The Abyss, I'd stay away if I were you. You can certainly do worse for your Friday night entertainment.
Curiously, the box credits Phillip Roth as director, while the film proper says Paul Joshua Rubin was the helmer. Huh. Also, as Brian J. Wright points out, that box art is the coolest thing here. Of course, no one in his or her right mind would expect the creatures to look like this, but someone has a good idea of what looks scary. And you can always look at the box instead of the screen. You can probably make up your own dialogue, too, and say it in different voices while waving the box around. Entertainment sure is wide open these days.
--October 21, 2004