you know we actually know more about deep space than we do about the
deep oceans? Admittedly,
most of space is essentially empty, while most of the ocean is filled
with water. In space, you have to build your vessel to hold an internal
pressure against an exterior vacuum, but once you reach vacuum, you
can’t go any further.
On the other hand, in the ocean, water pressure just keeps adding
on the deeper you go, and if I recall correctly, it increases
exponentially. Well, maybe
not actually exponentially, but if you double your depth, the water
pressure goes up by much more than double. The vast majority of human life, throughout history, has
never gone beyond a couple of dozen feet below the surface of the ocean.
You don’t have to reach orbit to encounter an alien and hostile
environment, you just have to reach the beach.
suppose this is why the sea has such mystery to us.
There’s so much of it on this planet, and we have such a
history with it, and there’s so much we don’t know about it. It’s the eternal siren call, the beckoning of the deep.
Maybe that’s why there’s so many movies about sea monsters.
the old days, you could get away with a superimposed image of a sock
puppet or something, a la Viking
Women Vs. The Sea Monster. Of
course, when you introduce an aquatic monster franchise, such as Godzilla
then you have to introduce new rubber suit effects.
But sea monster movies really came into their own in the modern
era, with the development of CGI (which is, I feel compelled to explain,
Computer Generated Imagery; it’s surprising how many people don’t
know that). I believe The Abyss started the most recent spate of deep-sea flicks.
I can still remember seeing it in the theater with Lisa and
Tressie, the version that turned out to be edited down (dropping some
character development and the neat apocalyptic ending which I would have
liked better). And, of
course, Orson Scott Card’s novelization of the film was a
well-considered, careful reproduction of, and supplement to, the film,
as opposed to the usual cheapie paperbacks knocked off from the script,
which, as we know, gets changed and shifted around right up to (and
sometimes after) the shooting of the scene.
The Abyss remains a superior film, followed by an immense number
of flimsy reproductions like Leviathan. Which, in a
roundabout way, brings us to our subject, Deep
always wanted to see Deep Rising;
I’m a sucker for anything starring Treat Williams, and the TV spot
made me laugh. However,
I’ve never taken the opportunity to do so until my most recent Bad
Movie Weekend, where I rented a whole passel of questionable films from
that fine local purveyor of cinematic pain (and good movies, too), Dark
Star Video. Support your
local independent store, people; I’m willing to rent from elsewhere in
Chicago, but Dark Star is just so convenient, and they’ve got a nice
selection. Besides, how can
you dislike a store that has categories like “Barbara Streisand and
Other Natural Disasters.” I
may be mis-remembering, but I know they’ve got plenty of examples of
that sort of thing. Plus,
the young guy who’s in there most of the time (he might be the owner,
I know), he once gave me, a near-total stranger, a homemade CD for free.
There’s a lesson in that.
it turns out, Deep Rising
isn’t one of those underwater movies; everybody stays mostly on the
surface, wades through partly-flooded corridors, or dives just
temporarily. It is a sea monster movie in the classic sense, where the
beastie or beasties come up to get you.
So it’s a shirtsleeve environment for the movie (sort of). It also means there’s less excess indigestible armor and
things for the monsters to have to choke down, so we at least have some
sympathy for the monster. (Pleased
to meet you, won’t you guess my phylum?)
There are, of course, flaws in the execution, but by and large,
it’s a fun romp.
we get to business?
usually I don’t make too much comment about the opening trailers.
But I have to say, when you’re expecting a couple hours of
entertaining badness, some good opening trailers can really set the
mood. One night, when my
lovely wife George and our friend Jennie and I were doing one of our
Triple Threat evenings (three essentially random movies, all back to
back or until we pass out), we watched She’s
All That and John Carpenter’s They
Live, and then just before The
Big Hit, we saw the trailers for She’s
All That and John
Carpenter’s Vampires. It
was like we’d finally gotten a payoff.
Then we had to watch The
Big Hit. But that’s a review for another time. Point being, only rarely do the opening trailers pay off, so
it’s nice when you can get a good chunk of movie review leads.
me to illustrate. There’s
the studio-produced block of ads for the different movies they have on
Werewolf in Paris, Scream 2,
and Children of the Corn 5.
There’s at least three good candidates for reviews right there.
I mean, the fifth movie in a franchise originally based on a
Stephen King short story – and they’re still using that fact to hype
the movie! A little later
on, there’s a trailer for The
Rage, starring Lorenzo Llamas, Roy Scheider, and Gary Busey!
Gary Busey! Is there
a film that he’s been in that you can’t make fun of?
I can’t think of one. Mind
you, he’s almost always quality in those films, but part of his charm
is the ability to munch scenery while seeming to stay within his
character. And with Llamas in a starring role, you know this one is
direct to video, which ratchets up the cheese factor.
Mind you, he’s not altogether bad as an actor, himself,
Lorenzo; he’s been in enough stuff, between TV series and B-movies, to
develop a few chops of his own. Still,
he’s freaking Lorenzo Llamas! With
Busey! Cheese heaven!
properly prepared, did I start into Deep
Rising. And my, what
is as tiresome as a crap movie that takes itself seriously (such as Hardware,
for one example). Much more
enjoyable, both on its own merits and for mocking purposes, is a crap
movie that tries for something, but still has a sense of humor about
itself. This is not the
same as a movie that desperately tries to make fun of itself, such as
The Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen, but a B-style movie that knows it’s
a B-style movie and works with it.
Tremors, The Mummy,
Dusk Till Dawn are good examples, and they were all headliners,
as was Deep Rising,
technically. Of course,
this one has sea monsters. The
action, humor, and gore quotients are up at a reasonable place, so you
can actually sit back and just let this one wash over you and enjoy it.
Then again, I don’t get paid for that kind of viewing (a matter
I’ve meant to take up with Management…)
some opening text, and an underwater sequence which neither hurts nor
helps the story in the least, we come in on a long boat skipping at
speed over the waves on a stormy night.
Inside, we see Treat Wiliams, good ol' Critical Bill from Things
to Do in Denver When You're Dead, with 67 credits on the IMDb,
in the high-tech cockpit, his swivel chair surrounded by monitors,
flashing lights, and a big joystick.
Why does a boat need a joystick?
I mean, it’s not like a helicopter; you basically have a rudder
for turns, with engine throttles for forward and backward motion.
What’s to joystick? Regardless,
we soon see that he’s in a dangerous profession, because he’s got a
combat shotgun and a bandoleer of shells hanging off the back of his
chair. This is John
Finnegan, captain of the… actually, I’m not sure what the name of
the vessel is. Names are
hard to come by in this movie; there’s a guy first shown in these
opening scenes whose name isn’t mentioned on-screen until the movie is
more than half-way over.
is captain of this mercenary vessel, with a crew consisting of Joey
"Tooch" Pantucci (Kevin J. O'Connor, Illinois boy, who was
excellent as Beni Gabor in The
Mummy, also directed by Sommers, and is perhaps most recognizable as
Philip Swann in Lord of Illusions) and Leila (the eminently hot Asian actress Una
Damon, who I recognize as the Head Nurse in the opening of Gattaca). Joey is chief
grease monkey and technical wizard, while Leila seems to be all-around
tough-as-nails sailor. Finnegan
runs the business by the motto “If the money’s there, we don’t
care,” a not altogether safe way to play it, as it turns out. He is shown to be a decent, if lazy, boss, and the other two
are given brief character-establishing moments before the second group
is established, those who hired Finnegan and crew as transport for a
20-hour run to a mystery rendezvous.
It’s some kind of mercenary group in the military sense, rather
than in just a “for the money” sense, like Finnegan and crew.
The mercs are headed by Hanover (Wes Studi, a multi-talented
full-blooded Cherokee actor who was a memorable bit part Dances
with Wolves and also played Sagat in Street
Fighter and The Sphinx in Mystery
Men) and his lieutenant Mason (the guy who wasn’t mentioned by
name until much, much later, played by Clifton Powell, a regular in law
enforcement roles who started off in House
Party, believe it or not; and they said knowing Kid 'n' Play wouldn't
get you anywhere).
rest of the jolly pirate band are Billy (Clint Curtis in his first
role), Mamooli (Cliff Curtis, no relation, who did a lot in his native
New Zealand, including a Hercules
movie, before coming to the US and doing more mainstream films, like Bringing
Out the Dead and Blow),
Mulligan (Jason Flemyng, a fairly serious actor who did Rob Roy and Stealing Beauty,
but also did Spice World and Snatch;
for shame, Jason), T-Ray Jones (Trevor Goddard, the illustrious Kano
from Mortal Kombat, and what
the hell kind of name is T-Ray for a grown man, anyway?), and Vivo (Djimon
Hounsou, male model born in Benin, West Africa, who turned to acting as
Horus in Stargate and Juba in
Gladiator, as well as
others). They’re all hard
men, crude and mean and tough. Which
is not to say that all military men are such, nor are even all elite
forces men this way. But if
you’re promoting a group as rough customers, and not friendly, this is
a believable way to do it; training and bloody experience can easily
make a man into a living caricature like that.
Believe me, friends, I've seen it happen.
we cut to a big-ass cruise ship, and to a monster zoom inward to the
party atrium. It’s not
quite as impressive as the pull back from Picard’s retina in the
opening of Star Trek: First Contact, but it will do for this movie.
Once we pass into the ship, we see traditional Japanese Taiko
drummers, and hear the jazzy strains of “Lady Luck,” by the Brian
Setzer Orchestra, setting up a cognitive dissonance as the drummers
appear to be somehow eliciting the sounds of a brass section from their
instruments. But I suppose
Sommers was going for that Vegas feel, even though the décor and
entertainment was heading in a lesbian South Seas direction (I know how
that sounds, but when you watch the movie, you’ll understand).
There were hula dancers, Chinese décor, and other items to
elicit the multiple cultures in that region of the planet. It was a pretty good effort to display the glitz and glamour
of the incredibly wealthy. However,
in the midst of it all, the piercing ring of a spoon on the side of a
champagne glass cuts across the ear-splitting chaos of the gallery. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either, but that’s
how the next character gets the crowd’s attention.
Doesn’t matter if it wouldn’t work; as they say over in the
Dimension of Jabootu, IITS (It’s In The Script).
is Simon Canton, builder and owner of this monster ship, the Argonautica. He’s
played by Anthony Heald, of Boston
Public fame. Canton
makes a little speech to the guests, in which he mentions Captain
Atherton (the very British Derrick O'Connor, who did Hawk
the Slayer and Time
Bandits early on, then graduated to Brazil
in 1985; you may recognize him as Pieter "Adolph" Vorstedt in Lethal Weapon 2, or Thomas Aquinas in End
of Days). However,
we don’t get introduced to the Captain until his wallet is lifted by
Trillian St. James, the professional thief and glamour gal (Dutch import
Famke Janssen, who was Dorothea in Lord
of Illusions with Kevin J. O'Connor, and was Evelyn Stockard-Price
in the execrable House on Haunted
Hill remake, but is probably best known for being Dr. Jean Grey in
fanboy favorite, X -Men). Why don’t any of these international thieves have names
like Frank or Doreen. Well,
there was Thomas Crown, but he’s an exception.
Oh, and James Bond. But
they’re really the same person, aren’t they?
But still, for women, it’s got to be something exotic.
Can’t have a kick-butt glamorous action heroine named Betty,
can you? Ah, the Hollywood
patriarchy in action!
Trillian picks the Captain’s pocket, makes fun of his ID picture (come
on, he can’t help it, he’s an Englishman), takes his electronic
passcard, and, because there’s no cash in the wallet, tosses is off
the side. How rude!
Once I got my wallet stolen, and yeah, I didn’t expect to get
the money back, but I finally found the rest of the stuff, the ID and
all that, because whoever did it tossed the wallet in a trash can.
Why they didn’t just take the money and put the wallet back, I
don’t know. It would have been longer before I noticed anything was
missing, that way, but nobody ever said crooks were smart. In any case, the Captain isn’t going to be able to find it
if you just toss it overboard. Then
again, I guess consideration for others is not a good attitude for a
career thief. Just before
she goes in, she hears the unearthly moans in the storm of the ghosts of
her guilt. Or the sea
on the Good Ship Lollypop,
Joey has been sneaky, getting past the hold where the mercenaries are
hanging out and into the hold where they’ve got their main cargo,
large long silver cases. Conveniently,
one is not chained to the wall, or otherwise fastened down, and he can
get it open to reveal a torpedo! Unfortunately,
he’s hardly sneaky enough with the armament, and he’s caught and
roughed up. It’s then
that we get more personality painting, as Finnegan faces off against the
mercs to pull Joey’s butt out of the fire.
Then back to the cruise ship, where we see Trillian trying to
break into the vault. Seems she’s got this modern skeleton key; wish they really
existed, like that little electronic box in Ghost
Dog. Anyway, so she’s
caught, we hear about her record, and she gets tossed in the brig.
Well, not the real brig, because it’s
not finished yet, but something close.
This will keep her safe when the inevitable sea monsters attack.
on the Flying Dutchman, Leila
is stitching up Joey, and we find out they’re involved.
Eewww. Number one,
what do you see in that guy, and number two, good grief, people, please
don’t do that in front of others!
You live with each other on a small boat, always getting in each
other’s way, don’t you think your relationship would have matured to
where you could get past the blasted baby talk?
Sorry. Put I’m sure all of you know what I mean.
Down in the hold, the mercs get issued their “tools” for this
job; nice big rotary rifles, small versions of that minigun that
Governor Jesse Ventura uses in Predator.
The guns are pretty neat, but you’ve got to wonder, if they go
through ammo so fast, how is a measly little clip like we see them
loading in going to last them more than a second or two?
On the other hand, they do have built-in lights, and they’re
water-tight, apparently. Well,
not the barrel, perhaps, or the ejection port for the brass.
Don’t you think they’d use caseless ammunition, if they were
so advanced? No evidence to
leave behind, not as much opportunity for jamming, and you can fit
slightly more ammo in a clip. Too
bad they’re not thinking that far ahead. Anyway, other than that, apparently they can work in water,
which is convenient. On the
cruise ship, a mystery person (face is never shown) takes out the
ship’s control CD-ROMs, replaces them with other disks that cause all
the high-tech equipment to melt down.
Just as that’s happening on the bridge, the sonar operator
(apparently working with lower-tech equipment) reads something coming up
from below, something large and fast.
Then the ship lurches, people go spilling, and one of the
lifeboats (more like a speedboat, but who am I to quibble with the very
rich?) falls into the water. The
passengers panic. Even
though they’re on a freaking ship in the middle of the South China
Sea, they still stampede through the halls, trampling each other and
trying to get to… where? Another
part of the ship? There’s
no place to run, and any number of defensible places, but nothing
demonstrates to the audience the panic of the passengers like a good
should mention here that the first of the monster killings happens about
now, and while it takes place essentially off-screen, there is the
telltale spray of blood. Remember
this, because it is evidence that the people who made the movie
weren’t thinking in terms of consistency.
on the Santa Maria,
instruments cut out just before they slam into the dropped lifeboat.
It rips a few big holes in the boat, and manages to mangle their
engines. This is where we
find out the engines are named “Hercules” and “Jezebel.”
Now we know names for parts of the boat, but not the boat as a
whole. They’re leaking
fuel, and don’t have the facilities to repair the engines.
That’s when Leila notices the drifting cruise ship with these
nifty power binoculars. Luke
Skywalker, you just wish you had these things on Tattoine!
So they propose going to the ship to ask for help, and that’s
when the mercs spring out and hold them at gunpoint.
Apparently, that’s their target, and now they have to make sure
Finnegan doesn’t back out. Well,
where the hell would he back out to?
He’d just said the cruise ship is pretty much their only hope
of getting out of there under their own power.
Yeah, that’s exactly when you want to alienate your chauffeur
by holding a gun to his head. Master
strategists, these jaspers.
any case, there’s now an operation to get in.
They moor against the side of the ship, use remote control to
open up this high-placed auxiliary door, and then use grapple guns and,
apparently, motorized waist winches to walk up the hull to the door,
taking Finnegan and Joey along while Leila works on patching this
humongous hole in the smaller boat’s hull.
It’s kind of a neat sequence, and in fact, as they’re heading
into the ship (the door leads to a kind of hangar for jet-skis and
boards, that sort of thing), Joey turns to Finnegan and says, “That
was kind of fun.” Pause
as Finnegan gives him a look. “Well,
this point in my movie-watching career, very little in the way of
overall plot is truly going to surprise me.
Once in a while, I will get taken in by a bait-and-switch, but in
general, it’s only the details that sneak up on me.
So I notice little things, like characters I’ve not seen
before, a new variation on an otherwise standard final scene, and how
they specifically create a given effect.
Joey is fresher to me than the other characters.
He’s not completely a screwball comic relief character at
heart. That’s part of his
purpose, naturally, but he’s got more elements than that.
O'Connor handles it well, just like he did in The
Mummy; almost none of the character’s actions or lines sound
unrealistic, improbable. That’s
more than can be said for some of the others.
What can I say, he’s not completely novel, but he’s different
enough from the norm for these kind of movies that I hereby dub him my
Favorite Character. As opposed
to Best Looking Acting Person, or Most Hardbutt Performance, or any of
that. My own personal
merc team is far from stealthy. Good
thing this isn’t really a stealth mission; “Intimidation factor must
be high,” and all that. When
they burst into the main chamber, they find… desolation.
broken, all topsy-turvy, and there’s nobody around. A fair amount of blood, but no bodies. “Post-evac, man,” Mason whispers at one point.
“Total spooky-town.” One
of the fireworks in the party space chooses that moment to go off.
Why? What sparked
it? And why did they have
spark-shooting fireworks inside of a crowded party area, anyway? Can you say fire hazard?
In any case, the mercs over-react, and we see the guns in action.
They’re so enamored of them, a couple of them blow off a few
more seconds of ammo, which is, like 200 rounds or something.
This strikes me as a bad idea.
One of the things that makes weapons in the field so annoying is
that you can run out of ammo really fast.
Why do you think the Iron Senator carried a huge backpack with
nothing but belts for his rotary minigun?
So you’re limited to the ammo you carry with you, you have no
idea of what you’re going to have to deal with, and you have no
reasonable re-supply. So,
naturally, being a professional soldier, and viscerally turned-on by the
performance of your spiffy new gun, you waste a whole bunch of your ammo
intentionally, after accidentally wasting a lot in the first place.
out, Rommel, you magnificent bastard, these guys read your book!
like this make me think Waldo (of Where’s
Waldo? fame) would make a better field commander than most of the
current military. At least
what we see on film.
on the boat, Leila is using a welding torch, but she’s not really
doing much of anything. I
mean, you’ve got a big hole in the boat, you want to patch it, I’d
assume that would mean you need to take bi big slab of metal or
something, hold it over the hole, and weld it on there, using the torch
to melt the metal together, as opposed to using the torch to cut
something apart. Instead,
she just plays the flame over the edge of an odd flange. It doesn’t look like ruptured metal, it looks like just
part of the superstructure of the set, is what it looks like. Hey, guys! You
left a girder join over here! Let
me play this torch over it to show you what I mean.
Geez, I’m the Second Original White Collar Worker, and even I
know better than that. I’m
not trying to pull a Full Monty/Flashdance
comparison, but this is easy enough for the kids to play.
Since there are no cats in the South China Sea, they toss in a
Spring Loaded Corpse, and we’re off and rolling into the “whittling
down the good guys” portion of our feature.
the cruise ship (a.k.a. U.S.S.
Killing Floor), everybody splits up do accomplish their various
jobs. As we all know, bad idea, but hey, they’re military.
They’re supposed to do crap like that, Aliens
Colonial Marines notwithstanding. Finnegan
and Joey are down in the machine shop with a couple of the merc goons,
trying to fabricate some new engine parts to get the Bounty
moving again. Wading around
in thigh-deep cold ocean water in a half-lit industrial-style
environment… no, this isn’t foreboding at all.
Why do you ask?
now, the tough guys start going down screaming, and the wimpy people
start getting the weapons (dropped on the workbench, for some
unexplainable reason; I actually have a theory as to why the gun gets
there, but that leaves me with no explanation for the spray of blood).
Then it all goes to hell in a hand basket.
The mercs and our friendly crew meet up with Trillian, and the
named crew-members of the Killing
Floor, and they all try to get out of there.
There’s some scenes reminiscent of Alien:
Resurrection, and some which
could be out of any “bug hunt” movie. They don’t make half the use of the ruined splendor of the
cruise ship that they could, but they do enough.
takes a little bit, but finally, the monsters show themselves. Actually, it might be just one monster. It’s kind of hard to tell, as these snake/worm/tentacle
thingys squirm all over the place.
You never do see any tails, mind you, but you also see each
individual thing seem to react individually.
Either the nervous system is way decentralized (possible), or the
beastie is way coordinated (also possible; look at the octopus).
I understand that it’s supposed to be a relatively common
creature, small at 4,000 feet depth, but large enough at 20,000 feet to
eat sharks. Which species
of sharks, and how old? There’s
a wide variation in size between species, you know, so such
considerations are important. Further,
the dietary habits of the creature are somewhat suspect, from our
on-screen guide. “It doesn’t eat you,” he intones, “it drinks you.”
Apparently, after using its tentacles to catch its prey, it
ingests the fluids. I
suppose this is much like a spider, draining cocooned prey until only
dry husks are left. But
that’s not how it’s described, nor how it plays out.
Apparently, it liquefies your flesh and excretes the inedible
bones. Let’s see:
ingestion, digestion of useful nutrients, absorption of nutrients,
excretion of non-nutrients. Wow,
I guess it really does eat you, after all.
It just doesn’t chew.
any case, this seems to be one of the rare creatures that varies its
attack strategy across a wide range, with no discernible reason to do
so. You don’t find it too often in nature; if a given method of
obtaining food is working, a critter will tend to continue using that
method. About the only
creature I can think of offhand that varies its strategies is the wily
human, and even then, it’s not because the strategies don’t work,
it’s because of boredom, or a division of work (leading to trapping
rather than hunting), or some other factor not really related to whether
or not the given strategy is functional.
This bad boy not only grabs and breaks people (necessitating that
wasteful spray of blood; sad that not only do they spill their food, but
once we actually see them, that spray never happens again), it also
swallows them whole, and when it’s dramatic, it takes more time than
necessary to swallow up someone when it’s dramatically appropriate
(though I suppose you could say he was doing something to slow down his
own ingestion), but the real cake-taker is when it gets into a
fist-fight with Finnegan, even though it doesn’t have any fists.
Yeah, yeah, whine about the needs of the story, but damn it, if
you’re going to have a monster, make it a consistent monster.
That’s all I ask; if you have your monster act one way, don’t
go around and have it act another way without a good reason. I have similar complaints about one scene in Tremors, but mind you, they had a better explanation for a change in
tactics, and besides, the non-monster parts
of that film hung together a lot better than Deep
Rising, favorite character notwithstanding.
is the man behind the two recent Mummy
movies, as well as the 1993 The
Adventures of Huck Finn, with Elijah Wood as Huck, and the 1994 The Jungle Book, with Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli, and a villain role
by Cary Elwes. He's
definitely capable, and he does really well when he shoots the
screenplays he writes. I'm
not sure I'd call him brilliant, certainly not for this particular
movie, but he's pretty good.
better than a number of monster movies (I’m looking at you, Relic), with a fast, breezy style that doesn’t let you take it too
seriously. This is a
popcorn flick that knows it’s a popcorn flick, and therefore provides
just enough framework to support itself, but no more.
This leaves big holes in the structure, a few of which I’ve
pointed out, but the total effect remains enjoyable.
It’s an unintentional B-movie, meaning it’s generally got
A-movie budget and design, but it’s cheesy enough in plot and premise
to be highly enjoyable viewing for cheap cinema aficionados such as we.
It’s high amusement factor gives it quality (resulting in less
need for Hoff), but it’s ridiculously obvious plot holes and confusing
monster (how the heck are those things all connected, anyway?) reverse
that quite handily. Therefore,
a moderate rating is the result.