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Leviathan
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

The second of 1989’s major underwater sci-fi pictures that were rushed into theaters before James Cameron’s The Abyss, this modest-budget production from Dino De Laurentiis’s nephews is even more of a shameless Alien rip-off than Sean S. Cunningham’s DeepStar Six (released two months prior).  The story centres on a group of unionized underwater miners who work for a heartless, money-grubbing corporation that’s far away above the water. After the rag-tag crew discovers a sunken Russian ship, they accidentally bring aboard something that could spell doom for them all. Unlike the low-budget DeepStar, and the many other ultra-low-budget underwater movies of this year (The Evil Below, Lords of the Deep, and The Rift), Leviathan boasts a solid B-list cast and an A-list above-the-line creative team. George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II) directs a script by David Peoples (Blade Runner) and Jeb Stuart (Die Hard), with cinematography by Alex Thomson (Excalibur), music by Jerry Goldsmith (Patton), production design by Ron Cobb (Alien), and creature effects from Stan Winston (Predator).  [Winston, who did masterful work on The Terminator and Aliens, turned down his long-time collaborator Cameron’s offer to design the NTI creatures for The Abyss.]

Yet with all that pedigreed talent, the resulting picture is nothing more than a rehash of scenes from Alien, The Thing, Outland, and a dozen lesser sci-fi monster movies set in confined locations. The cast does its best to make this at least an enjoyable bad movie.  Peter Weller (Robocop), Richard Crenna (The Rambo movies), and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) head up a strong ensemble where each actor plays a distinctive if clichéd role. Amanda Pays (Max Headroom), Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop), Michael Carmine (*batteries not included), and Hector Elizondo (The Flamingo Kid) each play folks we want to spend time with—while Daniel Stern (Diner) plays a guy we want to get killed off early.

The movie starts out better than it ends up, with a third act that gets progressively less and less suspenseful and interesting as it builds to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Twitter Capsule:
Blatant Alien knock-off is the most polished and enjoyable of '89's many underwater sci-fi movies that tried to capitalize on anticipation for Cameron’s The Abyss, but this rehash of far better recent monster movies loses powers as it goes along.

Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Produced by Aurelio De Laurentiis and Luigi De Laurentiis

Screenplay by David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart
Story by David Webb Peoples

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

Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Editing: Roberto Silvi and John F. Burnett
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

Runtime: 98 min
Release Date: 17 March 1989
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color