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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Underwater is a sci-fi thriller about a team of researchers who face unknown peril at the bottom of the ocean. This is a monster movie that's meant to scare you -- and it definitely does. But while you can expect deaths (including people imploding inside deep sea suits), near-constant peril, and lots of tense moments, nothing is especially graphic. It's basically an oceanic Alien, down to centering on a tough woman, Norah (Kristen Stewart), who has to figure out how to outsmart a terrifying creature. She makes a fantastic role model as a modern-day Ellen Ripley -- although, just like Ripley, she ends up taking care of some of her tasks in her underwear. The male members of the crew aren't hypermasculine stereotypes (one even carries a stuffed animal), and the group demonstrates both courage and excellent teamwork. Strong language ("s--t," "f--k," etc.) is used but isn't constant.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In UNDERWATER, Norah (Kristen Stewart) and her team of researchers are investigating the ocean depths when some kind of earthquake damages their lab beyond repair. With their oxygen running out, their only hope of survival is to put on diving suits and walk across the ocean floor to reach another station. But as they set out on their journey, they realize that a dangerous unknown creature is lurking in the dark waters.
Is it any good?
Yes, this is an Alien knockoff, but that doesn't mean it's not enthralling -- and it's modernized in a way that may appeal more to older teens. To that end, director William Eubank includes a couple of great lines in Underwater that will connect directly to Gen Z, tapping into a message of how to deal with feeling helpless in an out-of-control world. It's a little pat, but it's still empowering (and if the film winds up resonating with teens, the lines could end up on memes).
That message is a nice cap on a film that, while thoroughly entertaining, feels made to trigger anxiety attacks. You never know what monster will jump out or which character will die next (unfortunately, the film does stick with the scary movie cliché of the type of character who always dies first). Stewart's trademark acting style -- nervous and uncomfortable -- works well here; her character doesn't know what the next second holds, but she just keeps moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Norah is the embodiment of the airplane emergency instructions: She puts on her own oxygen mask first by summoning her own survival skills and then helps the others put their masks on -- in some cases, dragging them along behind her. Norah is so far from Stewart's weak-willed Twilight character Bella that, by movie's end, we've seen a total transformation of not only Norah but Stewart herself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Underwater compares to other monster movies. Why do you think audiences enjoy watching humans battle made-up creatures? How does it make you feel when the movie's over?
How did the film present counter-stereotypes in terms of gender roles? How does that compare with other movies you've seen, particularly older ones?
What did you think about Norah's statement that feelings of powerlessness are just feelings -- that you should stop feeling and start doing? Is that a message you can apply to real life?
- In theaters: January 10, 2020
- Cast: Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick
- Director: William Eubank
- Studios: Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language
- Last updated: January 13, 2020
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