• by Wes Singleton

Underwater -C

Rated PG-13, 95 minutes

The dull, unoriginal new sci-fi thriller "Underwater" has a few tense and claustrophobic moments, but it's hurt by a slow, sloshy first act. It's essentially an oceanic "Alien" wannabe, but if you come to see the creature, you're gonna have to wait awhile.

A group of researchers, led by Norah (Kristen Stewart) and Captain ("Jason Bourne's" Vincent Cassel), are in an underwater lab at eleven thousand meters deep, when an earthquake causes the vehicle to be destroyed and exposes the team to the risk of death, they are forced to walk deep into the sea with insufficient oxygen to try survive. However, as they move across the sea floor, they discover the presence of a deadly creature.

"Underwater" is an occasionally entertaining though uninteresting science fiction thriller that's directed by William Eubanks ("The Signal") and co-written by Brian Duffield ("Jane Got a Gun") and Adam Cozeld ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"). You might think that the film is destined to be put out to the cinema pasture known as January, when studios burn off post-holiday junk, given its murky trailer, the fact the delayed production was filmed three years ago, not to mention it features comedian T.J. Miller for levity, whose presence here may not exactly help the film. However, not all is a total waste with "Underwater": it has a decent, if not well-worn premise, serviceable visuals and production design.

As well, there is the solid lead in Stewart, who's maturing into a natural, likable movie star; we know she has the star power (the "Twilight" series) and the acting chops ("The Clouds of Sils Maria" and "Personal Shopper," among others) to carry a film, but "Underwater," like the recent flop "Charlie's Angels," proves she's a movie star in need of better material. Speaking of which, Duffield and Cozeld's uneven, sluggish script is the film's biggest flaw, with a water-logged first act that's just a bunch of sloshing around in close quarters until they finally get to the big creature (well into the film's last act) which is admittedly huge and mean yet PG-13 tame.

The last act finally provides some tense moments, but there's so much build-up here, it's all a bit disappointing when it finally gets to a rather unsurprising, anti-climactic finale. The bland "Underwater" could've been bigger, better, and meaner, though I'm most disappointed for Stewart, whose movie star status is only undercut by mediocre stuff like this.