by Adam Riske
January 1998 had a plethora of films worthy of being featured in a 20 Years Later article. There was Hard Rain, Half Baked, Desperate Measures, Firestorm, etc., but one I wanted to make sure to cover was Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising. I’ve wanted to see this movie since it was released but didn’t see it in theaters (it was a weird time where the theaters by me were enforcing “the under 17 can’t see R without a parent” rule more regularly) or on DVD (the cover art was lame and that convinced me out of renting it a few times). On the heels of its 20-year anniversary, I couldn’t resist any longer. My short verdict: this movie is not without its charms, but it has some major problems that prevented me from giving myself over to its specific brand of goofiness.
The premise of Deep Rising is one of its strengths. A mercenary crew with mysterious motives goes out to deep sea to link up with a deluxe luxury cruise line. When they arrive (mostly to loot the vessel), they discover it’s a ghost ship. What they all soon learn is that a giant sea monster has burrowed its way in and is drinking the blood of the human passengers one by one. The archetypes in Deep Rising are all rogues or villains (in addition to mercenaries there are thieves, fat cat rich folks and corporate swine) so there is plenty of cannon fodder for the film’s monster to devour along the way.
I admire Deep Rising’s spunk and that a lot of shit happens over the course of its runtime. It’s not a lazy movie. The ship is vast and the sets change enough to keep things interesting, there are a few fun action beats (e.g. the jet ski escape from the ship at the end) and it’s charming in its quaintness, as this era (era) of theatrical sci fi-horror is not as in-fashion anymore. I’d put Deep Rising somewhere in the middle of the pack of its ‘90s peers - between Deep Blue Sea and The Relic seems right. One big issue is Deep Rising came at a bad time VFX-wise for monster movies. After the success of Jurassic Park earlier, the middle and later parts of the ‘90s were riddled with bad CGI and Deep Rising is a movie with a very cartoony monster and obvious green-screen backdrops. It’s distracting and took me out of the film several times.
The Mummy and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; I do not like The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing) but he’s the kind of journeyman director I think we need more of: pros who know how to deliver competent action cinema. I’d rather bet on Sommers than one more indie director for Hollywood to chew up and spit out like a CGI sea monster.
Spider-Man: Homecoming before those two did the same thing on screen. I’m not saying Star Kid is better, but give it some props, yo!
Star Kid is about as basic as ‘90s live-action kid movies get and that’s part of the charm. I loved that formula growing up. Mazzello plays Spencer, a 12-year-old nerd who loves science and comic books, who is being picked on by a bully and is scared to talk to a girl he’s crushing on in school. After a tarantula bravery metaphor with his science teacher, Spencer builds up enough confidence to investigate a star that fell from the sky nearby. What he discovers is Sy, a benevolent alien robot suit which Spencer can step into, becoming a superhero like the ones he reads about in his beloved comics. The first two-thirds of the film are that setup, including several scenes where Spencer negotiates how to function in the suit (How do I eat? How do I pee? Why is this refrigerator on my head?). It ramps up to a climax where an evil alien falls to Earth to wipe out Sy, destroy Sy’s planet and later come back to conquer Earth. Sy’s kind (the Trelkans…you’ve heard of them, right?) are the only ones that can stop that from happening and they need Spencer’s help right now or else.
I kind of want to get married in a mall. Rehearsal dinner at the food court. Happy to pay for the Subway.