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What Happens When Sci-fi Goes Underwater Instead of Out in Space? The Abyss, Sphere, and Deep Blue Sea

You’ve heard that in space nobody can hear you scream, right? And in sci-fi space flicks there will be screaming because a lot can go wrong when you lock people in a tin can and shoot them into space. But you don’t have to leave the atmosphere to risk your life in a freezing, dark environment: you can just go into the ocean, the most unexplored environment of our world, with as many as 750,000 undiscovered species, many of which probably don’t taste good with lemon butter. And doing their duty, sci-fi flicks provide us with similar warnings that what’s under the sea is not the paradise sung of in The Little Mermaid. Five movies in particular that take place below sea level — including a slew released in 1989, the apparent heyday of underwater film — warn us of the specific watery dangers awaiting below, many quite similar to those found above. Sci-fi is often accused of predicting our future. If it does, don’t plan on living underwater in 2050 or scuba diving or even swimming.

Super-Sharks, Deep Blue Sea
Even the shark in Jaws thinks the hyperintelligent variety of his species posited in this flick are terrifying. Deep Blue Sea‘s main message: messing with sharks, even for the greater good, will go poorly. Duh. That’s what scientists working on an Alzheimer’s cure in an underwater lab find out when they genetically engineer a trio of mako sharks and end up on the wrong side of razor-sharp teeth. (Not that there’s a right side.) Increasing sharks’ brain capacity turns out to be a major no-no, leading to higher-level thinking, enhancing their predatory nature, and getting Sam Jackson eaten for lunch. Not only are the sharks mean, but they’re smart, escaping from their cages and outwitting the human sitting ducks at every turn. Let’s hope the future of underwater living, research, or medicine doesn’t have room for creatures like these.

Aliens, Sphere
What could go wrong when scientists investigate an object found in the ocean? Plenty. No, not genetically altered sharks this time. Aliens. The aforementioned object is a spacecraft, in the center of which sits a mysterious impenetrable sphere that hovers a few feet off the ground and houses an alien that communicates with the scientists, who subsequently meet with one tragedy after another. Oh, another thing going wrong for the scientists is the topside typhoon. (Adverse weather is Hollywood’s preferred method for keeping underwater characters submerged.) It turns out that messing with alien technology can turn our darkest dreams into realities. Let that be a warning to anyone who finds alien technology straight out of a Michael Crichton book in the middle of the ocean.

Killer Sea Creatures, DeepStar Six
Sharks. Aliens. Typhoons. That’s covered. So how about an unidentifiable creature that’s lain dormant until humans go poking around in its habitat? DeepStar Six‘s unlikely sea explorers are on a science station tasked with installing a deep-sea nuclear missile. Through the course of normal underwater explorations, the habitat of said long-dormant creature becomes disturbed. And if there’s one thing you don’t do to a long-dormant sea creature, you don’t upset its habitat. Otherwise, the creepy monster will take serious offense and attack and kill everyone it can get its tentacles on, eventually leading to the detonation of the nuclear reactor.

Mutant Monsters, Leviathan
Monsters. They’re a problem underwater as well as on land and in space. And just like on land, foibles can lead to humans becoming the monsters themselves. Such is the experience of Leviathan‘s deep-sea miners, who fall prey to greed and a love of booze when they discover a sunken ship they think holds untold treasure. Sadly, all they find is a measly bottle of
vodka, which they sneak aboard their alcohol-free mining base, getting a serious buzz and ingesting a deadly mutagen that transforms them into
monsters. I hate when that happens. The mutated miners attack the
still-human ones, turning them, in turn, into monsters. I’ve had bad
hangovers, but this one takes the cake.

Ocean Madness, The Abyss
Underwater danger isn’t always obvious. Despite the presence of aliens in this James Cameron flick (they aren’t blue), the extraterrestrials of The Abyss are actually nice guys. The danger is actually high-pressure nervous syndrome — basically the ocean version of space madness. All the aliens do is slap our hands and threaten us because of man’s inhumanity toward man. No biggie. But an unfortunate turns of events — coupled with a convenient topside hurricane that cuts the underwater humans off from the rest of the world and pulls the rig close to an underwater precipice — leads to a Navy SEAL suffering from ocean madness, arming a nuclear warhead, and almost starting an atomic holocaust. In the end, even underwater man is the the most dangerous beast of all.

Check out James Cameron’s Abyss on AMC, Mon., Feb. 14, at 11AM | 10C.

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