Not a bad science fiction thriller, I am surprised I missed it when it came out and just now in 2018 have viewed it. It wasn’t spectacular but I enjoyed it, I thought the pacing was good, it had a great cast, and the suspense in the earlier parts of the film was very well done.
The plot centers around an alien entity made of electrical energy that makes it way to a Russian research vessel in the South Pacific. The ship, Akademik Vladislav Volkov, in communication with the Mir space station, is attacked by what looks at first like a powerful electrical surge, one that kills the cosmonauts and once on board the Russian research vessel, renders the ship a derelict at sea.
A week later, a tugboat named the Sea Star, captained by alcoholic and depressed Robert Everton (played by Donald Sutherland), along with navigator and apparent second in command Kelly Foster (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) and engineer Steve Baker (William Baldwin), make their way into the eye of a typhoon. In danger of sinking from the storm and the captain suicidal over losing a cargo to that same storm, a cargo they were towing that might have resulted in the loss of the Sea Star and all aboard, they discover a radar contact sharing the eye with them, something they soon come to realize is the Akademik Vladislav Volkov (Foster announcing its identity when the Sea Star is aside the Russian ship, reading from some sort of field guide to ships). Dreaming of a score from a salvage of research vessel with millions and millions of dollars of expensive electronics, robotics, and research equipment, they soon board the vessel, thinking they will be rich.
They find the vessel at first devoid of humanity, even bodies, and though this bodes well for salvage – if even one person remains, they don’t get to claim the expensive ship as salvage – they soon get an eerie feeling from the dark ship. Splitting up – because of course they split up, they don’t know there is an alien monster aboard the ship – they soon find why the ship is derelict, the crew dead or worse. Not to spoil anything I hope, but the combination of hostile alien being that is made of electrical energy and a ship full of robotics and science labs doesn’t bode well for the salvage crew.
I think the movie worked best when the salvage crew was exploring the odd, eerie, creepy abandoned vessel, trying to uncover what happened. Once the alien entity started targeting the salvage crew it didn’t work quite as well, partially because the suspense was gone, partially because I didn’t get that much a sense of horror or fear from what the salvage crew encountered. What the people fought against was certainly dangerous, but it came off less a horror movie and more an action film. Also I don’t think the movie fully realized what they could have come up against, that maybe the effects skill or budget prevented the opponents from being truly as bizarre as they could have been. I did like that the effects seemed mostly practical, I appreciated that, as today those effects would be largely CGI. I think too much of the movie was dark, which while making a lot of sense, made it hard to pick out metal monsters against a metal interior. I also think the way the movie portrayed how an eye of a typhoon works was more than a little off.
Still, I thought it enjoyable and original and I understand the movie is sort of hated by many. It doesn’t deserve that hate and was worth watching.