Film review: Leviathan

Published: Monday, April 10 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

Movies that look like other movies are much more prevalent than movies that get their inspiration from anything else, and here are a couple more.

— "LEVIATHAN" is the second underwater "Alien" ripoff in two months, the first being "Deepstar Six."

"Leviathan" and "Deepstar Six" have striking similarities — both are set in the near future, a small crew of men and women are working on the ocean floor, they've been in isolation for several months and are about to go back to the surface, they encounter an unknown alien being, and at the end of the film shortly after they surface and seem safe, the creature also surfaces for a second-ending shock, etc.

They also have striking differences — where "Deepstar Six" was a low-budget ripoff with unknown actors, "Leviathan" is a big-budget picture that has "name" actors (Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays) and benefits from excellent technical work, from the music, set design and performances to the glop-and-goo gory special effects.

Yet both films ultimately fail for the same reason. They are creatively bankrupt in the script department, both following far too closely the "Alien" formula with little or no imagination to make them interesting on their own.

Peter Weller heads up the "Leviathan" underwater team, Richard Crenna is the doctor and the crew is made up of Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher and Hector Elizondo, with Meg Foster checking in by video camera from the surface as the boss of the mining company they work for.

Aside from obvious "Alien" elements — and there are too many to name — you may also recognize tidbits from "Outland," John Carpenter's "The Thing," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and even the original "Little Shop of Horrors."

There are some interesting psychological overtones here that have to do with genetic research, but they are never explored. Rather, director George P. Cosmatos ("Cobra," "Rambo") goes for shock, gore and a very easy-to-figure-out game of "who's going to get it next!"

Horror fans will find a couple of worthwhile jolts, but for the most part "Leviathan" is quite disappointing.

The next in this never-ending series of look-alike films is "The Abyss" in mid-summer. That one is written and directed by James Cameron, who also did "Aliens" and "The Terminator," so it should be better.

"Leviathan" is rated R for violence, gore and profanity, plus some brief nudity.

— "ROOFTOPS" is "Dirty Dancing" meets "West Side Story." Oddly enough, it's directed by veteran Oscar-winning filmmaker Robert Wise, who also gave us "West Side Story," among others. But it is so pedestrian you'd never know it.

"Rooftops" stars Jason Gedrick ("Iron Eagle") as an orphan living in a water tower on a Manhattan rooftop. A few other street kids also live on other rooftops, and they are determined to get rid of the bad elements, which here include a drug-dealer and his goons.

One night, while performing a ritualistic "combat dance," which is a sparring match between rivals that combines dancing, aerobics, kung fu and boxing techniques, he meets and falls in love with Troy Beyer.

Beyer, it is soon revealed, also happens to be the drug dealer's cousin.

The biggest problem with "Rooftops" is that it can't decide whether to be a light dance fantasy or a heavy-handed thriller. There are plot holes galore and many illogical twists — and the major plot devices are by-the-numbers predictable all the way.