Just as most of us are confined to our homes under (local) government mandate, the global film industry has effectively shut down, with the box office frozen since cinemas closed in early March. Most intended 2020 theatrical releases have been indefinitely postponed or demoted to an on-demand debut as a result. With a lack of splashy new titles to pore over, former moviegoers are left with nothing but the typically maligned “January movies” getting digital releases this spring. Which is bad news for the haters who see the winter months as a cinematic wasteland, and good news for the people like me, who relish the underappreciated titles that pop up in the first quarter of every year.
One such winter treasure — which is now ranked as the tenth-highest-grossing movie of the year — is the aquatic terror train Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., and sea monsters. Luckily for all of you who missed it in theaters, you can now watch it at home on digital and Blu-ray, with some very special bonus features included. And when I say special, I mean spiritual. I mean emotional. Because the big finish of Underwater has been terrorizing me ever since I first saw it, and this newly available clip of its alternate ending (see above) may have mended my broken heart. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Underwater follows a group of people toiling away on an ocean-floor oil rig — which they’re forced to abandon once the structure starts collapsing. After a relentless 80 minutes of surviving one impossible deep-sea calamity after another, the characters played by Stewart, Henwick, and Gallagher Jr. make it to a set of underwater escape pods — of which only two are operational. Stewart (Norah) sends the injured Gallagher Jr. (Liam) up first and then ushers Henwick (Emily) into the next, promising her she’ll follow right behind. Just go. Live. Take care of the man who loves you* (*who you are settling for, because he’s not me).
Norah, however, is not following behind. She looks at the wrecked pod, resigns herself to death, and in one final, heroic act overloads the core of the drill, which will cause it to explode and eliminate the sea creatures that have been tormenting them this whole time (the master of which looks uncannily like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean). It’s beautifully shot, the visuals slowing down as the room explodes around her, making for a properly epic display of selflessness. I respect her character’s right to self-determination, to give herself up and ensure the survival of her friends. But here’s the thing: She didn’t have to die!
We learn along the way that Norah lost her fiancé in a diving accident a few years prior and has never stopped grieving. The ending of Underwater is basically her final act of letting go. But no! I do not accept! Someone who has been waiting for an excuse to die does not walk across a mile of sea floor, seven miles removed from the surface, under threat of monsters, just to give up at the finish line. Someone who is swallowed by a sea monster and proceeds to kill that creature from the inside, only to burst out of its corpse, does not just say, We had a good run, when freedom is within reach. And really — honestly — why would Norah, the only engineer in the group, not even attempt to hot-wire the damaged escape pod? She wouldn’t give up! Not our Norah! Not this deep-sea heroine!
But blessedly, I may now know peace. In the alternate ending, which we will now recognize as canon, Norah chooses life. She validates her movie-length mighty struggle to survive, twisting two wires together after triggering the rig’s core to explode, so she can take out the monsters as her pod jettisons to the surface. And you know what? Because this is our fic now, we’re going to say Norah also finds Emily on the surface, and both of them admit that love has been in front of them the entire time. I don’t know about you all, but I feel much better. The world was in black-and-white, but has returned, as Taylor says, to screaming color. Kristen Stewart survived at the end of Underwater, and I’m grateful that the real problems like this are getting solved.