Peter Weller’s hair will keep you safe: “Leviathan”

April 20, 2011

I’d almost forgotten how much I liked Leviathan when it came out. Opening weekend in 1989, I saw this movie twice on consecutive nights—it’s just that cool (the fact that I had no life when I was 17 kind of factored into the equation, too, but I’m going to continue to forget about that now). Leviathan was part of a spate of underwater monster movies that culminated with that summer’s heavy-hitter, The Abyss—otherwise known as the moment James Cameron stopped blowing up aliens and started a love-fest with them (no one has any interspecies bam-chika-wow-wow in The Abyss, but, you know, that might have actually made it better). Unlike that movie, though, Leviathan has no lofty aspirations of ending the, um, Cold War (which was pretty close to being done, anyway). Instead it’s just content to mash up Alien and The Thing and let that be that. Sometimes a movie is wise to limit its aspirations, and if your movie centers on a mutated fish-monster, you really don’t want to be reaching for much past competence. So why do I have such a soft spot for this 22 year-old piece of junk? Let’s run them down, shall we?

*  Alien underwater. That premise is like a baked potato: you just can’t screw it up. Sure there are varying degrees of success you can achieve, but hell, even Deep Star Six had its moments.

* Peter Weller: Let’s not beat around the bush here: the dude just brings the cool. Whether it’s ‘80s-laid-back-rocker Peter Weller, or ‘90s-sleek-intelligencia Peter Weller, or latter-day-The-Walking-Skull Peter Weller, he makes everything better. He was Robocop, for fuck’s sake. And then he was William Burroughs! How do you even do that? I don’t know—I don’t think it’s even legal, but he did it. Can you imagine how much better Antichrist would have been if Peter Weller was in it? Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg would be crazying-out on each other, foxes would be talking, and then there’d be Peter Weller, drinking a beer and drawling, “Damn, that is some crazy shit going on there.” And then he would have shot somebody or something. That would have automatically made the movie better.

* Peter Weller’s awesome ‘80s hair. Yes, his hair is so awesome it deserves its own mention. Just look at that hair:

That’s hair you can get behind. That’s hair that says, “follow me, and I will keep you safe from harm.” How do you get hair like that? Did Zeus himself reach down from the heavens and pat little Petey Weller on the head when he was a child? And if you want to get philosophical, then riddle me this Descartes: is Peter Weller’s hair so awesome because he’s cool enough to play Robocop and William Burroughs, or was that coolness bestowed upon by his hair? And what do we make of said hair’s disappearance? Did Weller simply let it go, because he knows he’s so awesome, he didn’t need a crutch? Or, having elevated Weller to an appropriate state of rad-ocity, did the hair know that it’s job was done and find another ward (like Nathan Fillion)? We will probably never know—and wouldn’t it be hubris to even assume such a mystery is knowable? But I do know this: Peter Weller’s 1989 hair is a thing to awed and respected.

*  Amanda Pays and her gratuitous underwear scenes: Before Hilary Swank, Pays was the rangy-horsey-sexy girl. Plus she has a British accent, so there’s that. She’s pure eye-candy in this movie (wait? Why is an astronaut trainee mining on the bottom of the ocean?), but hey give director George Cosmatos credit for taking pains to keep his movie from being a complete sausage party. And he’s even savvy enough to put her in her lingerie in at least three scenes under the thinnest of pretexts (1. Everyone needs a skin exam! 2. She cries in the shower…in her underwear! 3. The special dive suits only work if you’re in your underwear…and are Amanda Pays!)  The only thing that would have made this movie better is if Cosmatos could have worked in a nude scene and/or a girl/girl make out session. Well, you can’t have everything.

* Creepy Daniel Stern: Okay, forget for a minute the voice of Kevin Arnold or the bumbling burglar in Home Alone or even the lovable screw up in City Slickers. Just look at the dude. Is this a guy you want to meet in a dark alley? Or living next door to you? Or as your new gynecologist? Hell no. Give Leviathan credit for casting the dude as a creepy, sexual-harassment-prone dickhead. And then killing him off fast.

*Richard Crenna: Is you’re gonna be trapped underwater with a mutant fish-monster, don’t you want Richard Crenna on your side? This is the dude that talked Rambo down after he blew up an entire town. He was so stand-up that Rambo invaded Afghanistan to save him. Then the two of them trounced the entire Soviet occupying force, alongside…um…the Taliban. Okay, but the first part is right. Right?

*Ernie Hudson: Such an unthreatening, large black man. He was a great Ghostbuster.

*A Goofy Monster: Really, there’s no way to make a fish-person scary. Stan Winston did his damndest, though. Hulking, fierce-looking, big teeth…Stan, I see what you’re trying to do here, but, ah, you’re not doing it.

*The Ludicrous Climax: No one has taken this down as succinctly (and hilariously) as the guys at my new obsession The Bad Movie Fiends Podcast. Listen to it here.

*The Bad-gal’s Comeupance: “How are you feeling?” Whap! “Better now.” Man, Peter Weller, you even make punching a chick in the face look cool.

So that’s Leviathan. Really, what’s not to love? Check it out some rainy afternoon. Weller’s hair truly is a thing to behold.


  1. My favorite part? Peter weller throwing that punch at the end. Take that evil corporation lady!

  2. I loved everything about this movie, but Peter Weller was the icing on this cake.

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