The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Critics Consensus

Much like the titular oceanographer, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou's overt irony may come off as smug and artificial -- but for fans of Wes Anderson's unique brand of whimsy it might be worth the dive.



Total Count: 222


Audience Score

User Ratings: 210,097
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Movie Info

Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou and his crew--Team Zissou--set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou's partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. A young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou's son, a beautiful journalist assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou's estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor, joins them on their voyage. They face overwhelming complications including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy.


Bill Murray
as Steve Zissou
Owen Wilson
as Ned Plimpton
Cate Blanchett
as Jane Winslett-Richardson
Anjelica Huston
as Eleanor Zissou
Willem Dafoe
as Klaus Daimler
Jeff Goldblum
as Alistair Hennessey
Michael Gambon
as Oseary Drakoulias
Noah Taylor
as Vladimir Wolodarsky
Bud Cort
as Bill Ubell
Seu Jorge
as Pele dos Santos
Robyn Cohen
as Anne-Marie Sakowitz
Waris Ahluvalia
as Vikram Ray
Niels Koizumi
as Bobby Ogata
Pawel Wdowczak
as Renzo Pietro
Seymour Cassel
as Esteban du Plantier
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News & Interviews for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Critic Reviews for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

All Critics (222) | Top Critics (51) | Fresh (124) | Rotten (98)

Audience Reviews for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

  • Apr 16, 2017
    I don't think it's any secret, and this is something I tweeted about last night prior to watch this, that I've never been the biggest fan of Wes Anderson and his particular stylistic choices. Don't get me wrong, I've never once argued, and likely will never argue, that Mr. Anderson's movies are bad. Far from it, if you look at all of my reviews of his films, not one of them has received a rating lower than 3 stars. I don't think there's many filmmakers that have every one of their movies positively reviewed, at least compiling from my own reviews. There's a few of them, for sure, but not many. Quentin Tarantino, Hayao Miyazaki, Park Chan Wook and Bong Joon-ho and, of course, Wes Anderson all come to mind at the moment. Though of the five mentioned, Wes Anderson is at the bottom of that list. That's not reflective on Wes himself, it's more reflective of the quality of works the other four have put out. The problem I have with Wes Anderson, and this will always be my problem, is the fact that, in some of his movies, he seems to be actively working against himself. What I mean by that is that he's concerned with inserting all of his little quirks, whether through visuals, dialogue or song choices, that, sometimes, the movie suffers for it. If he concentrated on just making the best movies he could, everyone of his movies would have received 4+ reviews from me. This self-indulgent style was at its worst, and most insufferable, in Moonrise Kingdom, a movie I gave 3.5 stars to. It's, technically speaking, a very good movie, but one that I had no joy in watching due to Anderson's indulgences. This brings us to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a film that is a bit of an outlier, at least when it comes to my reviews of Anderson's films. I remember watching it once in its entirety, back when I was 17. I remember catching parts of it here and there on TV, but I never really paid attention to it, it was more background noise while I was doing something else. I'm 29 now and, realistically speaking, I have very little to no recollection of this. In spite of my reservations regarding Anderson's style, I was actually really looking forward to watching this again, since it would have been like watching it for the first time again. From what I've gathered, a lot of people seem to think that this is Anderson's best film. I wouldn't say that. First it's The Royal Tenenbaums followed by The Grand Budapest Hotel. Just so you know, I haven't seen Rushmore. I will be honest, you might think that because of the rating that this movie is all fun and games, this movie was a little rough to start. And perhaps that's understating the point, because the movie really did nothing for me until the Belafonte is boarded by pirates. This is, almost to a point, the halfway point of the film. This movie, with credits, is 1 hour and 58 minutes and, to me, it only really got underway at the 1 hour mark. I realize that Wes Anderson's comedic style is very deadpan, but the first hour of the movie was more misses than hits to me. The film is impeccably cast, as usual, and the movie has a great soundtrack comprised mostly of David Bowie songs and others, but the film just didn't really do much for me. It was trying to be weird just for the sake of it, it felt artificial, which is one of the criticisms on Rotten Tomatoes. The pacing for this first hour was, quite frankly, terrible. But after the pirates take one of their own (well a bond company stooge) hostage, the film just sort of flips the switch. It's still unnecessarily weird, for sure, but the movie actually and its characters actually grew on me. The arc of Steve Zissou connecting with his son, or at least he believes Ned was his son, was actually very good once you get to the conclusion. It's further complicated once Steve's wife reveals that Steve shoots blanks. This father/son bonding is unnecessarily distracted by subplots of Ned and Steve falling for the same woman and Steve feeling betrayed once Ned actually sleeps with Jane, the woman in question who also happens to be a reporter writing an article on Steve and his crew. This subplot, realistically speaking, accomplishes nothing. How is it relevant to the overall narrative of the film? It's ok, I'll wait, I got time. That's neither here nor there, I believe it was there simply to make the movie longer. Let's be real here, there's no reason this movie should have been close to two hours long. I'd say that this should have gone 95 minutes without credits. You can tell your story in that time, there's some scenes here that don't really add anything and could have used some shortening. It would have ended up saving the pacing which, as I mentioned, for the first hour, was absolutely terrible. I was ready and willing to give up and hate this, but then the second half of the movie happened and a lot was forgiven. I grew to like the characters and the movie does do a great job at portraying Steve's crew, however eccentric they may be, as incredibly loyal to the guy regardless of the fact that he hasn't a hit documentary in close to a decade. They're a very tight-knit group and you can see that in their interactions, however Wes Anderson-y they may be. The film does have a bit of sentimentality, which does feel a bit out of place, but it's still very much Wes Anderson sentimentality. I suppose the conundrum I'm facing now is whether I thought this was 3 or 3.5 stars. I legitimately did like this movie so 3 stars is the bare minimum I'll give this I'm feeling kind and what I did like about the movie far outnumbered what I didn't, so 3.5 it is. It's not a super confident 3.5, but I really did legitimately like this movie in spite of a not particularly good first half. That's how good the second half is. Though, it bears repeating, this is a Wes Anderson movie and if you've hated his every film, this one will not change anything. It just won't. With that, I'd give this a thumbs up for sure, but I can't really give this a recommendation. This is the type of movie that appeals to a very specific group of people. And, realistically speaking, as much as I did like this, you wouldn't exactly be missing out on anything if you skipped this. I hate to say that, but it's how I feel. I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who, say, might have never watched a Wes Anderson movie before. This is just a bad place to start. With that said, this was a very good movie but, much like a lot of Anderson's films, was filled with flaws that kept it from reaching true greatness.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Aug 20, 2016
    Beautiful quirky graphic style, but the dialogue was blah and Steve Zissou was not a likable character. Only Owen Wilson's heartfelt earnestness salvaged the film for me. I liked the story and dialogue in Fantastic Mr Fox and Grand Budapest far better.
    Letitia L Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2015
    I give the Life Aquatic a generous four stars and must say that it is the type of film that comes down to personal tastes. I enjoyed the acting, particularly Bill Murray and Willem Defoe, and always enjoy the "dreamsical" look and vibe of Wes Anderson's films. That aside, the humor is of amusing variety and not at all hilarious. So while I enjoyed it, I would not recommend it to many people I know.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2014
    I know many people who don't like the work of Wes Anderson and this 2004 American comedy-drama won't be an exception. It is directed, co-written, and co-produced by Wes Anderson, and it is his fourth feature length film. I loved the screenplay written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach and I particularly enjoyed the familiar environment around Naples, Ponza, and the Italian Riviera. One of my favourite comedians Bill Murray, is the main character - the eponymous Zissou, an eccentric oceanographer who sets out to exact revenge on the "Jaguar shark" that ate his partner Esteban. Zissou is both a parody of and homage to French diving pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997), to whom the film is dedicated. Of course, the enjoyment was greater when you have Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Seu Jorge, and Bud Cort also featured in the film. On the negative side, Wes Anderson loves underreaction, but he forgot that everything has an "expiry date" and that this type of acting is no longer "hip". But, you put up with that if you love weird set ups which make fun of everything you could imagine in a real situation. If you don't love such set ups you will get the feeling of nearly drowning in some melancholy game. I have to say that I really liked this movie so much more 10 years ago than today... I must be growing "up" (old).
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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