Deep Blue Sea (1999) — Alas, no laser beams attached

“Beneath this glassy surface, a world of gliding monsters.”

Justin’s rating: Deep Blue Hedgehogs doesn’t have the same kick

Justin’s review: Some have called Deep Blue Sea a second-rate Jaws, others have claimed it to be a fourth-rate Jaws 3-D. Whatever your stance, and while Deep Blue Sea rightfully failed to win any Oscars for best anything, it does remain a success as one of our modern day highly-budgeted B-movies. This approach to filmmaking — to purposefully make a sub-standard film using elements of old monster and sci-fi movies, while throwing wadded gobs of cash away in the process — boggles my mind in its intent. Yet people expecting high art on the high seas inevitably walk out of the theaters with their noses cranked up, and people who typically enjoy this genre of film give it a pass over, because it looks like a generic big blockbuster.

Deep Blue Sea is definitely worth your while for many things, but most of all for the SPOILER which I will reveal in three paragraphs from now. So for the grace of St. Sean, stop reading!

I’m not joking! Hit the back button as fast as you can, lest temptation overcome you!

Please, please, PLEASE don’t read any further! I’ll pay you to stop! I’ll give you my young cousin Ernie as your personal slave for all time! Just stop it already!

Well, you’re a sucker for punishment. Can’t say I’m surprised. If nothing else, Deep Blue Sea is fairly notable for bucking the traditional trends of character elimination by killing off Samuel L. Jackson in the first act. It’s completely unexpected; Jackson’s character is giving a motivational speech while the scared characters are trapped in a terrifying situation, and right at the high point of his message, a big shark comes up and makes sushi out of the man’s Man. Considering that the next-biggest star in this film is LL Cool J, that takes serious stones to pull off.

The payoff is audience uncertainty for the rest of the film, leaving the question of which character(s) will survive to the end credits. More movies should take note of this deliberately anti-cliché move, and start following suit. Stop depending on predictability and put the audience on edge — that’s where the real “thrill” in thrillers comes from.

If only the rest of Deep Blue Sea were so original. It’s actually a pretty fun casserole bake of leftovers from Jaws and Jurassic Park, sprinkled with the crumbly bits of The Poseidon Adventure. A group of scientists in the middle of the ocean are doing what all scientists do best — going mad and tampering in God’s domain — in trying to solve Alzheimer’s by genetically enhancing sea creatures’ brains for some vague reason. It’s a noble purpose, of course, but the subjects in question aren’t cute little squids or dolphins.

No sir, the price for the cure is giving sharks vastly enhanced intellect, the sea-worthy equivalent of strapping on a missile rack and a gatling minigun onto a grizzly bear. Sure, we logical humans think that it’s maybe a weensy bit problematic, with making nature’s ultimate killing machine an honor’s student, but the scientists never see it that way. Until it’s too late, of course, at which point they’re kicking themselves for not enhancing THEIR brains and getting tenure at MIT.

While super-smart sharks are a slight worry, they’re not much of a concern for us landlubbers. So instead of keeping the sharks in land-based aquariums — where the worst thing that could happen is that Chompy breaks free of his prison walls and then suffocates on the floor outside of the women’s restroom — they just build an incredibly expensive sea laboratory and shark pen, where the only thing between the scientists and the sharks is a flimsy wall of technology. And that NEVER fails people, no way, no how. Do I even have to mention that most of this lab is far underwater, only has one elevator to the surface, and keeps the sharks penned in by a weak chain-link fence?

The only explanation I can think of is that all of these people are part of a suicidal Heaven’s Gate-type cult, but they’re also loaded with moolah and are a bit too posh to merely kill themselves with a length of rubber hose and a running car in a garage.

Everything that goes wrong, does: people get trapped far underwater, all routes of escape are cut off, the hallways start flooding so Chompy, Bitey, and Flossy can roam the place, and dinner at the cafeteria involves brussel sprouts. Upgrading from Jaws‘ rather lame animatronic shark, we’re finally treated to some pretty intense computer generated sharks, and while they’re not too capable of hiding behind a door and leaping out at the appropriate moment, their scare value is nothing to sneeze at. How the sharks actually take over the facility is a far stretch by any means, but at least it’s a bit different than what we’re used to.

“They cut the power.” “What do you mean, THEY cut the power?”

I actually lied a bit up there, saying there wasn’t anything else too original in this flick. There are a handful of other scenes, including the unorthodox opening teaser and an undersea parrot, that you won’t be seeing that often in theaters. So give the mad scientists their due for at least entertaining the world at large with their flights of insane fantasy, and never, ever get in the water. Even your own shower.

Didja notice?

  • Sharks are birds’ natural enemy
  • Underwater stretchers are good tools to the perceptive shark
  • The license plate pulled from the shark’s teeth is the same plate found in the Tiger shark in Jaws
  • Director Renny Harlin has a cameo as one of the employees leaving the facility early in the movie (he’s the one with long, blonde hair and sunglasses).
  • The sharks are killed in the same ways as the sharks in the 3 Jaws films
  • The seaplane used in this film is the same one used in Six Days Seven Nights
  • The orange colored mini-sub visible in the wet-entry area was the same mini-sub seen in the end of Sphere, also starring Samuel L. Jackson
  • At the beginning, when the sharks strikes the boat, the force causes the teddy bear to fall in the water. This is the same teddy bear dropped at the beginning of Cliffhanger – also directed by Renny Harlin

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