Deep Blue Sea (1999 USA)

saffron burrows“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Because I carry a big stick and I’m the meanest m****r f****r in the valley! Two sharks down, Lord! One demon fish to go! Can I get an Amen?” Thus spake L.L. Cool J. With so many shark films out there, there needs to be something that sets a flick apart from the rest. For as many good points that Deep Blue Sea achieves, its mediocrities end up sinking a lot of good will. Director Renny Harlin knew that audiences wanted several things: 1) good-looking sharks 2) creative shark attacks 3) good-looking actors…

In descending importance. Luckily, the first point was hit most accurately with some very good-looking animatronic sharks (when they are used). These giant metal monsters looked very nice (especially when one is used to an ocean of Italian rubber-shark ripoffs) and you as a viewer could easily get lost in the world of the movie – in the sense that yes, these must be real sharks. The second point was helped out by the film’s setting, the abandoned sea lab Aquatica. It has a great cold industrial look to it. By flooding and destroying the area thanks to plot contrivances, Renny Harlin had sharks in creative locales: swimming around in corridors, hiding in bedrooms, and attacking in elevator shafts.

These are new and fun ways to spice up the fact that as a movie-going threat, sharks often do little else other than pop up to chomp on someone in a jump-scare “Gotcha!” moment. The setting does help though, like a shark forcing the station’s cook into an oven and inadvertently turning it on with the cook inside, or an entertaining helicopter kill (clever sharks!). Finally, the cast put in a somewhat serviceable (for this genre) movie. Samuel Jackson stole the show, acting as we are accustomed to see him act; though the moments where he was not yelling are compelling as well. Saffron Burrows did well as the “attractive woman with a British accent” (always a plus), and Thomas Jane sort of did the “tough action guy who don’t play by the rules” thing. The rest of the crew (with a notable exception) was just sort of there, but at least we have attractive and likable leads.

deep blue sea

But its negative points started to sink its more laudable aspects: 1) CGI sharks with bad CGI people 2) Good characters killed off; bad characters surviving 3) Stupid plot decisions that bring down the story. In the special features of the DVD, Harlin went on at length about how needed something more than mechanical sharks to do all the scenes he had in mind. He turned to digital sharks here, and boasted that the audience would never be able to tell the difference. Well, this is hazarding a guess, but if you notice a character suddenly replaced with a stiff, lifeless, plastic-looking computerized Barbie doll, bank your money on the shark being CG as well. Also, if you notice that the sharks are suddenly 100x more agile they were in other scenes, those probably are also not “really” there.

I can understand the desire to “one-up” other shark movies (because of the sort of limited nature of filming practical-effects sharks I mentioned above). However, the solution Harlin opted for doesn’t exactly thrill. Awful looking digital chunks of your favorite nondescript actors filled the screen with strangely-smooth and plastic-looking sharks. It’s groan-inducing each time I saw it happen. Contrasting that to the underwater scenes filmed with the animatronic models, and we realize that nothing can substitute for a cleverly-staged model. All these films need is a premise that is not so outside of reality that it works. And “big brain sharks hunt humans” was inoffensive enough to work.Β  One character pointlessly “baiting” the shark in a way that is needlessly life-endangering. So why the stupidity?

Situations seemed to be set up in order to kill off characters (usually when we haven’t seen a shark attack in a while). Such situational character stupidity was a lame way of killing people off, especially when all we get is bad CGI. The action scenes with the sharks had some creativity and were handled competently by Harlin. There were explosions and gushes of water (and shark deaths) to keep the audience’s attention. The movie provided some of the bare-bones minimums a shark movie needs, and by having multiple mechanical sharks, it went a few steps beyond most shark movies. However, it was definitely a film I have no desire to see again. The final gut reaction I felt was “well, it was OK.” But was that really the reaction I should have to a movie about super killer sharks?…this review has now passed the 800 word mark. Boy, do I write a lot of words about subjects that are so trivial.

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Comments

  1. I remember this film, I had a blast watching it as a kid – I’ll definitely have to rewatch it again soon. Hilarious and excellent review! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, do so. And remember to laugh at Samuel L Jackson’s demise! πŸ™‚

    Like

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