Movie Review – Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Back in 1975, the movie Jaws proved that not only are sharks fearsome creatures, but they can also prove to be formidable monsters in Hollywood.

Jaws was so successful that not only did it spawn its own series of films, but for the most part, Hollywood didn’t use sharks as villains.  Other sea creatures have attempted to terrify the audiences, but sharks were overlooked.  It was almost like nobody wanted to make a shark movie because everybody would keep comparing it to 1975’s Jaws.

That notion changed with the release of 1999’s killer shark movie, Deep Blue Sea.  In Deep Blue Sea, research scientists increase the size of sharks’ brains in an effort to study diseases.  However, this increase in brainpower makes the sharks smarter, and they use their sharpened thinking skills to attack the researchers.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - movie poster

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – movie poster

Directed by Renny Harlin, Deep Blue Sea stars Thomas Jane and Saffron Burrows in the lead roles of Carter Blake and Dr. Susan McAlester.  Supporting them is a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Stellan Skarsgard, and LL Cool J.

Deep Blue Sea begins with four teenagers having fun on a boat while out at sea.  Suddenly the boat is attacked by a shark, and the teenagers are knocked into the water.  Just before the shark can attack and kill them, the predator fish is captured by a mysterious man.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

In Los Angeles, California, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is called to an emergency meeting at Chimera.  The company’s leaders are upset that one of Susan’s test sharks had escaped from the research facility and attacked a small group of teenagers.  None of them were killed or seriously injured, but the incident is still bad news for the company.

It turns out that Susan is using three genetically modified mako sharks in an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  These three sharks have larger brains (the brain fluid is used in the research) than their counterparts in the wild, and it’s made these particular sharks smarter and more aggressive.  The recently escaped and recaptured shark is a sign that perhaps the researchers don’t have everything under control at their research station.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Chimera’s leaders decide to send corporate executive Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) back with Susan to investigate the research station.  Their destination is Aquatica, a former submarine refueling station that has been converted into a remote research facility.

Upon arriving at Aquatica, Susan and Russell witness shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) expertly tend to one of the three mako sharks.  It looks like Carter’s life is in danger, but he has everything under control.  It was also Carter who stopped the escaped mako shark from attacking the teenagers a few days ago.

Other workers at Aquatica include Dr. Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgard), Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie), Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport), and Brenda Kerns (Aida Turturro).  Keeping the people of Aquatica fed is chef Sherman “Preacher” Dudley (LL Cool J).

The mako sharks have been showing increasingly violent behavior towards other sharks as well as the Aquatica facility itself.  Carter is concerned that the facility’s fences may be too short, and that the sharks may try to leap over them to escape.  The sharks don’t try to escape again, but they do destroy the underwater cameras, blinding the scientists to their whereabouts.  This causes some anxiety when Carter goes into the water and harnesses a shark.  Carter succeeds and the shark is subdued and brought into the laboratory for experiments.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Brain fluid is removed from the shark and then analyzed by the scientists.  Sure enough, it looks like Susan’s experiments have been successful.  Suddenly the shark lunges and bites off Jim’s arm.  The rest of the team jumps into action and gives Jim medical aide.  He’s rushed to the surface where a helicopter is waiting to evacuate him to a hospital.  The only problem is that an approaching tropical depression is causing havoc with the weather, and it’s impossible for the helicopter to land.  The helicopter’s crew has to use a winch to try to raise Jim into the aircraft.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

The winch has problems and Jim is accidentally dropped into the shark’s pen.  One of the sharks grabs Jim and pulls him and the helicopter. The helicopter crashes into Aquatica’s control tower, killing the aircraft’s crew as well as Brenda Kerns.  The crash causes a tremendous explosion that heavily damages parts of the research facility, including fuel tanks as well as the seaplane that carried Susan and Russell to Aquatica.

The team returns to the subsurface laboratory to analyze their options.  Just then one of the mako sharks grabs Jim’s body (he’s still alive and breathing through an oxygen mask) and smashes him against one of the underwater viewing windows.  The window breaks, Jim is finally killed, and water quickly floods the laboratory.  Everybody has to scramble as the seawater rushes into the room and begins to flood the remainder of Aquatica.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Now Aquatica is slowly being flooded one room and one floor at a time.  It’s just a matter of time before the entire facility floods and sinks into the Pacific Ocean, allowing the aggressive mako sharks to escape again.  To make matters worse, the holes in the sides of the structure have allowed the sharks to swim *into* Aquatica’s flooded rooms and passageways.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

The remainder of Deep Blue Sea is a game of cat-and-mouse as the people struggle to make their way to the surface of Aquatica while trying to avoid both the rising seawater as well as the deadly sharks.  Russell is suddenly killed while he’s giving an optimistic speech to the survivors.  Janice is killed by a shark while trying to climb up an elevator shaft.  Tom is then killed by a shark while trying to help Carter access controls to open doors in the facility.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Two of the sharks are killed inside of Aquatica.  Sherman kills a shark by tossing a lighter into a kitchen’s oven, and Susan manages to later electrocute a shark.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Susan, Carter and Sherman join together in a decompression chamber and then swim to the surface of the water.  Sherman is grabbed by the last shark and dragged underwater, but it releases him when Sherman stabs it in the eye with the crucifix that he wears around his neck.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Susan knows that the third shark is about to escape, so she cuts herself and jumps into the water, offering herself as bait to the shark.  When the shark turns for her, Susan grabs a ladder and tries to escape.  The ladder breaks and Susan is attacked and killed by the mako shark.  Carter jumped into the water and tries to save Susan, but he’s too late.  He dodges the shark’s attack, grabs its dorsal fin, and is pulled around the water.

Sherman takes a harpoon and shoots it at the shark.  He hits the shark but the harpoon also strikes Carter’s leg, pinning him to the shark.  Sherman then connects the wire from the harpoon to a car battery, and the explosive charge in the harpoon detonates, killing the final mako shark in a powerful explosion.

It’s then revealed that Carter escaped at the last second and survived the explosion.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea ends with Carter and Sherman sitting on the wreckage of Aquatica and watching the workers’ boat approaching on the horizon.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So is Deep Blue Sea a good movie?

Yes and no.

Deep Blue Sea is a great summertime film filled with aggressive sharks and set in a remote research facility.  While the film has its moments as well as a couple of surprises (gotta love the awesome death scene for Samuel L. Jackson’s character), Deep Blue Sea has its share of clichés as well.  The CGI sharks are also a little too quick and cartoony for my taste as well.

One of the problems with using sharks as movie monsters is that they require water to move and survive.  As long as you keep the characters out of the water, then they’re safe from the sharks.  Deep Blue Sea overcomes this problem by taking place on a floating facility.  When the sharks break a window the facility begins to flood, and suddenly everybody is vulnerable to being attacked by sharks.

Deep Blue Sea is almost a film where it’s more fun to be rooting for the sharks rather than the human beings.  Some of the characters are lame or just plain annoying, and it’s entertaining to see them get killed.  Plus, who out there wouldn’t want to see these genetically engineered super sharks attack innocent people on beaches or at marinas?  Just imagine the bloodbath and carnage that those sharks could cause on unsuspecting people.  Now that could be a very bloody horror film.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – movie trailer

Anyway, Deep Blue Sea is pretty good as a sci-fi and horror film, but don’t look at this as a great film.  This is one of those movies that you watch with your friends while drinking some beer.  You’ll find plenty of amusement that way, whether it was intended by the writers or not.

Deep Blue Sea certainly isn’t Jaws, but it is a decent film where people get killed by sharks.

three-and-a-half stars

Janice Higgins – “Beneath this glassy surface, a world of gliding monsters!”

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Sherman “Preacher” Dudley – “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 mother fucker in the valley! Two sharks down, Lord! One demon fish to go! Can I get an Amen?”

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