Deep Blue Sea (1999)
December 11, 2014 7:26 AM - Subscribe

THE SPIRIT OF 99 VIEWING CLUB - Searching for a cure to Alzheimer's disease a group of scientists on an isolated research facility become the bait as a trio of intelligent sharks fight back.

DID EBERT LIKE IT? Mostly, yes: three stars. He always did have a soft spot for well-constructed schlock.
A skillful thriller directed by Renny Harlin, who made "Die Hard 2'' and "Cutthroat Island,'' and here assembles a neat package of terror, sharks and special effects. That isn't as easy as it sounds. After slogging through the predictability of countless would-be action thrillers, I admired the sheer professionalism of this one, which doesn't transcend its genre, but at least honors it.
Other reviewers were less kind: 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen Holden, NYT: [caution, spoilers]
Imagine a cut-rate ''Titanic'' (''Deep Blue Sea'' is filled with scenes of flooding corridors) stripped of romance and historical resonance and fused with ''Jaws,'' shorn of mythic symbolism and without complex characters, and you have the essence of this live-action horror comic.
ON SPOILERS: Holden's NYT review falls into the trap of recapping the movie's highlights in the review. Ebert knew better, and specifically notes that the movie thrives on delivering shocks:
It knows how to use timing, suspense, quick movement and surprise. Especially surprise. There is a moment in this movie when something happens that is completely unexpected, and it's over in a flash--a done deal--and the audience laughs in delight because it was so successfully surprised.
If you can: watch it cold and unspoiled. Otherwise: here's a 2014 Esquire article looking back at that surprise moment: [BIG HUGE SPOILER; shortened URL to hide the title]
[It] is the kind of glorious sucker-punch we've been deprived of for a long time, one that leaves us metaphorically wheezing with surprise, smiling our stupid faces off at having been caught so completely off guard.
THE BEST: The movie's exuberance in embracing, and occasionally subverting, its tropes. The Heroic Speech; the Token Black Guy; the Thinly-Veiled Excuse For The Heroine To Be Shown In Her Underwear. It's unashamed of its formula and its influences: Aliens vs,. Titanic vs. Jaws. It winks at the audience as its gears turn.

THE BEST, CONT'D: LL Cool J as the parrot-toting cook Preacher.

THE WORST: Saffron Burrow's flat affect throughout.

TRIVIA: 17 Fun Facts About Deep Blue Sea. [spoilers]

CAN I STREAM IT?: Not on subscription at the moment; available for rental on various services.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
[spoiler-free zone ends here; have at it.]
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:27 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was such a great moment; It really made you feel like any of the surviving characters could die at any time. If the rousing speech can't protect you, nothing can.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:44 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know exactly what moment you are taking about. I know because immeduately after the world's most poorly cgi'd shark popped out of the water, my friends and I had to pause the movie because we were literally rolling on the floor laughing. We then rewound and watched the scene a few more times.

I cannot emphasize enough how proudly dumb this movie.is.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:23 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Whenever I'm channel-surfing and come across this movie I almost always will stop whatever I'm doing to watch that scene. That was one of the best surprises in movie history, assuming you hadn't already been spoiled before you saw it. It never gets old.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:24 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Isn't this the one where they literally made the sharks smarter by making their brains bigger?

"Take me back to the ghetto!"
posted by selfnoise at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]




his hat is like a Shark's fin
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I remember feeling dumber after watching this movie.

I know because immeduately after the world's most poorly cgi'd shark popped out of the water, my friends and I had to pause the movie because we were literally rolling on the floor laughing.

That scene was a winner, at least. :)

Isn't this the one where they literally made the sharks smarter by making their brains bigger?

Yes. They were harvesting shark brains to cure Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or something, and they figured... shark brains are good, so *more* shark brains would be better. Then they took great pains to make most of the facility shark-accessible, possibly in some terrible misreading of disability access requirements in building codes. (Possibly they were worried that the sharks would now be smart enough to sue them if they didn't.)
posted by mordax at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


The scene!

This was basically all I remembered clearly about this movie, besides the omelette scene and the fact that the hero-lady sacrificed herself at the end for no reason I could discern.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:05 PM on December 11, 2014


So... no one besides me watched it just to see Thomas Jane in a wetsuit?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2014


I think, also, "that scene" came when Jackson had kinda hit a new level of, well, stardom, and had had a lot of recent roles as a bad motherfucker - Pulp Fiction, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Jackie Brown, The Negotiator, even The Phantom Menace. And his character here was pretty much a bad motherfucker, too, so to have him just CHOMPED out of nowhere had that extra kick of something you really weren't expecting, 'cause at this point Samuel L. Jackson just does not play the kind of dude who gets chomped out of nowhere in the middle of the film.


the fact that the hero-lady sacrificed herself at the end for no reason I could discern.

Having watched this more than once (I too have a soft spot for well-constructed self-aware schlock), I'm still not 100% sure that Burrows' character really thought she was gonna die. And in the "17 Fun Facts" link, Harlin admits that they changed the end after screen testing 'cause the audience disliked the character so much and felt she deserved to pay for all the trouble she caused.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't help but feel that Samuel L Jackson enjoyed having his character eaten by the shark. And yeah, soundguy99, you're right. I do remember part of the surprise being who he was as an actor at that time. The audience expected him to survive.

Then there's LL Cool J's strange one man journey. "Moment of burgeoning intimacy." Heh.

This hasn't aged nearly as badly as I expected. I've certainly seen comparable CGI in current movies. The religion > science trope was heavier than I remembered.

We're all in agreement that the sharks were the good guys though, right? If you're the victim of kidnapping and illegal medical experimentation, your duty is to escape by means necessary, isn't it? More or less like Taken.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


The audience expected him to survive.

Probably only that portion of the audience who weren't up on the latest showbiz gossip. IIRC, it had been reported that Samuel L. Jackson had walked off the set and left the filmmakers scrambling to figure out a way to deal with that within the context of the movie. What I'm not sure was publicly known is how they had decided to do it. It probably worked out for the better as far as entertainment value but I think the filmmakers really intended to take a crap on Jackson by killing his character off in such a ridiculous way.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2014


I've certainly seen comparable CGI in current movies.

There's less cgi than you might think... Mostly they used robot sharks. Like Bruce from Jaws but self contained and free swimming. Basically bitey miniature robot submarines.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2014


17 Fun Facts About Deep Blue Sea

Finally got around to reading that and was surprised to find the director said he'd planned to kill Jackson's character off all along. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing that Jackson was dissatisfied with the way the filming was going and he left earlier than he was supposed to. Maybe that was just the cover story at the time to maintain the surprise?
posted by fuse theorem at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2014


17 Fun Facts About Deep Blue Sea

That was neat. I may need to give the movie another watch to see how noticeable some of the details and special effects are, and I'm impressed by the story about LL Cool J.
posted by mordax at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Basically bitey miniature robot submarines.

At 26 feet long and 8000 pounds, I dunno if "miniature" is the first word that would come to mind . . . . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 9:52 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, I love this movie. It's basically a huge-budget b-movie, but it's inventive as hell at times. I forced my roommate to watch it recently. For the first 20(?) minutes or so she was rolling her eyes and asking why we were watching it. Then Stellan SkarsgÄrd lost his arm and she was pumping her fist in the air through the rest of the movie.

I remember some critic or another saying that the sharks would have been outside the portholes taunting the humans and making faces if it had fit the tone of the film. Pretty much.

"You ate my bird."
posted by brundlefly at 11:36 PM on December 12, 2014


IIRC, it had been reported that Samuel L. Jackson had walked off the set and left the filmmakers scrambling to figure out a way to deal with that within the context of the movie.

I would be surprised. Jackson had been acting onscreen for at least 27 years at that point , has manifestly worked steadily since, and he doesn't seem to have a reputation for tantrums. He has certainly stuck it out to the end in many films a lot less watchable than this one. I have noticed, though, that any prominent character who does not survive to the end of any film seems to generate rumours that the actor walked off the set or demanded to be written out (as though films were written as they were shot and all scenes filmed in chronological order: it is a widespread belief that Alec Guinness, for example, demanded that George Lucas kill off Kenobi half-way through Star Wars because he had had enough).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:11 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


How Did This Get Made podcast: Deep Blue Sea
"Is this his bird, or just a bird that he's been saddled with?"
"Has anyone considered that the bird might be a figment of his imagination?"
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2015


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