Deep Blue Sea (1999)
By: Andrew Gillies on April 5, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Village Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1 English DD 2.0 Subtitles. English (FHI) 101 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring:Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L Jackson
Screenplay: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
Country: USA
There was a long period after Jaws was released when no decent shark movie had been made. There were really cheesy Italian shark shockers, but nothing compared to Spielberg's 70's classic. So when Renny Harlin released his shark thriller Deep Blue Sea, there were some mixed emotions. I found that people either loved it or hated it and fell into the trap of comparing it to Jaws. I personally loved it. The sharks were big, bad and scary, the characters were appealing, and the setting was just plain claustrophobic. Deep Blue Sea had a perfect scenario for a shark themed horror.

Deep Blue Sea centres on a group of scientists who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease by testing on genetically altered mako sharks in an isolated floating research lab in the middle of the sea. The sharks are now bigger, smarter and faster. Naturally, a severe storm and the sharks manage to destroy parts of the floating lab, causing it to slowly sink, with the sharks escaping their pens. Now the survivors must try to escape the sinking lab, without getting eaten by the sharks that seem to be hunting them one by one.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I loved this movie. The premise, which was completely bastardised by Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, (altered animals and scientists on a mission for good) was something new and very story driven. These sharks weren't just mindless and evil; they were genetically altered to be bigger and better. The scientists, although breaking every known ethical code, had a moral obligation to Alzheimer's sufferers, which made the story more sympathetic. Deep Blue Sea was story motivated as well as action packed.

Renny Harlin early on in his career made movies like Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and moved on to direct some major box office action flicks like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger (as the cover of the DVD will surely tell you). Harlin has always chosen the films he likes, which is good because then you know you're getting a well thought out and loved movie. Deep Blue Sea is one of these movies. Harlin obviously wanted to make this a great thrill ride for the audience, and set out to secure the right actors and technology to make this film work. Harlin's mistake in Deep Blue Sea however, was the inclusion of really bad CGI effects. The animatronic sharks were brilliant, worked well, and looked realistic (except that tiger shark, I don't know what they were thinking with that). When those sharks couldn't perform, the CGI composites did. Some of these effects were just plain horrible. They were too unrealistic, and ruined the otherwise high quality production value. (Harlin fell into this same trap with his recent Exorcist: The Beginning) Certain death scenes weren't nearly as effective because they looked unbelievably bad. Of course, some of the other scenes where the animatronic sharks are used are effective and look great.

The characters in the film are surprisingly enjoyable and didn't become tiresome. I'm sure there are those who hated LL Cool J, but I found his presence to be a well-needed comic relief. For a movie that relied on scaring the audience, he maintained the lighter aspects of the movie, making it that little bit more enjoyable. Samuel L Jackson pretty much reigns supremely over anything he does, and I've always been a fan of Michael Rapaport, but maybe it's the way he speaks. The rest of the cast, including Australian Jacqueline McKenzie all put on a performance to help enhance the movie.

The film's music is by Trevor Rabin, and he does an impressive job creating an aquatic shark theme, that is different to Jaws, but still enables the audience to feel a sense of claustrophobia. The music works well, because it really does give the movie that aquatic ocean feel to it, yet also suggest a sense of dread or impending doom. Harlin did what many others would have failed at; resurrect the shark movie without copying Jaws. The movie was well paced, had a good storyline, characters, effects (except some bad CGI) and because of this, worked well. Deep Blue Sea is a personal favourite.
Village Roadshow have always left an impressionable mark in my mind. Their transfers are always top notch and of great quality. Deep Blue Sea is presented in its glorious 2.35:1 aspect ratio, enhanced anamorphically. The print is pristine and clean. Grain is minimal; in fact I barely noticed it. There were some few occasions when print blemishes were present, but these are minor and are not lasting, and an untrained eye wouldn't notice them. The colour is rich and vibrant with the overall tone of the film is blue, and so characters present a just contradiction of colours. The blood is a strong and very visual red, making it pleasing on the eyes. However, due to the outstanding print quality, the sometimes bad CGI sharks are more noticeable, which can be a little disappointing at times.
This is one of, if not the best audio tracks I have heard for a film on DVD. Deep Blue Sea is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and it is really effective. The opening of the movie, with its wonderful score, is heard clearly and sets the tone straight away. The dialogue comes through very audibly, and background noises do not muffle it. The side and rear speakers are used brilliantly, it sounds as if you're inside a sinking vessel. Nuts and bolts literally fly across the room, water spills into your living area, and the walls creak and slowly deteriorate due to pressure. The film is supported by outstanding sound and music, and the DVD stays true to the cinematic experience. Deep Blue Sea has some great sound, and Roadshow have delivered the highest quality for this release.
Extra Features
To start the DVD off is a commentary with Director Renny Harlin and Samuel L Jackson. Unfortunately they were not recorded together, but they are both scene specific. Renny Harlin goes into some good detail about the hows and whys, whereas Jackson reveals some nice trivia about fellow cast and how he and Harlin know each other professionally. The commentary track can be a little weak at some points, because neither person has anyone to bounce ideas and a conversation off. Jackson even signs off after an hour, leaving Harlin to fly solo. Overall it's a decent commentary track, and worth a listen.
There are two featurettes, "When Sharks Attack" and "The Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea." The first is a nifty yet relatively short making of feature, with cast and crew interviews. The second details the sharks used in the movie, and how they created them, from the animatronics to the CGI effects. It's a fun feature, but what makes it even funnier (or scarier) is that Renny Harlin honestly believes the CGI is so good that people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the live action and CGI composites.
A short selection of deleted scenes with optional commentary is up next, and showcases the few scenes that were cut due to pacing. Don't expect much, it's only character driven, but still a nice addition to the DVD.

There are also biographies for the cast and crew, a stills gallery and a trailer for the film, which is pretty good.
The Verdict
Deep Blue Sea is well worth a view. Harlin has created a truly enjoyable and decent shark movie; something which is hard to do these days (in fact, the only other good recent shark film is Open Water). First timers will be scared, re-watchers like myself will still enjoy the story, and Roadshow's DVD comes with a great video and audio presentation, and a nice little collection of extras. Pity this was an early Roadshow release, when they still had revolting rear cover art.
Movie Score
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