Deep Blue Sea

* * 1/2*

One of the oldest adages in the monster movie is, Don't fool with Mother Nature. A slightly newer adage in Hollywood might be, Don't fool with Steven Spielberg. Deep Blue Sea flaunts both of those rules. And, despite a boatload of flaws, this ridiculous and derivative super-shark movie is downright fun.

Saffron Burrows stars as scientist Susan McAlester, a medical researcher who has discovered a potential cure for Alzheimer's in an extract from shark brains. Rather than take the time to hunt down enough sharks to provide ample brain material, she takes a shortcut. Using genetic engineering, she simply increases the size of the standard shark brain. While this does provide more serum, it has a side effect that even the most novice moviegoer can spot from miles ashore: smarter sharks.

Of course, these smart sharks wait until just the right moment to strike. McAlester's funding is in danger, and she has one final weekend to prove her findings. A company executive, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), accompanies her to her floating aquatic lab, where a ragtag skeleton crew is waiting to become shark food...I mean, waiting to demonstrate their theories. Oh yes, did I mention that a hurricane was also headed this way?

Needless to say, the sharks start swimming amok, and, through a contrived sequence of events, begin flooding the facility. Who will die? And in what grisly manner? Will it be the rugged shark wrangler, Carter Blake (Thomas Jane)? The wily engineer, Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport)? The quirky cook, "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J)? What about the token scientists (Stellan Skarsgard and Jacqueline McKenzie)? Anyone and everyone can feed the fish.

There is no rational reason anyone with any sense whatsoever would find enjoyment from this film. That said, Deep Blue Sea was surprisingly fun. Sure, there are plot holes large enough for a five-ton shark to swim through, and the dialogue is bad enough to make you root for the sharks, who happen to be the most multi-dimensional characters, anyway. But all those trifles just don't seem to matter as your heart races in anticipation of the next attack. Afterwards you may wonder, "What was I thinking?", but while the sharks are on the loose, the tides of the movie will sweep you away.

The shark movie, nay, the entire monster movie genre hasn't been the same since Steven Spielberg's Jaws. The genre movies that have worked the best in the intervening years have steered clear of the fins to minimize unflattering comparisons. Deep Blue Sea brazenly flouts tradition by bringing back the sharks. This is no Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, or even (shudder) Jaws 4: The Revenge. There's actually a sense of danger and excitement in Deep Blue Sea. While it comes nowhere close in comparison to the granddaddy of all shark films, it has its fair share of thrills.

Nitpickers will have a field day with Deep Blue Sea. How, for example, does the enlargement of shark brains somehow give them the biologically inexplicable ability to swim backwards? How can the sharks recognize the uses of objects, such as guns? How do they know the layout (and metallic composition) of the previously dry areas of the aquatic lab? If the new sharks supposedly hunt in packs, why do we only get to see one at a time? As expected, all these questions remain unanswered.

Its many flaws aside, Deep Blue Sea still has the scares, and they're enough to float this movie. The shark special effects are very good, and shockingly realistic. There are three super-sharks, and it would have been nice to be able to tell them apart in some way. But, really, the sharks are just a menacing force to provide some impetus to the action; excess personality would have been wasted.

Unlike Jaws, this one will never be looked upon as a classic. However, like its predecessor, Deep Blue Sea will scare aplenty. Afterwards, you may shake your head in disbelief, but while the teeth are chomping up the screen, the film is a hoot.

[R - graphic shark attacks, and for language] (WB)


Reader Comments:
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aghaw (anonymous)
07/10/99
dbs
(anonymous)
07/20/99
Deep Blue Sea

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