If this past summer's 'Piranha 3D' (one of my personal favorites from the solstice months) taught us anything, it's that it's never too late to shamelessly rip off 'Jaws.' While Renny Harlin's 'Deep Blue Sea' isn't quite that recent (it was made way back in the heady days of the late 1990s), it still sticks to the central conceit of 'Jaws' quite literally. Mostly that big sharks are still really, really scary.
But in truth, this film acts like a genetic combination of two Spielberg classics – not only does it have the element of toothy underwater menace, but it also borrows liberally from Spielberg's theme park run amok classic 'Jurassic Park.' In the film, a team of brainy, ethics-challenged scientists (led by Saffron Burrows, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Harlin's then-recent-ex-wife Geena Davis) monkey around with shark DNA in an effort to cure Alzheimer's (or something). The result? Super-smart sharks that are incredibly pissed off.
Of course, all hell breaks loose when a number of 'Jurassic Park's' plot details converge: there's the inspection by the moneyed CEO (in 'Park' it was Richard Attenborough, here it's Samuel L. Jackson - Jurassic Park's IT guy), a concerted effort by the zoological specimens to test the fences and an impending tropical storm that leaves the inhabitants of the underwater lab (which looks less like a futuristic compound than a holdover from the set of 'Waterworld') stranded.
In disaster movie fashion, the cast is rounded out by a cast of colorful characters – there's LL Cool J as an impassioned chef (yes, really), Stellan Skarsgard as a fellow doctor (clearly somebody just needed to pick up the paycheck and go), Michael Rapaport as a techy guy, and Thomas Jane as an ex-con shark wrangler (it's his storied past that will keep him alive, you see).
'Deep Blue Sea,' for all its B-movie cheesiness, is a surprisingly efficient little entertainment, way better than it has any right to be. When the sharks are actually there – big, hulking mechanical marvels – they're generally fearsome. When they're swimming around, in prototypical computer generated wizardry, is less convincing. They zip through the water like fighter jets. There's little sense of resistance or even weight; slow it down and you could practically count the pixels.
Thankfully, the movie was rated R, so a healthy amount of cast members are gobbled up and spit out as a plume of red seawater, and Harlin, a director whose credits include the underrated 'Long Kiss Goodnight,' knows how to handily stage large scale suspense and action set pieces. While the script might be a Frankenstein's monster hodgepodge of different movies, comic books, and fevered dreams of Jacques Cousteau, the movie moves along nicely (like a shark in the water, you might say – but I won't), satisfying almost all your needs for this kind of junky B-movie trash.
Watching 'Deep Blue Sea' again made me realize how little I ever need to see 'Deep Blue Sea' again, though. Sure, there are some fun things here and there and it features one of my favorite deaths in the last few years, but it's mostly forgettable chum. By the time the credits finish rolling, you'll probably have forgotten all about 'Deep Blue Sea.' It's dissolved, like blood in the deep blue sea.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Deep Blue Sea' swims onto high definition with a 50GB Blu-ray disc that is Region Free.
This disc's VC-1 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 2.40:1) is a workmanlike transfer that probably won't blow you away, but it isn't any slouch either.
You'll probably first notice the significant amount of grain on the transfer, which never becomes too overbearing and adds a nice level of genuineness to a movie that, thanks to its never-ending action sequences and questionable special effects, always threatens to look like a made-for-Syfy Channel release.
Additionally, skin tones look good, black levels are reasonable deep, and I didn't notice any glitchy technical issues but there may have been some (this isn't exactly the sharpest transfer you'll ever see). Basically, this is your typical upgrade-to-Blu-ray transfer, terribly evocative of the way Warner Bros treats its catalogue stuff – reasonably well done, not exactly eye-popping, but a step up from standard definition where it counts.
Oh, but the sharks look even phonier in high definition. Definitely a minus.
Faring somewhat better is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This thing is always doing something, and while that "something" is (again) like the video track, not exactly jaw-dropping, it's still impressive none-the-less.
The movie starts out with a brief action sequence, with a small boat being attacked by a shark that has gotten out of the research facility. And right off the bat you understand how much oomph this mix packs. It's not reference-quality by any stretch of the imagination, but it is solid and muscular and a clear step up from the original DVD audio.
Thankfully, there are a number of big, meaty action and suspense set pieces (there's even a helicopter crash!), and you get a nice sense of dimension, space, and direction, with this mix. Things fly overheard and right by you, explosions rumble with appropriately hearty bass, and the dialogue (what little there is) is well prioritized for the front channels, never being drowned out by the chaos that surrounds it.
Those looking for some real vibrancy will not be disappointed. This isn't a perfect mix, but it is quite good. And much better than the video side of things.
Additionally, there are French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks and subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Bulgarian, Coratian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Korean, Norwegian, Romanian and Swedish (whew).
All of the extras presented here are rehashed and warmed over from the original DVD release. But this is mostly okay. I'm not sure there are many retrospective opportunities to have with this mostly forgettable flick. Like most Warner Bros catalogue releases, the extras haven't been bumped up to high definition.
'Deep Blue Sea' is by no means a genre classic. It's a fairly straightforward, fairly junky combination of 'Jurassic Park,' 'Jaws' and countless other B-movie throwbacks, and if you're into that sort of thing, then you'll probably get a kick out of the movie. It's certainly better than it has any right to be. And while I question the rewatchability of the film (it certainly hasn't aged well in the decade since its release), it has strong, workmanlike audio and video and a decent-enough collection of extras (all holdovers from the original DVD release). You could certainly do a lot worse! Worth a look.