More noise than signal

Deep Blue Sea

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

In rather stark contrast to JawsDeep Blue Sea has no problem showing you its wares early on, opening with a shark attack on a group of teens foiled only by the quick thinking and rugged good looks of Thomas Jane’s Carter Blake, Shark Wrangler extraordinaire. But who would have sufficient sharks as to require a full-time wrangler?

That would be Saffron Burrows’ Dr. Susan McAlester, a researcher into potential cures for Alzheimer’s disease who we’re introduced to as she’s being hauled over the coals by financial backer Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), who threatens to shut her down due to the negative PR something like shark attacks cause. She convinces him to give her one last shot – come with her to the offshore research complex and witness first-hand the experiment’s success. Franklin agrees, and they chopper off to the island for the weekend, passing the bulk of the base’s personnel going in the opposite direction, home for the weekend.

A skeleton staff remain, but apparently still all that are required to actually do experiments are here, so I think there’s some degree of overstaffing here. Aida Turturro’s Brenda works in the comms tower, Michael Rapaport’s Tom Scoggins seems to handle all the engineering duties, while Stellan Skarsgård’s Jim and Jacqueline McKenzie’s Janice assist McAlester with experiments. LL Cool J’s Preacher rounds out the team as the chef.

The facility is being used to harvest brain cells from sharks in order to treat human neurones, however McAlester hides the secret of quite how she’s able to harvest so many brain cells. It seems that their experiment has worked, but Jim lingers a little too long and a little too close to an irritated shark, losing an arm for his carelessness.

His evacuation by chopper comes a cropper when, due to an unfortunately timed wild storm, the helicopter crashes into the facility, causing enough damage to uncage the facility’s three sharks. They soon appear to be behaving smarter than your average shark, but the pickinic basket these aquatic bastards are after is made of scientist flesh. Fictional doctor McAlester has been genetically modifying the sharks, in direct contravention of the fictional Harvard Compact, which I think was the original name for Facebook.

Can Carter and company escape the rapidly deteriorating facility and the ultra-smart sharks that are out for vengeance, or will most of them reap their gene-meddling harvest, those God-defying arrogant sciencefolk, evilest of all the evils?

And so it goes, in a fashion closer to generic explicit slasher film than Jaws more reserved, suggestive take. Deep Blue Sea does not skimp on the violence, and from a modern standpoint I’ve no idea if this as ever to be taken seriously. I’ve only ever seen this as a Scream-like parody of the genre, and as such find this quite funny in a number of places.

If, however, I was supposed to be taking LL Cool J killing a shark with an oven because it ate his parrot seriously, then Deep Blue Sea fails hard. Now, I’ve given this film the level of research it deserves, which is to say cursory, but what interviews I’ve seen imply that this was a serious attempt at a thriller. I reject this reality and replace it with my own, which is that it’s a collection of entertainingly ludicrous set-pieces with a similarly ludicrous concept, and as such find this rather amusing indeed.

The cast are fine, although no-one’s being stretched, apart from their CG doubles when the CG sharks get them. This is perhaps the element that ages it most, as while I lose track of convincing it would be compared to its contemporaries, it’s charmingly naff now. Still better than the likes of Sharknado, though. It’s saved from being entirely laughable by some pretty decent water tank work, proving that there’s really no substitute for nearly drowning a few stuntfolk in the convincingnessicity stakes.

This is a dumb film, and I’m not going to tell you it’s good. But it is entertaining, and that’s enough to make it worth watching. The likes of Sharknado and Megashark vs Whatever may have hammered the joke into the ground, but Deep Blue Sea got there first and did it better. Possibly entirely by accident, but who cares about that?