Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Deep Blue Sea (1999) — This article was originally published on on 2 September 2011.

Today the film Shark Night 3D opens. I mentioned last week that I was pretty stoked about this, mostly because I remember how much fun last year’s Piranha 3D was. More 3D boobs and blood (or tits and teeth, if you will) sound like a good time at the movies. Then I found out that the film is rated PG-13. That means no nudity, gratuitous or otherwise. That means not much in the way of blood. My two main motivations to see the movie were neutered. There is a possibility that Shark Night 3D maintains a sense of campy fun, but without the aforementioned alliterative attributes (boobs and blood) I really doubt it. It might still be checking out for the sharks. Even in bad movies, shark attacks tend to be fun. In case you didn’t read the article title, this article is not about Shark Night 3D. This is about Deep Blue Sea.

Vegan police! Freeze!

I attended a MiDNiTES 4 MANiACS triple feature last week. The moderator (and my former history of film professor) Jesse Hawthorne Ficks talked about what he likes to call “neo-sincerity.” While “irony got us through the 90s” it’s time to like thing again just because we actually like them. I’ve said before I’m not even sure I know what people mean when they say they like something “ironically.” Jesse says there really should be no such thing as a “guilty pleasure.” I agree, I’m just too lazy to think of a new name for these articles. I do sincerely enjoy the hell out of Deep Blue Sea. It’s a movie that its fair share of flaws but it is a hell of a lot of fun. It is missing the former part of the “boobs and blood” formula but keeps the later coming and contains what is, in my humble opinion, the single greatest onscreen movie death of all time.

Mmmm… Swedish food…

The plot of the film actually has more than a few similarities to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Tonally they could not be more different. Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes you empathize with the apes and at least one scene with a gorilla made my eyes tear up (if you’ve seen the movie, you should know which one). You don’t so much feel for the sharks in Deep Blue Sea. The premise is that Saffron Burrows and Stellan Skarsgård are scientists who are harvesting a brain chemical from sharks that could cure Alzheimer’s disease. Samuel L. Jackson plays the CEO who is going to cut off their funding, but is dissuaded from doing so pending a tour of their facility. The hitch is that the facility is in the middle of the ocean and is largely underwater. Oh yeah, and in order to harvest more of the brain chemical Burrows engineered the sharks to have larger brains. As a “side effect” they got smarter.

Samuel L. Jackson: The L stands for “Motherfucking”

This entire paragraph is a spoiler. Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you are unaware of Deep Blue Sea’s most famous scene. Granted a film about hyper-intelligent sharks is not meticulously plotted or anything, but this paragraph is dedicated to a scene that works best as a surprise. If you didn’t know, you’ve been warned. The main scene that people remember about Deep Blue Sea is one in which the survivors of the initial shark attack go to the submersible bay to find the submersible smashed and useless. They are at the point of despair when two horrible ideas of escape are proposed. Samuel L. Jackson’s plan involves swimming to the surface. It has been established that Jackson is something of an outdoorsman and has been deep sea diving before. He also has faced life-threatening hardship before on a mountain-climbing expedition that proved fatal for some of his companions. He knows danger and he has survived it. He tells the others that they will do what they have to do to survive, and he says it with the authority of a man who knows what he is talking about. Then a fucking shark jumps out of the pool and eats him. The biggest star of the movie and one of the major characters, not to mention the guy with the survival skills, just got ate the fuck up. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is. Tom Jane even warns him a minute earlier not to stand so close to the water. It’s still surprising. Hell, even if you’ve seen the movie ten times (oh, and I have) it’s still a good jump.

So why “guilty pleasure” and not just “awesome fucking action movie?” Well, the film has some pretty serious flaws. The dialogue is pretty fucking awful, start to finish, which leads me to the issue of LL Cool J. Now, I generally like LL Cool J as an actor. Plus I would rather not bad-mouth him lest his mama instruct him to knock me out. Actually the first several times I saw this movie I don’t remember hating his character so much, but this last time he bugged the hell out of me. He plays a cook, nicknamed Preacher due to his overt religiousness. Now religious people don’t bug me per se, but Preacher is the kind of guy who has a constant one way conversation going to with God and that really gets old over the course of the movie. Plus he has one line in the movie where he says “take me back to the ghetto.” In Hollywood are they aware that black people come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds? Nothing else about his character (or LL Cool J’s general persona) indicates that he’s particularly “street.” Not content to merely be annoying in the film itself, Mr. James Todd Smith also contributes the end credits song “Deepest Bluest (Shark Fin)” in case you’ve ever wondered what the worst aquatic rap song of all time is.


Despite its flaws, Deep Blue Sea is a hell of a lot of fun. It doesn’t skimp on the shark-induced carnage (as a PG-13 film would). While there is no gratuitous nudity, a woman does strip down to her underwear for no good reason (there is a reason, it’s just not very good). While the movie is mostly just trashy fun, it does actually do a pretty great job of subverting expectations for who will survive and who won’t. That’s partially because at the last minute they changed a couple characters around so someone who was going to live died and someone who was going to die lived. I think this is one of those films though where its flaws almost make the movie more likable. The only thing more this movie really needed was Sam Jackson shouting “That’s it! Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these motherfucking super-intelligent sharks in this motherfucking underwater research facility!” Where were you when we needed you, internet?


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