ⓘ Deep Blue Sea (1999 film)

Deep Blue Sea (1999 film)

ⓘ Deep Blue Sea (1999 film)

Deep Blue Sea is a 1999 American science fiction horror film directed by Renny Harlin. It stars Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, and rapper LL Cool J. Set in an isolated underwater facility, the film follows a team of scientists and their research on mako sharks to help fight Alzheimers disease. The situation plunges into chaos when multiple genetically engineered sharks go on a rampage and flood the facility.

Deep Blue Sea had a budget of $82 million and represented a test for Harlin, who had not made a commercially successful film since Cliffhanger in 1993. The film was primarily shot at Fox Baja Studios in Rosarito, Mexico, where the production team constructed sets above the large water tanks that had been built for James Camerons 1997 film Titanic. Although Deep Blue Sea features some shots of real sharks, most of the sharks used in the film were either animatronic or computer generated. Trevor Rabin composed the film score; LL Cool J contributed two songs to the film: "Deepest Bluest Sharks Fin" and "Say What".

Released in theaters during the film industrys summer season, Deep Blue Sea was a moderate commercial success, grossing more than $73 million in the United States and Canada, and $164 million worldwide. The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, who praised its suspense, pacing, and action sequences. Criticism was targeted at its unoriginality and B movie conventions. Retrospectively, Deep Blue Sea has been regarded as a successful shark film, especially within a limited genre that has been dominated by Steven Spielbergs 1975 thriller Jaws. A direct-to-video sequel, Deep Blue Sea 2, was released in 2018.


1. Plot

In a remote underwater facility, doctors Susan McAlester and Jim Whitlock are doing research on mako sharks to help in the re-activation of dormant human brain cells like those found in Alzheimers disease patients. After one of the sharks escapes the facility and attempts to attack a boat full of young adults, financial backers send corporate executive Russell Franklin to investigate the facility. Susan and Jim prove their research is working by testing a certain protein complex that was removed from the brain tissue of their largest shark, which bites off Jims right arm upon awakening in the laboratory. Brenda Kerns, the towers operator, calls a helicopter to evacuate Jim, but as he is being lifted, the cable jams and it causes Jim to fall into the shark pen. The largest shark grabs the stretcher and pulls the helicopter into the tower, killing Brenda and the pilots, as well as causing massive explosions that severely damage the facility.

In the laboratory, Susan, Russell, wrangler Carter Blake, marine biologist Janice Higgins, and engineer Tom Scoggins witness the shark smash the stretcher against the laboratorys main window, which then shatters, drowning Jim and flooding the facility. The group goes to the facilitys wet entry, where they plan to take a submersible to escape. Susan confesses to the others that she and Jim genetically engineered the sharks to increase their brain size, as they were not large enough to harvest sufficient amounts of the protein complex; this had the side effect of making them smarter and more deadly. When the group reaches the wet entry, they discover that the submersible has been damaged. While delivering a monologue emphasizing the need for group unity, Russell is dragged into the submersible pool by one of the sharks and devoured.

The remaining crew opts to climb up the elevator shaft at the risk of destabilizing the pool. As they climb, explosive tremors cause the ladder to break, and Janice loses her grip and falls into the shark-infested water. Despite Carters attempt to save her, one of the two remaining sharks drags Janice under, killing and devouring her. In the facilitys kitchen, which has been partially flooded, cook Sherman "Preacher" Dudley, whose parrot is devoured in the process, manages to kill the first shark with an explosion. He then makes his way to the elevator shaft, where he encounters Carter, Tom, and Susan. Carter and Tom go to the flooded laboratory to activate a control panel that drains a stairway to the surface, while Susan heads to her room to collect her research material. Carter and Tom reach the control panel, but the largest shark storms in, killing and ripping Tom apart, and sabotaging the controls. In the other room, Susan encounters another shark, and electrocutes it with a power cable, destroying her research in the process.

After regrouping, Carter, Susan, and Preacher go to a decompression chamber, and swim to the surface. Carter realizes that the sharks made them flood the facility, so they could escape through the weaker mesh fences at the surface. Preacher is grabbed by the last shark, but is released when he stabs the shark in the eye with his crucifix, though he escapes with injuries to his leg. In an effort to distract the shark from escaping to the open sea, Susan cuts herself and dives into the water. Although she manages to distract the shark, she is unable to get out of the water, and is devoured, despite Carters efforts to save her. While Carter is grabbing hold of the sharks dorsal fin, Preacher shoots the shark with a harpoon, but also pierces Carters thigh. As the shark breaks through the fence, Carter orders Preacher to connect the trailing wire to a battery, sending an electric current through the wire and to an explosive charge in the harpoon, killing the shark. In the end, Carter reveals that he had managed to free himself in time, and joins Preacher to see a workers boat en route on the horizon.


2. Cast

  • Aida Turturro as Brenda Kerns
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Jim Whitlock
  • LL Cool J as Sherman "Preacher" Dudley
  • Thomas Jane as Carter Blake
  • Jacqueline McKenzie as Janice "Jan" Higgins
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Russell Franklin
  • Michael Rapaport as Tom Scoggins
  • Saffron Burrows as Dr. Susan McAlester

3.1. Production Development

The story of Deep Blue Sea was conceived by Australian screenwriter Duncan Kennedy after he witnessed a "horrific" shark attack on a beach near his home. The tragedy contributed to a recurring nightmare of him "being in a passageway with sharks that could read his mind". This motivated him to write a spec script, while acknowledging the challenge of approaching a shark film without repeating Steven Spielbergs 1975 thriller Jaws. Although Warner Bros. bought the script in late 1994, actual development on the project did not start until two years later. When Renny Harlin was chosen to direct the film, Kennedys screenplay, which had already been re-written by several writers at Warner Bros., was presented to Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, who turned it into the films final script. According to Wayne, "The movie became essentially what we wrote. The draft we were first presented by Or then things that you hope would float actually sink and you cant find them anywhere."


3.2. Production Music

The film score for Deep Blue Sea was composed by Trevor Rabin. Rabins music ranges from orchestral and choral arrangements to electronic soundscapes, and was noted for its use of both dramatic and easily accessible themes. The soundtrack features two songs by LL Cool J - "Deepest Bluest Sharks Fin" and "Say What" - which were used in the end credits. Two soundtrack albums were also released for the film. The first album, Deep Blue Sea: Music from the Motion Picture, was released on August 3, 1999 by Warner Bros. Records and features a set of hip hop and R&B tracks by several artists, including Hi-C, Cormega, and Bass Odyssey. The second album, Deep Blue Sea: Original Motion Picture Score, was released on August 24, 1999 by Varese Sarabande and contains musical tracks by Rabin.


4.1. Release Theatrical run

Deep Blue Sea performed well when it opened on July 30, 1999 in 2.854 theaters, finishing third and grossing around $18.6 million at the US weekend box office. During its second weekend, the film grossed an estimated $11 million and finished in fifth place, behind The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, Runaway Bride, and The Thomas Crown Affair. Overall, Deep Blue Sea went on to make $73.648.142 in the United States and Canada, and $164.648.142 worldwide. The films performance was compared to Stephen Sommerss The Mummy and Jan de Bonts The Haunting, which had a similar budget and made a significant impact on the box office in the summer of 1999.


4.2. Release Critical response

Deep Blue Sea received generally mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 60%, based on 112 reviews. The critics consensus reads, Deep Blue Sea is no Jaws, but action fans seeking some toothy action can certainly do - and almost certainly have done - far worse for B-movie thrills." On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale. Writing for Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and praised it as "a skillful thriller", saying that Deep Blue Sea "is essentially one well-done action sequence after another surprise". He concluded that the film keeps spectators guessing in an otherwise predictable genre.

In a positive review, Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times considered Deep Blue Sea a return to form for Harlin, especially after the "dismal swamps" of Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight. He described the film as "an example of how expert action filmmaking and up-to-the-minute visual effects can transcend a workmanlike script and bring excitement to conventional genre material". Similarly, Desson Howe of The Washington Post remarked that, while the films premise feels familiar, it "knows its audience and knows whatll get them going – and even wondering". He said that Deep Blue Sea might not be Harlins finest two hours, but he managed to build "something that, if nothing else, gives you a great big shock every few minutes". In a three-and-a-half out of four review, Robert Lasowski of The Florida Times-Union highly praised the films pacing, intense action, and chase scenes, stating that Deep Blue Sea is "a great popcorn movie" and "what summer at the cineplex is all about".

Other reviews were less enthusiastic. Writing for The New York Times, Stephen Holden described Deep Blue Sea as "a cut-rate Titanic stripped of romance and historical resonance and fused with Jaws, shorn of mythic symbolism and without complex characters", while Barbara Shulgasser of Chicago Tribune criticized it for being an inferior imitation of Jurassic Park, but praised LL Cool Js performance and the films realistic setting. Ian Nathan of the British magazine Empire gave the film three out of five stars and criticized its B movie conventions, stating that "Youre never entirely sure whether youre laughing at or with Deep Blue Sea." Variety reviewer Robert Koehler felt the computer generated sharks were inconsistently realized, but nevertheless highlighted the flooding of the facility very positively. The dialogue between action sequences was also praised, especially LL Cool Js "blend of Bible talk, smack and wit". Despite his few lines, Jane was seen as a charismatic character and "a genuine new action star".


4.3. Release Home media

Deep Blue Sea was first released on DVD on December 7, 1999, courtesy of Warner Home Video. Special features include the film in a 2.35:1 anamorphic format, two behind-the-scene featurettes, five deleted scenes with extended dialogue and relationships between the characters, and an audio commentary in which Harlin and Jackson discuss the films technical features and special effects. Warner also released the film on Blu-ray on October 12, 2010, which includes the same special features from the DVD release.


5. Legacy

In a 2016 retrospective, Wired editor Brian Raftery considered Deep Blue Sea "the greatest non- Jaws shark movie of all time" and superior to Jaume Collet-Serras The Shallows. He remarked that, within a genre that had been dominated by Jaws, Deep Blue Sea features "genuinely inventive" action sequences, "nicely rounded-out, human" characters, and memorable death scenes. Raftery also noted that the film was among the last of its kind, describing it as from action ace Renny Harlin." In 2015, Den of Geek!, a publication of Dennis Publishing, ranked Deep Blue Sea only behind Jaws and credited it for its action-packed scenes and intelligent sharks. In 2017, Slant Magazine ranked it seventh and highlighted Jacksons death scene and LL Cool Js performance, while Complex ranked it third, praising its talented actors and tight action sequences. A direct-to-video sequel, Deep Blue Sea 2, was released in 2018.

In mid 2019, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Deep Blue Sea, the Screamfest Horror Film Festival hosted a screening at the TCL Chinese theaters in Hollywood, California, as part of its "Fears & Beers" program. Cast members including actor Thomas Jane attended for a post-screening Q&A moderated by Brian Collins of Birth.Movies.Death.

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