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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 12/16/99



Deep Blue Sea
1999 (1999) - Warner Bros.

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Deep Blue Sea Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B

Specs and Features

105 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 55:26, in chapter 17), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary with director Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson, 5 deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette When Sharks Attack!, FX featurette The Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea, theatrical trailer, cast & crew bios, stills gallery, DVD-ROM features (Internet access to a pair of essays, the film's theatrical web site, and trailers from other similar Warner films - none of it is actually on the disc), animated film-themed menus with music, scene access (33 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Close Captioned


Franklin: "What does an 8,000 pound Mako shark with the brain the size of a flat-head V8 engine and no natural predators think about?"

Blake: "I'm not waiting around here to find out."

Okay… here's the bait: Samuel L. Jackson plays Russell Franklin - one of the richest men in the world (think Bill Gates, only cooler and with a bigger set of you-know-whats). Franklin's one of those rich guys who likes to invest his money in scientific research that might pay off financially, so he's bank-rolling the efforts of a pair of scientists, played by Saffron Burrows and Stellan Skarsgård. They're working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease, using a protein only found in the brains of sharks. But there's been a recent "incident" with one of the sharks, so Franklin decides to pay a visit to the team's mid-Pacific research base, called Aquaria, to oversee his investment. Once there, he learns that normal sharks don't have big enough brains to produce sufficient quantities of the needed protein, so the scientists have bred bigger sharks (and I mean a LOT bigger). This is a B-movie, so naturally there's been some unexpected side-effects. Bigger brains means smarter sharks. And trust me when I say that bigger, smarter sharks are a real pain in the ass.

At last - a big budget Hollywood action flick that doesn't take itself seriously! I have to tell you, I'm not a huge fan of director Renny Harlin. But I really enjoyed Deep Blue Sea. This is a great B-movie. Better still, Harlin and his team knew that this was a B-movie going in, so they were able to play around with the conventions of the genre. The script is tongue-in-cheek with some classic dialogue, the twists are interesting, and the acting (such as it is) is plenty adequate. This is a decent cast in less than stellar roles, but it works for the most part. Jackson and Skarsgård are always good, and believe it or not, LL Cool J gives the most entertaining performance in the movie. Deep Blue Sea never pretends to be more than it is. And along the way, it delivers everything you'd expect from a good "science-gone-wrong" actioner, and even a few things you don't. In short… it's fun.

On DVD, Deep Blue Sea looks wonderful. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, and this transfer boasts really outstanding color, with little or no bleeding. Take a look at chapter 20 - the colors are rich and gorgeous, with deep reds and blues, and great detail. Notice the crisp reflections in the drops of water on the actors' faces. And the flesh tones are wonderfully accurate. The video also displays great contrast and nice detail in the blacks. Despite all the murky underwater photography, there's very little digital artifacting visible here, and only a hair of edge-enhancement. The print is generally of excellent quality. If I had any nits to pick, it's that the print looks a little soft a couple of times - the closing helicopter shot (behind the credits) in particular. But that's a tiny nit, man. All in all, the video looks terrific.

The 5.1 surround sound is also excellent here, with a very deep soundstage in the front and rear, and wonderful bass. The dialogue is at all times clear and natural, and the mix is loaded with fun little directional sound effects - some subtle and others sudden and thunderous. This is a film in which sound is extremely important in reinforcing the visuals. Scenes often take place underwater or in large, echo-prone rooms and chambers. And the presence of water causes sound to carry differently, which is nicely reflected in this mix. When Aquaria begins to collapse, you'll hear the groaning of over-stressed metal, the pinging of bursting rivets, and the icy crackling of safety glass. This is great movie sound on DVD.

As far as extras, this isn't exactly a loaded disc, but what you get is pretty decent. To start with, there's an interesting audio commentary track with director Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson. It feels a little odd at first, because the two were recorded separately, but it's surprisingly well edited and it works nicely. There's a lot of information conveyed, and Jackson is particularly fun to listen to. You also get a 15-minute documentary, When Sharks Attack!, that takes you behind-the-scenes on the making of the film, and an 8-minute featurette, The Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea, on how the shark effects were done. That's actually pretty interesting, because while the digital effects are fairly easy to spot, the anamatronic work (by veteran creature man Walt Conti) is truly amazing. Also included are 5 deleted scenes (with or without director's commentary), a trailer, cast & crew bios and a gallery of production photographs. The disc claims to have "additional enhancements" for DVD-ROMs, but what that really boils down to is a weblink to an Internet site that has a couple of things on it (but nothing really worth mentioning here - see the list above). None of it's actually on the disc itself.

I do have one complaint with this disc, and it's something I've seen with a number of recent Warner DVDs. I don't care for the way the studio labels the different sections on their discs. When you go to the "Special Features" menu, rather than the expected list of extras, you see a "Cast & Crew" selection, and another called "Decompression Chamber", with a little film reel icon next to it. Only by selecting that do you get to see a list of all of the extras. Why the confusing names and the extra page? My feeling is that Warner's tendency to call the sections on their DVDs by clever (but confusing) names makes it hard to navigate their discs. And I've heard this complaint from a number of Bits readers, so I know I'm not the only one who has trouble with this. Their recent Wizard of Oz: Collector's Edition is a perfect example of this. The disc is so hard to navigate, that the studio saw fit to include an instructional insert with the disc, telling you how to access the bonus material! Why not just list all of the special features on a page called "Special Features", and leave it at that? If you want to be clever, make the pages animated in interesting ways. But never sacrifice ease of use.

All in all, Deep Blue Sea is a damn fine DVD edition of a really fun flick. I saw this film in the theaters with the Bits' own Frank Ortiz (we couldn't get our wives to go), and we were really surprised at how much we enjoyed it. What's more, I liked it as much the second time around on DVD, while preparing this review. And my wife finally watched it with me this time, and she even enjoyed it. Make no mistake - Deep Blue Sea is definitely a B-movie, with all the flaws you'd expect from one. But if you go into it with that knowledge, I think you'll have a great time. Just do me one favor - don't look at any of the bonus materials before you watch the movie. You know how trailers sometimes give away too much information? Well these extras give everything away, and this is not a movie where you want all the plot twists ruined, 'cause trust me - there are a couple of really good surprises. Some fish you keep... and some you throw back. This disc's definitely a keeper.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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