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Junkfood Cinema: ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is the Deepest Bluest, Fin Shaped Leftover for Your Black Friday

By  · Published on November 25th, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood cinema; nature is lethal, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the McRib. Welcome to the feast of intellectual famine! For our first course, we will be serving skewered schlock seared over a hot flame of merciless ridicule. We will follow this with a round of genuine affection sweetened with just a suçon of my completely indiscriminate, and therefore dubious, taste. For dessert we will be serving an actual food, of the junk variety, paired thematically to the film. Hey, yesterday was Thanksgiving wasn’t it? It’s hard to tell here at JFC because we feast like manic depressive sea cows on a weekly basis. But now that you’ve had ample time to digest, and now that you’ve again worked up an appetite by spending all day hip-checking soccer moms to obtain $3 seasons of Cagney & Lacey on DVD, we horribly humbly submit another feeding frenzy for your destruction consideration.

Today’s Reheated Nugget: Deep Blue Sea.

What Makes It Bad?

Deep Blue Sea is a killer shark movie much like Jaws. Well, point of fact, it’s almost nothing like Jaws. Jaws is a film about exploring the universal, and deep-seeded fear of the unknown. Deep Blue Sea has genetically altered CG fish. Jaws was an experiment in low budget filmmaking that furthered the idea of creating atmosphere through clever withholding in service of its overlying theme. Deep Blue Sea has people gettin’ et up. And boy do they get et up epically. Some producer, who now likely works exclusively for the SyFy channel, was apparently quite miffed by the relative lack of explicit violence in Jaws. So now, armed with awkward, rubbery CG that wouldn’t fool Ray Charles’ even blinder grandson, he punishes the cast of this film by ripping their Sims avatars to bloody bits in savage shark attacks. An emotional gravitas you may be tricked into perceiving upon the death of any given character is ripped to shreds as we watch that character crassly…ripped to shreds. Only Lucio Fulci seems to hate his actors as much as does Renny Harlin; they are sinners in the mouth of an angry, shark-shaped God.

There’s a painful irony in the fact that a movie featuring a major plot device involving genetically enhanced brains is so irresponsibly idiotic. Disagree? Well put down that tub of dry Play-Doh you’re eating for a second while I break it down like a fraction. How did none of the other scientists figure out that crazy boss bitch had tampered with the sharks’ genes? Did they think it was natural for a mako shark to grow to the size of a U-boat? Had any of these moron biologists ever seen a goddamn shark before? And then there’s inconceivably imbecilic moment just after the sharks utilize Stellan Skarsgård as a battering ram, that is a real sentence that really describes a real scene in this film. As this glass, apparently rated for the water pressure of deep sea exploration but not for the impact of one Swedes face, begins to slowly crack, our heroes simply stand around and stare at for a solid minute. Evidently not one of these scientists got their degree in Recognizing Stuff That Will Kill You…ology.

Just when you thought it was safe to only commit one paragraph to the stupidity of Deep Blue Sea, you remember Renny Harlin was involved. So let’s quickly recount what this film taught me about sharks. My preexisting knowledge of sharks, feeble though Deep Blue Sea proved it to be, included understanding that sharks can detect blood in water from great distances which allows them to track their prey. What I didn’t know is that this hypersensitivity is not specific to blood. Sharks actually have a gland that secretes heavy doses of LSD into their system. Like ball-tripping club kids, this allows sharks to smell colors…or at least that’s the only explanation I could muster for why the shark in the opening of Deep Blue Sea is attracted to the red wine that drops from the boat party into the water. Also, sharks have the evolutionarily advantageous ability to change size to conform with whatever hallway or vent shaft they happen to be trapped in. Despite the fact that you could build an aquarium inside one of these supersharks, in which you could then house several regular sharks, they manage to fit into whatever smaller and smaller places are needed to create dopey action sequences. They’re Latin name is Carcharodon Accordion. That’s kind of stuff you learn from Shark Weak programing.

L.L. Cool J’s character is a screenwriting facepalm. He plays a cook who rises to the occasion when called upon to fight. Because if there is one cinematic exemplar to which one should aspire…it’s Steven Seagal in Under Siege. Ironically, L.L.’s character is like a tray of muffins taken out of the oven before they were completely done. He is obnoxiously religious throughout the whole film, but then randomly glibly utters the line, “all death is pointless”? I thought if you were a Christian death meant you got to go to that place, oh what’s it called, heaven! At one point near the end, L.L. refers to the last shark as “the devil.” Really L²? Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly the type of arrogance I’d expect from someone with such a romantically self-assured nom-de-plume, but let’s try and look at this from the shark’s perspective shall we? Was it the shark that plucked you out of the water and starting messing with your midbrain? Was it the shark that stabbed you in the eye with a crucifix making him permanently cross-eyed? And was it the shark that recorded a rap song with the lyrics “deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin?” No, because sharks have a much stronger grasp of lyrical structure according to recent data I may or may not have made up.

And how about that ending, huh? Filled with drama, excitement, and scienceIguess. The trio of ungobbled heroes has reached the surface pursued by the one remaining shark. They are completely free of the water and are positioned on the battlements atop the facility. Game over, right? As long as they don’t go back in the water, they just have to wait to be rescued and they are home free! But wait, what’s this? The shark is trying to escape the holding pen? Suddenly our heroes look at each other, all of them sensing the turn of the tables. “Guys, we can’t let this shark leave the facility. WHAT WILL WE DO IF THIS SHARK REACHES THE OCEAN! OH UNKNOWABLE UNIVERSE!” Why if he were to do that, he could potentially…be a shark in his natural habit slightly better equipped to do what sharks already do. He could disappear into the vastness of the ocean and never bother us again! Yup, totally worth sacrificing your life to prevent.

Why I Love It!

If you’re going to make a mindless neo-exploitation film, your best bet is to craft something in the elegant monster-eats-a-smorgasbord-of-people genre. Whenever the audience begins to pick up on your flimsy narrative of paper-thin characters, you can send along your agent of distraction to devour those concerns in a stunning display of nature versus standards. Revisiting Deep Blue Sea reminded me of how much I loved Shark Night 3D. The two films actually have the same root concept, shark attacks that achieves the staggering biological accuracy of recognizing that sharks eat things and have teeth, but approach it from two hilariously divergent angles. Where Shark Night 3D was a self-aware over-the-top action film, Deep Blue Sea actually thinks it’s a legitimate sci-fi monster epic. They believe so wholeheartedly that we will believe their bullshit science wholeheartedly. The score tries to create human drama and tragedy when in fact we are watching this movie with the same unspoken contract by which we view NASCAR or professional hockey; ignoring the immeasureable boredom and self-diluted, manufactured spectacle for the momentary thrill of crashes and fights. L.L. Cool J’s character is the one element of the film that creates a case for it not taking itself ridiculously seriously, but unfortunately no one bothered to tell him that.


Speaking of watching Deep Blue Sea for the tawdriest of reasons, it would be categorically impossible to write about this film without mentioning Sam L. Jackson’s death. Now we all know that Samuel L. Jackson is not a man, but rather a thunder-voiced Afro titan spawned of the ancient gods of Badassery and Impeccable Style. It is therefore appropriate to assume that his character will survive any supernatural or otherwise dangerous situation in any film; Jurassic Park notwithstanding as palentologists have incontrovertibly proven that raptors are racist lizards. But unfortunately Sir Sam L was not informed of the similarly recent ichthyological finding that sharks hate monologues. Just after his rousing and hysterically far-fetched account of how he survived an avalanche, he assures the team that their escape is certain as long as they believe in it. He is then snacked upon by a shark who somehow leaps into the room via an observation pool. It’s like my grandfather always used to say, “Bartleby, if you go around telling fish stories all the time, Samuel L. Jackson will get eaten by a shark leaping into the room via an observation pool.” Sage words indeed.

Deep Blue Sea is only a killer shark movie if you look at it from the water. They villainize the ancient predators as if they were in anyway responsible for their own actions. Personally, I find Deep Blue Sea to be considerably improved if thought of as a shark prison break movie. Having committed no crime, these majestic beasts are locked into cages and subjected to inhumane experiments by the evil wardens. When they finally break free, they must tunnel through environments unknown to them, thwarting (read: eating) their captors in the hopes of regaining their freedom. Just as the last surviving escapee reaches the final gate, he is struck down by a cold-hearted, emotionless brick pile played by Thomas Jane. But in their quest for liberty, they completely change the system. I therefore humbly suggest they retitle the film The Sharktank Redemption.

Junkfood Pairing: Ryan’s Buffet

Much like the nautical predators of Deep Blue Sea had a veritable actor buffet at their fin-gertips, so shall you be treated to another day of gorging yourself flabby. But since you’ll be eating Thanksgiving leftovers from now until New Years Eve, why not go out for change to the temple of obesity that is the Ryan’s Buffet. Once you’ve gobbled down sixteen plates of what, by all reports, is apparently edible food. Make your way over to the dessert buffet and grab yourself a Micheal RapaTORT topped with some Saffron (Borrows) and a dollop of L.L. Cool Whip. But be mindful of the Stellan Sneezegård and…Samuel L. Jackson.

Continue your binge with more in the Junkfood Cinema archive.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.