If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, you may remember Deep Blue Sea. Released in the summer of 1999, the Renny Harlin-directed shark thriller was a modest box office hit earning just over $73 million on a $60 million budget. Its premise of genetic experiments creating intelligent killer sharks made for delightfully silly B-movie summer fun. In spite of these obvious B-movie roots, the original Deep Blue Sea reeled in an impressive cast that included Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, Stellan Skarsgard, Michael Rapaport, and LL Cool J. Fans of the original will also attest to the fact that Deep Blue Sea has the best shark kill scene in film history.
Now nearly 20 years later, Warner Bros Home Entertainment and SyFy have partnered to distribute what they’re calling a sequel, Deep Blue Sea 2. Directed by Darin Scott, who has made a handful of direct-to-video films and starring no one recognizable, the sequel was released on April 17 across several streaming platforms.
First, Deep Blue Sea 2 (DBS2) is NOT a sequel; it is a straight-up remake of the original Deep Blue Sea. Like its predecessor, DBS2 is set on a remote ocean under-water research facility funded by scientist and billionaire, Carl Durant. Fearful that the human race is being slowly replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Durant is funding genetic experiments on sharks in an effort to develop a means to expand human intelligence. A side-effect of Durant’s unethical studies is an unexpected increase in the sharks’ intelligence. Following the arrival of shark expert and conservationist Misty Calhoun, ‘Bella’ and the other sharks rebel, trapping the science team in the flooding lab.
If It Worked Once …
If the above synopsis sounds familiar that’s because the ‘sequel’ follows all the same basic plot points of Deep Blue Sea like a connect-the-dots colouring book. Any changes introduced to the story by the three credited writers are largely superficial. For example, instead of mako sharks, the ‘sequel’ uses bull sharks, which Calhoun assures us are far more aggressive than most breeds of sharks. This pretty much represents the extent of originality in DBS2.
It’s too bad because the film’s opening scene offers some promise that director Darin Scott and company can introduce just enough wrinkles to the formula to justify the sequel’s existence. After escaping the research facility, the smart sharks attack illegal shark fin fishermen rather than a boat of partying teens. It’s a nice moment of poetic justice. Scott even manages to build a little suspense here and suggests that DBS2 will have some fun dark humour. Sadly, it’s all downhill from this point onward. While there are a few delightful scenes of shark mayhem, including an admittedly clever twist on Jackson’s death scene from the original film, most of DBS2 registers as a dull rehash.
Odd Story Direction Undermines the Film’s Selling Point
[MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW IN THIS SECTION]
Scott and company do steer the sequel/remake in a slightly different direction following the sharks’ revolt. It’s a rather odd narrative choice as it effectively renders much of the reason for people watching the film in the first place. In contrast to the original Deep Blue Sea, once the lab starts flooding, it’s not the much-hyped bull sharks that stalk the cast but rather “Bella’s’ freshly birthed offspring – mini-sharks with a hunger for flesh.
In most shark films, size actually does matter.
In most shark films, size actually does matter. After all, they did need a bigger boat in Jaws. If I wanted to watch small man-eating fish I would have just re-watched Piranha or Piranha 3D. Notwithstanding a a few scenes bookending the film, the larger bull sharks are under-utilized for most of DBS2. This narrative shift doesn’t add anything to either the overall aesthetics or plot of the film and, ultimately, left me disappointed.
Poor CGI Effects Are No Replacement for Rubber Sharks
If Scott had committed more to the film’s silly premise, like its predecessor or the Sharknado series, the cheap effects might have been a selling point.
I’ll preface my criticisms here by admitting that I still think the shark effects in Jaws are head and shoulders above anything put on film. That being said, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the CGI shark effects in DBS2 are weak. Generally, the sharks – big and small – are one step above the quality of effects you would find in the standard SyFy-produced films. In fact, I’d argue that the effects here are a big step backwards from the original Deep Blue Sea. Given the premise, it’s hard for the underwhelming effects to not kill any mood or tension tries to build. Part of the problem here is that DBS2 tries to hard to play it straight. If Scott had committed more to the film’s silly premise, like its predecessor or the Sharknado series, the cheap effects might have been a selling point.
Consistent with the film’s special effects, the acting performances are pretty mediocre. Danielle Savre is fine as ‘Misty Calhoun’ but most of the actors in DBS2 come across as pretty wooden. A few performances might easily be confused for more poor CGI effects. Only Michael Beach, as the ruthless Carl Durant, turns in a performance that’s probably deserving of being in a better film.
Cheap Cash-In on Shark Renaissance
The idea of a Deep Blue Sea sequel so far removed from the original film struck me as odd. In spite of a promising trailer, Deep Blue Sea 2 felt like a cheap and cynical attempt to cash in on the success of Shark Week and recent films like The Shallows and 47 Meters Down. It takes itself too seriously to fully embrace its B-film roots and lacks the acting, effects, and scares to be a good, ‘serious’ film. Perhaps its biggest problem is that its effects are a big step down from the original Deep Blue Sea, thereby negating one of the primary reason younger film-goers might watch it. If you’re in the mood for a fun shark film, I would go with the original over this ‘sequel-remake’ hybrid.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: D+