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, Deep Blue Sea reeled in an impressive cast. Harlin managed to get Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, Stellan Skarsgard, Michael Rapaport, and LL Cool J. Fans will also attest to the fact that Deep Blue Sea has the best shark kill scene … ever.
Nearly 20 years later, Warner Bros Home Entertainment and SyFy have partnered to distribute 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 on 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. See Durant believes that these experiments will 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. Now the research team finds themselves trapped in the flooding lab.
If It Worked Once …
If the story sounds familiar that’s because the ‘sequel’ follows the same basic plot of Deep Blue Sea. You can think of the sequel like a connect-the-dots colouring book. Three writers are credited with the story. Inexplicably, the writers struggled to introduce anything beyond superficial changes. Instead of mako sharks, the ‘sequel’ uses bull sharks. Shark conservationist Calhoun repeatedly assures us bull sharks are far more aggressive than most sharks. This pretty much represents the extent of Deep Blue Sea 2’s originality.
It’s too bad because the opening scene offers some promise. Director Darin Scott shows some flair in those first few minutes that almost 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 that promises some dark humour. Scott even manages to build a little suspense here. Sadly, it’s all downhill from this point onward. There are a few delightful scenes of shark mayhem. One scene even puts an admittedly clever twist on Samuel L. Jackson’s death scene from the original. Most of Deep Blue Sea 2 though 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. But it’s a rather odd narrative choice that undermines what probably attracted most people to the movie in the first place. Once the lab starts flooding, it’s not the much-hyped bull sharks that stalk the cast. Instead, “Bella’s” baby mini-sharks stalk the research team through the sinking lab.
In most shark films, size actually does matter.
The story misdirection ultimately sinks the movie. In shark films, size actually does matter. After all, they did need a bigger boat in Jaws. The Meg’s entire marketing campaign focused on the sheer size of its monster. If I wanted to watch small man-eating fish I would have just re-watched Piranha or Piranha 3D. Notwithstanding a a few book-ending scenes, Deep Blue Sea 2 under-utilizes the larger bull sharks.
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 don’t care what Richard Dreyfuss thinks. In my opinion, Jaws’ shark effects are head and shoulders above anything put on film. That being said, Deep Blue Sea 2’s CGI shark effects are pretty weak. Generally, the sharks – big and small – are one step above the quality of effects you would find in the standard SyFy 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. Part of the problem here is that Deep Blue Sea 2 tries too 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 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 genuinely good performance. Maybe Beach thought he was acting in a different movie.
Deep Blue Sea 2 is a Cheap Cash-In on Shark Renaissance
The idea of a Deep Blue Sea sequel so far removed from the original seemed odd. In spite of a promising trailer, Deep Blue Sea 2 confirms that it was a cheap and cynical cash-in on the success of Shark Week and recent films like The Shallows and 47 Meters Down. It takes itself too seriously to embrace its B-film roots. But it lacks the acting, special effects, and scares to be a good, ‘serious’ film. Everything about it is a big step down from the original Deep Blue Sea. In fact, the rotten effects negate one of the primary reasons that 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+