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MFF Special: Celebrating the 21st Anniversary of Deep Blue Sea

July 28, 2020

Deep Blue Sea turns 21 today, and in honor of its birthday, here are 21 reasons why it’s the The Shawshank Redemption of genetically modified shark movies (it’s a prison escape film disguised as a slasher shark thriller).

If you love Deep Blue Sea, make sure to listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast. You will love it.

1. The initial attack on the catamaran is a scouting mission.

The Generation 1 shark (nicknamed Steve McQueen by the folks of Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – fun show) jumped over the Aquatica fence (Mako sharks can jump up to nine meters) and wanted to see how long it would take for the Aquatica crew to chase it down. Notice how it immediately goes limp when Carter Blake shoots it with the tranquilizers.. It’s at this moment that the sharks realize they need to bring Aquatica down because they are obviously being tracked, and if they escape again, they’ll just be tracked again.  Also, I’d love to see how Carter dragged it back to its watery jail

2. Picking Mako Sharks was smart

They have the largest brain to body ratio and are the fastest sharks in the ocean (watch the movie you’ll understand), and it makes sense that they would be engineered at the Aquatica, which is located off the coast of Mexico, because they don’t do well in captivity. They would need an ocean prison. It’s just another example of why Deep Blue Sea is better than you might think (or you love it immensely, and are just looking for an echo chamber of DBS love).

3. The Blu-ray commentary by Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson is excellent

Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson share some excellent stories in the commentary. You’ll learn a lot about the making of the film. For instance, the Production Designers Joseph Bennett and William Sandell installed linoleum floors in the Aquatica, this is why everyone is slipping around. Also, Jackson makes some funny jokes about Michael Rappaport. 

4. There’s a story about a Tiger shark stealing a truck and driving it to Baja

After Carter Blake pulls the license plate out of a Tiger’s shark’s mouth. He and Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) have a discussion about a tiger shark stealing a car in Louisiana and driving it to Baja Mexico. I’d love to see a shark make an 1,818 mile trek in a stolen truck. I know it’s a joke, but I love the visual, and it reminds me of the Michael Myers road trip data piece I wrote.

5. Walt Conti’s animatronic sharks are beautiful

The animatronic sharks are beautiful in Deep Blue Sea. Walt Conti (Anaconda, Free Willy) crushed it, and it’s neat that he used aerospace technology to create the sharks. The sharks are featured in the film a lot, and if you look closely you’ll notice that they are constantly swimming around in the background. How cool would it be to be the person on set with the remote control that steered the massive sharks around? You’d never want to leave. Here’s a neat documentary that will show you how they were made

6. Janice Higgins is an absolute boss at dropping expository dialogue

Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie) is an expository dialogue machine. She crushes the insane amount of dialogue she has to dump on Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson). The expository dialogue comes across naturally, and it never feels overly obvious. It’s smart that she’s giving Russell Franklin a tour, because he and the viewer are new to the world. It’s filmmaking 101 (a new person is introduced, to make the world easier to explain), but she does a solid job making the dialogue feel fresh. 

7. The Aquatica layout makes sense and is perfectly described to us

Deep Blue Sea goes out of its way to describe the layout of the Aquatica. Whether it’s the overhead shots, or Janice Higgins describing everything. There are maps everywhere, and it helps during the chaos. If you pay attention, and follow the characters journey, you know exactly where they are. I’ve written in-depth MFF posts about the layout of the aquatica, read them!

8. Throw away moments are very important. For instance, there’s a moment when Dr. Susan McAlester, senses that a shark is watching her in her room. It will be very important later on.

The sharks sees where her research is when she takes it out of her locker, and that’s why it’s waiting for her later on, so he can surprise her and destroy the data, so no sharks will ever be “Frankensteined” again. Seriously, why else would it not attack her immediately? The shark attacks when she takes the hard drive from the locker. It knew she would come back for it. It’s a tinfoil theory, but it makes sense to me

9. There’s a surprising amount of dancing 

The teenagers dance in the boat, Janet dances in the tower, the departing crew dance on the boat, and the Aquatica crew dance during the party. This doesn’t make the movie great, it’s just an odd observation.

10. Carter Blake is very good at three things. Shooting, Swimming and Grabbing

  • He proves his shooting prowess in the beginning when he harpoons the shark.
  • He’s totally cool swimming with sharks
  • He grabs onto license plates, shark fins and anything else he can grab when he is slipping and sliding. Also, at the end, he grabs onto the fence to avoid blowing up. He then swims back to Preacher.

11. Renny Harlin wanted to feature the sharks A LOT. Dude had no problem showing lots of sharks. Alejandra Aja did the same thing in Crawl. Two watery classics. 

Harlin knew modern audiences wanted to see more sharks, so he made sure audiences got what they wanted. The sharks are a constant presence, and there are copious set pieces that revolve around their attacks. They are the driving force of the movie, and it’s refreshing.

12. Preacher and his bird are the best. Shea Serrano agrees

In the footnotes of Movies (And Other Things), Shea Serrano mentions that he almost wrote a chapter about badasses with birds. It makes me happy. Preacher (LL Cool J) is going to have a great story to tell. He was the chef at a research facility that has been illegally genetically modifying sharks and the sharks tried to escape. He survives multiple attacks and he blows up two of them. He’s going to have some serious scars, and I wonder if he’ll get some money from Chimera. 

13. During the final fight, When the shark is trying to shred the fence, its eyes are closed

When sharks attack, they typically close their eyes, It’s a nice touch. Renny Harlin’s Commentary covers everything. There is also a fun discussion about the final fight here.

14. Chimera Pharmaceuticals is an excellent name for the fictional pharmaceutical company in Deep Blue Sea

Russell Franklin owns Chimera pharmaceuticals, the company that funds McAlester’s devious studies. In Greek mythology, it’s a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. – The sharks are genetically modified, and they’ll never really be comfortable anywhere because they are a hybrid.

15. The twitching leg

The death of Tom Scoggins is ultra gnarly. The shark rips him in half, and his legs are left twitching in the water. It’s awesome.

16. There is a neat Herman Melville reference. 

When Janice is showing Franklin the sharks, she says “beneath this glassy surface, a world of gliding monsters.” It’s a wonderful quote. It’s very reminiscent of the Herman Melville quote, “Beneath those stars, is a universe of gliding monsters.” Also, read Bartleby the Scrivener. It’s one of my favorite short stories. 

17. Preacher stabs a shark in the eye with a crucifix

A character named Preacher stabs a shark with a crucifix. It’s amazing. Also, check this out. 

In 1999 

  • Deep Blue Sea – LL Cool J plays a character named Preacher
  • In Too Deep – He plays a character named God
  • Any Given Sunday – He plays on the Sharks, and they play mostly on Sundays.
  • In 1998, He acted in Halloween H20…..

18. The Explosion at the end is insane. An improvised explosive creates an explosion big enough to OBLITERATE the giant shark 

It’s a comically large explosion, and it completely obliterates the shark. Watch the clip. The explosion is huge. 

19. The moment when the Gen 2 flashes it’s huge teeth is a thing of beauty. Let’s focus on the solid CGI for a while

Too much focus has been placed on the subpar 1999 CGI. Let’s celebrate a badass moment. Start the clip at the :40 second mark

20. Jim Whitlock drops a sweet quote 

Hearing Stellan Skargard say “Sharks are the oldest creatures on the planet……from a time when the world was just flesh and teeth,” never gets old. It’s a great line during the party scene. 

21. People much smarter than me have written about its greatness

Brian Raftery (who wrote Best. Movie. Year. Ever. How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen) wrote an article for Wired about why it’s the best shark movie ever. It’s a solid read.

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