A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 521 – Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue Sea – August 3rd, 2011

This is a terrible movie. I want to make it abundantly clear that I enjoyed maybe a total of five minutes of this movie, which leaves about 100 minutes that either bored me or irritated me. Andy, on the other hand, loves it. He told me today that we’d be watching a relatively good bad shark movie. And it’s fine that he enjoyed it. I get that he likes that it pisses on a few conventions and does some unexpected stuff. But it just didn’t cut it for me. In fact, it killed any enthusiasm I had for the rest of Shark Week and while I would normally now be writing my my review for yesterday’s movie – which I was too wiped to do yesterday and too busy to do today – I cannot manage it. Somehow this movie has sucked all the shark joy from my life. That’s pretty impressive. And pretty sad.

I think, perhaps, it’s that I found this to be a lazy movie. It flouts some conventions, but then it gives up. It’s got some comic relief, but then it gives up on that too (though I’m grateful for that). It tries for the intelligent monster thing, then forgets about it. It doesn’t bother to make the vast majority of the characters interesting at all. I’d almost say that last is intentional. After all, the movie attempts to surprise you as to who’s going to get chomped on by the sharks, so why do any character building to let you know who’s bait and who’s not? No, apparently it’s far better to just leave everyone as ciphers so we have no clue who’s doomed. Unfortunately this has the consequence of leaving the surviving characters totally uninteresting. How could they not have realized that would happen? There’s a couple of lines that might be character development for them, but when about two lines are all that I can recall when it comes to character development, that doesn’t speak well of the characters.

Now, I will give this movie a tiny bit of credit when it comes to the flouting conventions thing. There are four actors in this movie whose names I recognized, one of whom is a well known name, and of them two of them die and in rather short order. There’s a moment where you fully expect everyone to rally together to escape the lab they’re trapped in and then chomp. That’s cool. That was one of the entertaining moments for me. And I rather liked their techie character so whenever he was on screen I tried my best to pay attention. Alas, that’s not enough to make a movie enjoyable to me. Most of the movie was a series of scenes of flooding corridors and shark attacks in enclosed spaces. It was noisy and messy and unpleasant to watch.

The plot is a typical one. Working on the whole “sharks don’t get sick” concept, a bunch of scientists have been experimenting with sharks for medical research. But in order to get what they need they had to make the sharks’ brains larger. To do that they broke some laws or whatever and now the sharks are smarter than the average shark and they want a pic-a-nic basket. And by pic-a-nic basket I mean lab full of tasty scientists. They luck out with a hurricane, which strands the tasty scientists. One of the sharks had injured the lead tasty scientist and mid-storm the medical helicopter can’t winch him up in and he drops to the water where the sharks use him as a battering ram. Obviously the sharks planned it all! I realize the whole scientist-as-battering-ram thing isn’t typical, but the set-up of scientists creating monsters, then having to fight them when they become stranded alone with them thing is. And I suppose it was only a matter of time until the smart sharks started slamming themselves against the giant glass windows of the underwater portion of the lab and the hurricane was just lucky for them.

Anyhow, once the storm hits and the sharks break open the biggest window the movie is just one big mess. Aside from the convention flouting right at the outset of the disaster, everything seems incredibly typical. The place floods a bit, someone gets eaten, then the rest of the group moves on and get somewhere, which starts to flood and then someone gets eaten again and so on and so forth. Every so often we get some scenes with the comic relief and his foul-mouthed parrot until the parrot gets eaten and the comic relief meets up with the rest of the group. Then there’s absolutely no break in the monotony. Flood flood flood, chomp. Flood flood flood, scream. Flood flood flood, chomp.

Part of what made it so difficult for me to follow or care about was the visual quality, which was terrible. According to the movie’s trivia, it was filmed on super 35. I find this difficult to believe, since it looked like it was filmed on VHS. It was like watching a particularly badly filmed television show. Andy claims some of that is the television we’re watching it on, which didn’t have the sorts of inputs from the DVD player that he wanted. I claim that there is no way the television made the movie look like something off the BBC in the 1980s. I did a little reading on 35 and apparently processing can make a huge difference in its final quality, so I blame that. And then there was the sound, which Andy also blames on the inputs. But again, I think it’s still shoddy work on the part of the filmmakers. Every crash, splash and crunch – and there’s a lot of all of those – sounds like the same level. The resulting cacophony makes it impossible to follow the dialogue and I just plain stopped caring. After all, I’m pretty sure the movie didn’t care.

Watching this movie felt like a waste of my time. It has a few brief moments of fun and cheese but they’re fleeting at best. It’s an attempt to take a thoroughly typical, predictable and boring movie and inject some interest into it. For Andy, it succeeded enough to entertain him. For me, it failed miserably and bored me immensely. And I find it irritating when a movie so clearly doesn’t care if I’m bored. It makes me resentful. Hopefully the rest of our Shark Week will be better. And I don’t mean that I hope the movies will be good. Just that they’ll be more fun than this piece of drek.

August 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Deep Blue Sea

August 3, 2011

Deep Blue Sea

Fair warning: this review will contain spoilers for the movie. I try hard not to include spoilers in my reviews but most of what I liked about this movie that I loved so much the first time I watched it cannot be explained without resorting to them.

I first saw this when it was released on DVD way back in 1999 and at the time it astonished me with the way it flaunted the conventions of this sort of horror movie. As with Sharktopus this is a movie very aware of itself and its roots. Sharktopus, however, revels in its cheese and fulfills every expectation of the genre. As we watched that movie yesterday Amanda and I were easily able to predict exactly who was going to die because the characters fit so perfectly to the stereotypes you expect from a movie like this. Of course the evil scientist is doomed. Of course the pushy reporter is. Sadly so is the third wheel friend. This movie, on the other hand, revels in defying such expectations.

The moment in this film that I completely fell in love with it is when Samuel L Jackson’s character Russel Franklin, the charismatic CEO of the unfortunately named Chimera Corporation, is eaten by a shark when he is in the middle of a rousing speech. That single moment convinced me that this movie was something special and unexpected. This movie doesn’t just kill its only big-name leading actor – it does it in the middle of a “Here’s what we’re going to do” speech. Then there’s L.L. Cool J as the chef Preacher who complains that the brother always dies in this kind of movie.

What I did not remember when I watched this last time was the atrocious video quality. I suspect that part of the problem is the television we’re watching it on – Amanda’s parent’s TV on the Cape where we’re spending the night – which has a degree of latency that makes the picture ghost and look washed out during faster camera moves. That can’t account for all of the flat and ugly look of the film though. I don’t know if it’s just poor lighting or low quality film stock – but the whole film, despite being a big budget theatrical release, has a distinctly direct to video or made for TV look to it. It’s only a small step up from Megaladon with its all-digital sets. Still – I enjoy this movie. I stand by my assessment that this is better than your average shark attack movie. Although, I have to admit, the plot is fairly standard.

A research team on an isolated rig in the middle of the ocean has developed a cure for Alzheimer’s from a serum they extract from shark brains. In their hurry to generate as much of the serum as possible they genetically manipulate the sharks to give them bigger brains. For some reason the sharks use their bigger brains to wreak all kind of havoc, killing everybody they can reach and tearing apart the facility. The crew trapped inside are being picked off one by one as they try to find a way out of the flooded facility. It’s pretty standard “they tampered in God’s domain” stuff, really, which makes it that much more impressive that I enjoyed it so much.

I’ve watched a lot more cheesy shark movies in the decade or so since I last watched this one, but I still stand by my opinion that this is one of the better ones. Not as purely enjoyable as Sharktopus or as wonderfully awful as Sharks in Venice, but a worthy addition to the genre nonetheless. I like how it defies my expectations while at the same time being so typical a monster movie. I love Samuel L Jackson – because he’s awesome in everything he does. I even enjoy Thomas Jane, who was a no-name actor as far as I was concerned when I watched this and delivered a fun performance as the rebel-with-a-troubled-past and hero of the movie.

We’ve got three more movies to go in our self imposed Shark Week, and I’m afraid none of them are quite this good. Wish us luck getting through them!

August 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment