The director of 1999’s “Deep Blue Sea” (Renny Harlin) knew he couldn’t top Spielberg’s iconic “Jaws,” but still tried to make his shark movie bigger, badder and a whole lot sillier. Instead of one huge shark, Harlin has three. They’re 26 feet long (Jaws was 25). And the coup de grâce – Harlin’s sharks are SMART. Getting stoned tends to increase your fear of things (hello, crippling paranoia) but even if you have a (healthy) fear of sharks, this movie is too fun to miss.
The story begins at Aquatica, a remote ocean facility where a team of scientists are searching for an Alzheimer’s cure. Fluids from the brain tissue of three mako sharks are being harvested; but Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is secretly violating a code of ethics and genetically engineering the sharks to increase their brain size. She desperately wants to cure the disease, but this is a really bad idea. The sharks’ bigger brains make them more dangerous. Soon they team up to flood the facility in a frenzied bid for freedom, killing off most human characters in the process.
Scientifically, this movie doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sharks would never behave this way. But if you’re stoned enough, you won’t care. The sharks are actually pretty realistic: computer generated when swimming in water, but animatronic when interacting with the actors. As we all know from “Jaws,” animatronic creatures are tangible and convincing.
Best of all, the movie makes fun of itself. It’s a summer blockbuster that knows it’s not a serious film. Some disaster flicks try to be all profound, but “DBS” doesn’t suffer from such a strain. One scene in particular is as shocking and original as anything I’ve seen out of Hollywood: Samuel L. Jackson (who plays a corporate executive sent to investigate Aquatica) is a commandeering presence who gets typecast as the perpetual survivor. Here, he gives a rousing, inspirational, “we’re going to make it” speech to the facility’s remaining employees as they all scramble to get out alive. Everyone is motivated. Things are looking up. And then … well, you’ll see.
Keep in mind: The film perpetuates an unfair stereotype. Sharks are not actually man-eaters. They do take bites out of people, but that’s because they’re confused or curious. They’ll mistake you for a seal (especially if you are on a surfboard). Those who die from attacks die from blood loss, as the shark realizes it’s a human after just one nibble (yuck!) But take heart! Shark attacks are very rare.