Deep Blue Sea (1999) is, for me, infinitely rewatchable, so I was excited to hear about a third entry to the franchise...
...Even so, I had my reservations; Deep Blue Sea 2 (2018) failed to capture any of the fun, charm, and effects-heavy proficiency of the original. While not surprising that the direct-to-VOD sequel disappointed, it was still a bummer to see my beloved shark flick floundering. Now, hopeful once more, Deep Blue Sea 3 is upon us and director John Pogue and writer Dirk Blackman aim to course correct the many issues of the second film. Non-theatrical sequels are notorious for their dip in quality, but Pogue and Blackman’s entry is here to take a bite out of that stereotype.
Like the original, Deep Blue Sea 3 takes place on a remote man-made island built for climate change-based research. Dr. Emma Collins (Tania Raymonde) is knee-deep in finding the correlation between climate change and great white sharks appearing in formerly unoccupied waters. All is well on “Little Happy Island” until a private team bully their way aboard, claiming to be searching for three uniquely intelligent bull sharks. Emma is stunned with bittersweet confusion when she learns that leading the expedition is her ex-boyfriend, Richard (Nathaniel Buzolic). After a close call involving the bull sharks and some sort of technological intervention, Emma begins to question the intentions of Richard’s team. Tensions heighten on land and sea, and Emma must fight to save her crew and her research.
To my surprise, what I expected to be shark chum turned out to be a competently made sequel. The first unexpected delight was how damn good the film looked. Sometimes direct-to-video productions have less than average lighting, cheapening the overall aesthetic. Here, the film’s visual presentation could easily pass for a theatrical release. The “set” looks terrific. Despite the obvious hardships common to sinking sets, Pogue and company pulled it off. There are several either fully or half submerged scenes with the actors in tight spaces, and the danger they’re meant to evoke is palpable and believable. Technically the film is on point, and as a set-piece enthusiast, I really appreciated the ingenuity. One heart-pounding scene has Emma desperately trying to escape the jaws of a shark and swimming into a large trash compactor to bait him. I’ll leave what happens next to your imagination, but the utilization of the compactor makes for a memorable moment.
The most important part of any shark film is the sharks themselves, and Deep Blue Sea 3’s were a very pleasant surprise. For the most part, they look terrific. While mostly CG, there were a few welcome practical shots for close-ups. The CG is convincing, despite a few instances of inconsistency between shots. Such moments were scarce and easily forgivable. Those worried about the frequency of action can rest easy, because the frenetic shark attack moments are plentiful and evenly spaced out. There are even some fun callbacks to the first film mixed in with plenty of new creative kills to keep it fresh. Gore fans can rejoice; the kills are visceral, and the body count may even surpass the original. Also, because the sharks are believably rendered, they have a sense of weight and mass that some CG films often don’t get right. Deep Blue Sea 3 may not be better than the original, but the kills and set pieces prove themselves worthy of the namesake.
The characters of the film are competent, though not too developed. The relationship between Emma and Richard feels a little contrived, almost mirroring the strained relationship seen in The Abyss (1989). In that film, Bud (Ed Harris) and Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) engage in a tension filled argument about their past working and romantic relationship. Lindsey is accused of dating a “suit” who ranks high up in the corporate big league. Bud’s insult is merely flipped in Deep Blue Sea 3, with Emma holding a grudge against Richard for going off to work for the corporate overlords of their industry. While not exactly the same thing, the similarities felt hard to ignore. I was considerably fonder of some of the side characters. Spin (Alex Bhat), the tech wizard of the bunch, and Miya (Reina Aoi), the team’s underwater location expert, share a sweet chemistry that comes across as quite genuine. In films like these, side characters are usually one-dimensional meat sacks waiting for their turn to be gutted, but these two were refreshingly fleshed out. Lucas (Bren Foster) plays the bad guy with confidence and vigor. He definitely hits camp level at times, but in a film with smart sharks terrorizing a man-made island, a little camp is more than appropriate. The leads are semi-unlikable, but they have a diverse bunch to support them, which helps elevate the film significantly.
Deep Blue Sea 3 might be the biggest surprise of the year for me. Don’t get me wrong, this is silly fun not to be taken seriously, but the level of quality on display is remarkable. For shark fans and genre enthusiasts, this will make for a great night of fun, high quality entertainment. Despite questionably likeable protagonists, it serves as a lesson to never judge a film by its last sequel. Leaps and bounds better than Deep Blue Sea 2, I’m pleased to say Deep Blue Sea 3 is worth your time.
Deep Blue Sea 3 comes to digital from Warner Bros Home Entertainment July 28th and will also release as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on August 25th!
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth