Deep Blue Sea

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Shortened Dolby Digital Rain
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Renny Harlin (Director), Samuel L. Jackson (Actor)
Running Time 100:44 Minutes  Other Extras Menu Audio & Video
Cast & Crew Biographies
Deleted Scenes with and without commentary (8:04)
Featurette - When Sharks Attack! (15:03)
Featurette - The Sharks Of The Deep Blue Sea (8:23)
Photo Gallery
DVD-ROM Extras
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (53:13)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Renny Harlin

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Thomas Jane 
Saffron Burrows 
Samuel L. Jackson 
Jacqueline McKenzie 
Michael Rapaport 
Stellan Skarsgard 
LL Cool J 
Aida Turturro
Case Brackley
RRP $34.95 Music Trevor Rabin

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English For The Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I am in two minds about Deep Blue Sea: the highly intellectual side of my brain labels it as a load of rubbish, and the entertainment-hungry side of my brain just sits back and enjoys the ride. On the one hand, I tend to despise any film or other form of media that goes out of its way to make genetic engineering look like a bad thing. Polio and measles were once two of the most dreaded diseases on our planet, and now they are considered things of the past thanks to a miracle that we call immunisation. Genetic engineering will do the same thing with diseases and ailments such as diabetes, psoriasis, and bipolar disorder. Maybe I have a personal view of this situation, but suffering from two out of those three ailments, as well as knowing some people who suffer from the other one, tends to make me livid about any time when a potential cure is made out to be the greatest evil of the Earth. The most telling moment in this film about where this basis for the film, at least in this regard, is, is when Preacher (LL Cool J) stabs a shark in the eye with his crucifix. I could almost clearly envision one revision of the script with his character screaming "Ha, take that, potential cure for all that ails mankind!". Seriously, sometimes having an intellectual quotient that is matched by less than a twentieth of the populace can be such a bitch when all you want to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy something. Which brings me to the second part of my mind's assessment of this film. Although the film frequently reaches into the scientifically impossible in order to keep itself in motion, once it gets moving, it sets a pace that doesn't give us a lot of time to consider the inherent impossibilities of what we're seeing. It can therefore be considered to be entertaining as long as you don't mind being asked to believe the unbelievable too often. Having seen this film with my immediate family at the flicks, I was most keen to get the review assignment for this film. However, Paul W got there first, which left me flat out of luck as far as getting a copy before the rest of Australia was concerned. Not being one to let such a minor loss get in the way of doing my job, however, I thought I would share my thoughts on the film with you.

    The fact that Renny Harlin (whose other credits include A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Warriors, or Freddy Goes Commercial, as I like to call it) directed this film explains a lot about this film and its plot's impact. While this effort is nowhere near as abominable as his aforementioned debut, there are a lot of moments when that trademark horror-for-children style threatens to resurface. A greater director would have fully exploited the darker possibilities of this story, which would have resulted in a more restrictive rating for the film. I believe that when you have directed one B-grade and highly unoriginal horror film, the manner and method with which you did it will tend to haunt you forever. The film struggles quite hard to assert itself as a serious action-adventure film, but the obvious commercialization of the story sinks most of the intellectual appeal of this film. This is a real pity, because this DVD would have been a Hall Of Fame shoe-in, and maybe even a new contender for the best of the best, if it wasn't for the fact that the plot is so inherently stupid. As it stands, this is definitely high on my list of the ten best releases for this year in spite of this one factor.

    The highly improbable plot revolves around Doctor Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows, and I also saw her in the utterly dreadful Wing Commander on the same day that I saw this film at the flicks). Susan is on a personal quest to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease, sparked on by personal tragedy that is brought into the consciousness of the viewer in a very quick and effective manner, which is the only way in which this script will ever win any awards. In any case, the potential cure lies in the brain matter of sharks, who for some reason are ostensibly immune from the degenerations of the brain that plague the human race. She is aided in this quest by shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), scientist Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport), his assistant Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie), engineer Jim Whitelock (Stellan Skarsgard), and the aforementioned chef known in this film as Preacher (LL Cool J, and where do these rap stars get such stupid names?). After a boat full of innocent youngsters in an undisclosed location comes under attack from one of the sharks that have been purpose-bred for this experiment, the company financing said experiment begins to get nervous about what it is they are paying for. In a passionate plea, Susan asks that she and her crew be given another forty-eight hours to demonstrate that they are producing results of a viable and dramatic nature. The company's chief, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), agrees to this arrangement, mainly because he is not fully aware of how much tampering with the sharks has been done to accomplish the results. This is where the plot holes start to come so thick and fast that even people who thought Jaws was believable will notice them. I know that movies aren't supposed to be scientifically plausible, but more brain tissue does not equal more intelligence. It's a similar equasion to processing units: bigger processing units do not equate to better operation, especially if you use a Microsoft product to operate them. If you can separate your sense of disbelief from your sense of pleasure, then you will enjoy Deep Blue Sea.

Transfer Quality


    Roadshow Home Entertainment have been accused of doing some nasty things with their video transfers, but this is definitely a shining example of one having been done the right way. The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with beautiful 16x9 Enhancement, a feature that I simply could not imagine this transfer without. Surprisingly, this is actually a slightly narrower ratio than the theatrical exhibition, at least according to some reports (I seriously wouldn't be able to tell a .05 difference in ratio if it fell on me). Whether picture information has been lopped off the sides, or the information available to us on the original theatrical aspect ratio is erroneous, is a matter I leave up to the reader. The transfer is razor-sharp from beginning to end, with every detail being consistently rendered in the same way as it was during the theatrical exhibition. Shadow detail was absolutely perfect, even in the underwater scenes, which account for a surprisingly high amount of the film. Similarly, there was not a hint of low-level noise, and Village didn't even resort to using edge-enhancement at any point in the film. The colours were perfectly rendered, with not a hint of bleeding or cross-colouration.

    MPEG artefacts were completely absent from the transfer, which is reflective of the consistently high bit-rate, and it is another credit to whomever is in charge of DVD transfers at Roadshow Home Entertainment. Film-to-video artefacts were minimal at the very worst of times, and there was no telecine wobble at all, which indicates how much care was taken in the transfer process. There were very few instances of aliasing, and these instances were so small that they mostly escaped detection on my setup. Film artefacts were rather rare, with just a handful of white flecks noticed here and there. The only noticeable giveaway that this film had touched celluoid before arriving on our beloved format was the presence of some specks of water on the lens showing up in the final image about eighty or so minutes into the film.

    There is only one subtitle track on this DVD: English for the Hearing Impaired, which really has little annotation for the benefit of the hearing impaired, anyway. Normally, I would call for Village to provide us with more, but given that their earlier titles didn't have any at all (Wild Things being a good example), and this film needs as much space to breathe as possible, I'll let this one pass.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change coming in at 53:13. This layer change quite literally sticks out like a sore thumb, but it is only slightly disruptive to the flow of the film. There are no better places in the film where a layer change could take place, as the film doesn't stop moving at any point that wouldn't result in having around ninety minutes to one of the layers.


    Matching the exceptionally impressive video transfer is a butt-kicking, immersive audio transfer that pulls you out of your seat and puts you right in the middle of the action with the doomed crew. Only two audio tracks are provided with this DVD: the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and a commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding. While this is a rather limited selection compared with other DVDs, there's no way you could seriously fault the audio presentation of the original dialogue. I listened to both audio tracks, although it took me some time to get around to the commentary track. The dialogue was very clear and very easy to understand at all times, even in the case of the dubbed-in parrot's dialogue. It was reduced to an incoherent string of screams during the fast-paced action scenes, but the dialogue was not a primary concern during these parts of the film. Suffice it to say that when the dialogue has great importance to the flow of the story, it is quite easy for the viewer to understand. Audio sync was not a problem at any point in the feature

    The music of this film consisted of a score by Trevor Rabin and some contemporary music by the likes of LL Cool J. Thankfully, the latter half got very little use in the final cut of the film, while Trevor Rabin's music was used to great and ominous effect. The orchestra was used to great effect in the score music, with every instrument taking a subtle, but very full command of the viewer's feelings. While there was very little connection between the on-screen action and the music, there was a suitably creepy feel to the music that managed to accentuate the film quite wonderfully. I believe that this score music would stand quite well on its own as a soundtrack album. As for the rest of the music, it is typical African-American crud that reminds me of something a commentator once said about becoming your enemy being far worse than loving your enemy. Thankfully, it is used in such a small amount that I hardly noticed any of it.

    The surround channels got a great deal of aggressive use for ambience, special effects, and the music. Directional effects and precise sound placement were a constant with this film, as opposed to the usual discrete surround mix turning into mono once the action scenes are over arrangement that one normally expects from a film like this. This was one of the most immersive sound fields I have ever been dropped into at the cinema, and the DVD version is reflective of this, and it is extremely powerful by comparison to the visuals. The subwoofer was moderately active during the overall film, with some light use during the early scenes that establish the premise through dialogue and bass-heavy water sounds, and very heavy use during the action scenes. It supported the bass-heavy portions of the soundscape quite effectively without making itself too obvious.


    I firmly believe that Warner Brothers should turn the distribution of all their films over to Roadshow Home Entertainment in this region, as this is a brilliant selection of extras that perfectly complements the film. This is about the only time where I have seen a DVD where the extras and replay value justify the heightened price tag ($34.95 for a home video is too much in my humble view).


    This is one of the best-presented menus I have ever seen, with graphics from the film, or animation and audio from the film in the case of the main menu. Unlike the main menu for The Matrix, the main menu animation is complementary to the overall feel of the film. The menus are 16x9 Enhanced, with comprehensive scene selection, language selection, and extras menus.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, and director Renny Harlin are provided in a comprehensive cast listing that also mentions Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard, LL Cool J, and Aida Turturro. Navigating the menu is somewhat confusing, but the combined biographies and filmographies are very interesting, if a little difficult to read.

Audio Commentary - Renny Harlin (Director) and Samuel L. Jackson (Actor)

    This commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, with Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson speaking in a round-robin fashion without actually interacting with one another. Jackson only speaks for the first hour of the film, or for however long his character manages to survive for. This isn't the best or most engaging audio commentary I have ever heard (El Mariachi/Desperado set the standards in the case of this extra), but it is definitely not the worst - The Matrix takes out that honour. A lot of interesting information is provided on the technical aspects and artistic choices that went into the making of the film.

Featurette - When Sharks Attack (15:06)

    This is basically an extended promotional piece for the film, with some behind-the-scenes details included for good measure. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio.

Featurette - The Sharks Of The Deep Blue Sea (8:23)

    This is also an extended promotional piece, covering the making of the mechanical sharks that were used in some shots during the making of the film. The sharks look incredibly life-like, and it is quite interesting to see how far underwater animatronics have come since Jaws. This featurette is also presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio.

Deleted Scenes With/Without Audio Commentary By Renny Harlin (Director)

    Presented in 2.35:1 without 16x9 Enhancement, this is a very disappointing extra. Contrary to what Paul W has stated in his review, these scenes were not too heavily compressed, as the transfer rate consistently hovers around six or seven Mb/s. The real problem is that the scenes in question were obviously taken from poor sources, and they strongly suggest that they are comprised of raw footage taken from the computer terminal that was used to put together the CGI effects.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    This trailer is of excellent quality that makes up for the poor quality of the deleted scenes. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. This is one of the better theatrical trailers I saw last year, except for the rapid cutting of footage into the climactic point, which can get a little annoying and harsh on the eyes.

Stills Gallery

    This is comprised of 32 still shots from the film, presented in a slow-motion video. It is not annotated or commentated in any way, and it is thus of rather limited value.

DVD-ROM Extras

    This is just a collection of boring links to World Wide Web sites, and why this crap is being put on our beloved format is beyond me. Most distributors have woken up to the fact that the vast majority of DVD Video users do not use a PC to watch their films, and I think it is time Village followed suit.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that the Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this DVD are identical, both in content and extras.


    Deep Blue Sea is presented on a reference-quality DVD. It's a pity that the plot is such a no-brainer that it borders on being irritating at times.

    The video quality is reference material.

    The audio quality is also reference material.

    The extras are comprehensive and mostly very enhancing to one's enjoyment of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
March 6, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer