July 30th marks 20 years since the cinematic release of Deep Blue Sea in the US, the biggest mainstream shark release since Jaws and its sequels. Renny Harlin’s monster shark movie has numerous links to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.
The license plate that Thomas Jane prizes out of a tiger shark – he has just swam with no less – at the start of the film is exactly the same bent and battered Louisiana number plate which Matt Hooper pulls from – hey – a tiger shark in Jaws! Obviously we aren’t saying that Jaws and Deep Blue Sea share the same cinematic universe, it’s a homage and doff of the shark-filmmaking cap from Renny Harlin.
There are three enhanced Makos (first cousins of the great white) that feature in Deep Blue Sea and each are dispatched in the same dramatic style as the sharks that die in Jaws, Jaws 2 and Jaws 3D.
Although Chief Brody shoots the shark at the end of Jaws, it is the exploding air tank that eviscerates it. Having just escaped a literal roasting by a shark, LL Cool J uses his lighter to light escaping gas fumes that ends in the shark exploding.
Chief Brody destroys the great white shark menace in Jaws 2 by electrocuting it with the handy plot devise of a huge electricity cable that gives power to Amity Island from the not wholly convincing Cable Junction. Saffron Burrows also uses an electricity cable to fry a shark in her submerged quarters, in her underwear. At least she has better legs than Roy Scheider!
The shark at the end of the SeaWorld-set Jaws 3D is once again blown up, thanks to a grenade in the dead hand of Manimal, pulled by Mike Brody – now looking an awfully lot like Dennis Quaid. LL Cool J steps back up to the plate – well, he is a chef - and sends a electrical current to the shark blowing it to smithereens – in splash down scenes very reminiscent to the original Jaws.
It’s a favourite scene for me, but one of the most derided scenes in Jaws 3D is when the shark ‘smashes’ the glass towards the end of the film.
There is a very similar scene at the start of the shark mayhem in Deep Blue Sea, where the still alive body of the injured Stellan Skarsgard is thrust by one of the makos – remember they have bigger brains so are smarter – into the giant glass screen that smashes it and floods the research lab. It’s expertly done – loving the huge hunk of glass that slides across the floor as the huge wall of glass begins to crack and is replaced by a huge wall of water. It was all shot in the same tanks that were used for the filming of James Cameron’s Titanic, down in Mexico.
A few years after Deep Blue Sea, Thomas Jane would go onto play Frank Castle in The Punisher (2004) and playing his dad was none other than Chief Brody himself, the late great Roy Scheider.
Samuel L. Jackson
He’s the biggest star of Deep Blue Sea, agreeing to return to a Renny Harlin film after having so much fun making The Long Kiss Goodnight (a great Christmas film double bill with Jaws the Revenge). In Deep Blue Sea he plays multi-millionaire Russell Franklin, he’s obviously a few pay grades higher then when he simply worked the computers as Arnold in Jurassic Park – arguably Spielberg’s honorary follow-up in sense and style to Jaws.
Either way, his fate was pretty much the same, proving that money can’t protect you from sharp teeth.
Big Speech, Followed By Big Exit
When asked for their favourite scene of the film, many cite the shock departure of Samuel L Jackson just after he has delivered a cautionary tale about nature – he survived an ill-fated snow-filled climbing trip – in what is arguably the film’s wink to Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech. Both are swiftly fish food.
Shark Screen Time
Although they are made almost 25 years apart the shark’s featured almost share the same amount of screen time. In Jaws it is around just four minutes, whilst in Deep Blue Sea it is five.
Practical Shark Effects
Despite the advances in special effects – there is some CGI in Deep Blue Sea and it hasn’t aged incredibly well – just like Jaws, there were full-size working animatronic models. And just like the practical effects in Jaws, these are still amazing to watch today – not that Renny Harlin didn’t have some shark not working issues, just like Spielberg did.
Catch some of the amazing shark practical effects in the making of Deep Blue Sea.