‘Deep Blue Sea 2’ is a Soggy Sequel

(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we go swimming with sharks and take a look at the long-overdue follow-up to the highly entertaining shark attack thriller Deep Blue Sea.) 

Director Renny Harlin‘s career is itself heading towards the DTV world these days, but back in the ’90s, he delivered a handful of truly solid big-screen action/adventures like Cliffhanger (1993), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), and the deliriously fun Deep Blue Sea (1999). The latter film pits a cast of familiar faces against a trio of genetically modified sharks in the middle of the ocean, and it is glorious. Big thrills, a knowing sense of humor, and at least two genuine character surprises elevate it from minor genre fare to a slice of entertainment that’s shown real staying power over the nearly two decades since its release.

A sequel has been rumored over the years, but it’s only now come into existence by way of a DTV film featuring none of the original’s players and nearly all of its story beats. A lack of originality is no guarantee of awfulness, though, so we decided to jump in feet first to see if the blandly titled Deep Blue Sea 2 can sink or swim with Harlin’s kick-ass original.

The Beginning

Employees at an underwater research facility spend their days and nights doing experiments on mako sharks, and while the work is ethically sketchy, it has noble intentions as they search for a cure for Alzheimer’s. Most of them head back to shore for the weekend, leaving only a skeleton crew behind to welcome a corporate bigwig who arrives to check up on the facility after an incident involving escaped sharks and terrified boaters. Trouble comes when bad choices, a big storm, and super smart sharks collide.

Accidents and shark shenanigans leave the facility offline with traditional exits blocked and hallways filling with water and toothy predators, and a handful of survivors are left fighting for their lives as they try to reach the surface. The film has charisma and personality to spare, and while some of the effects border on shoddy animation, the bulk of the shark action is created via sharp CG and killer practical work. It’s not entirely predictable who lives or dies (or when they die), and Harlin packs the film with grin-inducing sequences of triumph and chewing (of both flesh and scenery). And not for nothing, but we also get an end-credits theme song by LL Cool J featuring a chorus of “My head is like a shark fin!” So yeah, this is a pretty high water mark in shark attack movies.

The DTV Plot

It may have taken nineteen years to arrive, but the sequel’s story feels like it was written in nineteen minutes. The details differ slightly while the narrative simply regurgitates what came before, starting with an underwater facility in the middle of the ocean receiving visitors just as everything turns to shit. They’ve been working to enhance shark intelligence in the hope that the resulting findings will help do the same in people. Why? Because mankind is at risk of being outsmarted and destroyed by artificial intelligence, and this is our only shot at beating Skynet. Okay, they don’t actually mention Skynet, but the billionaire tech genius heading up the research screams that the war against the machines is coming and smart sharks are the only hope humanity has, so you do the math.

An “accident” topside disables the facility’s communication and power controls, and as the various departments begin to flood, it becomes clear that five monster sharks are loose. But there’s a twist! The adult sharks have stayed up top, and it’s their killer babies that are feasting on the survivors in the underwater lab. Only two people have a chance of stopping the carnage, and both have totally serious-sounding names, so you know they mean business. Can the brilliant Misty Calhoun and the rugged Trent Slater save the day? Probably.

Talent Shift

Deep Blue Sea was Harlin’s last hit before a series of financial duds (Driven, Exorcist: The Beginning, Mindhunters) knocked him off Hollywood’s speed-dial seemingly for good, and it remains among his very best films. Harlin’s movie is no A-list affair, but the faces are familiar, talented, and charismatic. Thomas Jane stars (in a role that would be “borrowed” by Chris Pratt sixteen years later for Jurassic World) alongside Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård, and LL Cool J. Again, not big stars, but definitely known and likable talents.

None of the cast returns for the sequel, as is expected – it’s been nineteen years after all – and there are no continuing characters. The cast is instead made up mostly of blank slates including Danielle Savre, Rob Mayes, Nathan Lynn, Stopmewhen Yourecognizesomeone, and others. None of them stand out as poor actors, but they also don’t stand out, period. Director Darin Scott‘s filmography is equally uneventful with his two previous films being Something Wicked (2014) and Megachurch Murder (2015). Exactly. This DTV sequel is easily his highest-profile gig yet, and as with the cast, his work here is fine, serviceable, but far from memorable. Depending on your musical tastes, though, there is one area where the talent shift might just be an improvement: in lieu of a ’90s rap, we get a ’90s-like ballad called “Into the Blue” played over both the opening and end credits.

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