New Releases: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

Classic Movies: Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Deep_blue_seaI've spent a lot of time on this blog recently carrying on about things that I should like but I don't.  This post, then, is an essay about a thing I shouldn't like but I do.  And that thing is the 1999 movie Deep Blue Sea.

When I say that I shouldn't like this movie, I really, really mean it.  It's intensely anti-intellectual, brimming with scientists and their overbearing hubris and their Ph.D.s and their learning and stuff, playing God and getting their just desserts for so doing.  It's deeply, grossly heavy-handed in its Christianity, whacking its viewers over the head with enough Christian iconography and superficial religiosity to fill a small cathedral.

The acting is mediocre.  The (terrifyingly emaciated) female protagonist spends the final quarter of the movie in her underwear.  The dialogue is terrible.  The script isn't even new and interesting in its take on action movie tropes, one absolutely  brilliant little subversive moment aside.

And yet.  I like this movie. 

This is why I like Deep Blue Sea: it's actually pretty well done.  It's fast-paced.  The evil super-smart sharks are awesome, really very effective villains.  The patently ridiculous death scenes are delightfully over the top.  Characters are reasonably effective, and not complete morons.  Shit blows up.  People get chomped. 

Deep Blue Sea also strikes that rare and interesting balance between self-consciousness and High Seriousness.  There's no winking and nudging to let the audience know that the movie is in on the joke; a few meta comments aside, the movie takes itself and its absolutely fucking ridiculous premise totally seriously.  But it doesn't take itself offputtingly seriously.  An example of this is LL Cool J's Blue-Collar Everyman Protagonist Cliché #73, Preach.  Despite the character's essential two-dimensionality, LL plays him with light charm, making his heavy-handed religiosity much easier to sit through.

And then there's that scene.  If you've seen Deep Blue Sea, you know which one I mean.  (And if you haven't, don't read this paragraph.)  This is it, Deep Blue Sea's one real contribution to cinema.  Its one real and subversive moment.  The major, untelegraphed, unexpected plot-twist.  The game-changer.  The moment where Samuel L. Jackson gets totally eaten by a shark.  Right in the middle of his great motivating speech.  

Go ahead, watch Deep Blue Sea again.  It's as surprisingly good as you remember.  (While still being a pretty terrible movie.)