With Shark Week surfacing in the near future, there’s no better time to unleash the latest installment in the Deep Blue Sea franchise. That’s right, the glorious 1999 blockbuster spawned its first sequel only two years ago. While the last movie left sharkophiles utterly disappointed, the newest entry easily outswims its predecessor.
Deep Blue Sea 2 was essentially a low-rent cover version of the original. Like in the first movie, scientists at an oceanic research facility are engineering super-smart sharks when their creations suddenly escape and turn on them. The most sizable difference between the two, however, was the inclusion of baby sharks that acted more like cartoon piranha. The studio neither broke the mold nor the bank with that one. Meanwhile, Deep Blue Sea 3 concerns Dr. Emma Collins and her crew researching the effects of climate change on great whites in the area, all the while living at a nearly empty fishing village built on top of a coral reef. When Emma‘s ex from grad school shows up with some shady colleagues, he incidentally lures a group of hyper-intelligent bull sharks to the once-peaceful community.
Even with only a reported $5-million budget, the sequel already looks far more striking than the prior movie. Shot off the coast of picturesque Cape Town, South Africa, Deep Blue Sea 3 basks in its natural environment. It’s the backdrop of one of those “Wish you were here” postcards. Taking full advantage of its locale, the movie favorably keeps almost every scene in the open sunlight rather than in the dark recesses of the ocean or in a dimly lit laboratory. It’s a breath of fresh air to watch a movie be so exposed and navigable. The fishing village, which was built on hydraulics, provides a great setting for this one-location actioner.
We’ve come to accept that shark movies these days will opt for CGI over practical simply out of ease and versatility. The mix of digital and, to a lesser degree, puppetry looks fairly good for a direct-to-video feature. It’s leaps above Syfy adjacent fare, if that’s any indicator of quality. Things do tend to get a tad dodgy-looking during underwater scenes — floating, freshly removed viscera amid a cloud of red looks oddly fine, but oncoming, darting sharks resemble crude video game models. These moments are brief so unless you’re already looking for them, they’re easy to miss.
“It goes without saying Deep Blue Sea 3 is no patch on the original […but that] doesn’t stop this sequel from defying the odds and being simply enjoyable.”
The runtime is perhaps the most shocking thing about the movie. In no way did this have to be one-hundred minutes long, and it would have survived with longer scenes curtailed or a few shorter ones removed altogether. What pads the length is an abundance of action sequences that have little to no engagement with the story’s finned antagonists. These specific instances are all about the human conflict, which involves in-camera explosions, gunfire, and plentiful hand-to-hand combat. Co-star Bren Foster certainly steals the show as he demonstrates his authentic prowess for the martial arts. Regardless, the lack of sharks in a movie about sharks is a strange choice.
Deep Blue Sea 3 does not have the most original plot and its commentary on climate change is shallow at best. What saves the whole thing, however, is the cast. The characters may come off as cookie-cutter, but the lot of them are likable and committed. Tania Raymonde (Emma) carries the movie on her shoulders as the heroic and resourceful lead, whereas Emerson Brooks (Shaw) plays the agreeable stand-in father figure to the protagonist. It wouldn’t be a research team without its tech geeks: Alex Bhat (Spin) and Reina Aoi (Miya) are charming to the point where audiences feel a genuine interest in their well-being. Avumile Qongqo (Nandi) and Siya Mayola (Bahari) portray a pair of sympathetic residents who get caught up in all the drama. Although Nathaniel Buzolic (Richard) is no Thomas Jane, he is crucial to one of the movie’s funnier setpieces.
It goes without saying Deep Blue Sea 3 is no patch on the original. Not even close. Still, it doesn’t play out like another uninspired remake, and it also has ties to the first movie so its inclusion in the franchise feels warranted. The diverse cast of actors, who all rise above their lack of household name status as well as the material, feels invested. Their amiability is what chiefly separates this B-movie from others. Sure, there could have been more emphasis on the sharks all throughout rather than keeping them in the back end, but that decision doesn’t stop this sequel from defying the odds and being simply enjoyable.