Deep Blue Sea Blu-ray Review
Warner's VC-1 encode looks terrific for a film was actually already pretty darn good, if a touch soft and edge-enhanced, on DVD. The image, which has always been colourful and veering to the hot end of the spectrum, is rich and detailed and, thankfully, unmarred by any DNR. The print is clean and crisp and largely free of damage, and it retains a film-like layer of grain that is consistent throughout and not subject to any fluctuations either in lighter or darker areas of the image. Having seen some other unmolested catalogue titles recently that featured occasional bouts of clumpy noise or flurries of grain, it comes as a relief to see how smooth and consistent this image remains from start to finish.
The resulting picture is bright and colourful and the palette deliberately warm. Skin tones are nice and healthy, and the stylish lighting is marvellously conveyed from the midnight blues of some of the sequences to the garish and comic-book approach found in many of the other scenes. Orange glows from some of the emergency lights have a fine and realistic saturation. Lens flares appear with a variety of hues. Naturally, there are some strong shadows at play down in the environs of the sinking structure, and the disc copes very well with these. Blacks have no sign of crushing going on, details within aren't lost and the darker elements of the image are never overpowering. Once we go topside for the big finale, the picture opens up into an incredibly colourful and vibrant vista that may look nuclear-tinted by comparison to what has gone before but is certainly faithful to the source. The big flaming explosions are incredibly bright and vivid, searing in fact, but this is exactly how they are supposed to look. Detail within the flames is actually as good as it is in the ever-present swirling surface of the rising water too.
If mid to background details can often look softened by the inherent photography, then close-ups unmistakably reveal that immediate hi-def improvement with incredibly detailed faces and eyes. Beads of water, sweat and blood are vividly tracked. Stubble and texture is apparent. Rivets and bolts, hardware and equipment all possess a tighter, more defined appearance. Signs and readouts, maps and charts are all presented with greater clarity than afforded before, as is the rust and the dirt and age seen on the walls and doors and all those big round handles that take five people to turn. If you look at the big overhead shot of the facility going up in flames after the catastrophic Coast Guard rescue, you can watch the sea-plane explode with a lot more clarity than it ever appeared on DVD. Plus, the more overtly gory moments - a certain scientist having his arm torn off and the resulting stump spewing blood all over the tiled floor, for example - carry more detail and vividness than you will seen on home video before. And, hey, look at those teeth! Trust me, you may be impressed with the crisper definition they have, but it doesn't exactly make for comfortable viewing.
The much-vaunted CG sharks could have really lost out in this more detailed and higher resolution image, though. How many times have we seen such elements come completely undone with the higher definition process? Well, Deep Blue Sea's CG has never looked convincing, and I was totally expecting it to appear even worse here. But, guess what - it doesn't. Well, okay, the sudden speeding sharks and the body-chomping scenes don't look any more believable than they did before, but they do look a touch better integrated within the frame and with the live-action elements around them. In part, this could be due to the fact that the image looks a little darker in some scenes of carnage than the R1 DVD that I have. The head-ripping shark's banquet after THE BIG STAR has been dragged beneath the water actually seems a touch more obscured, and several other undersea shots appear darker and altogether murkier, too. But this isn't the whole story. The CG doesn't look as falsely smooth or as shiny or as downright “cartoony” as it once did, which just has to be a step in the right direction and certainly makes the film even more of a joy to watch.
So it is probably time to give that SD DVD a burial at sea, if you ask me. Warner's Blu-ray, like the Makos doing their thing in the movie, is an evolutionary step forwards, although the tampering hand of Man (in this case that belonging to the video engineer) does not seem to have had any adverse effects on what is now a vintage title. A great image, folks, that brings Deep Blue Sea to rich, detailed and three-dimensional life. This earns a very strong 8 out of 10 from me.
Well, the sound design for Deep Blue Sea was always meant to be exciting, bombastic and full of surround activity. The old DD 5.1 track was certainly an enjoyable enough experience, though still far from the best example of what a lossy mix could deliver in terms of precision and detail. And the same can be said for this DTS-HD MA 5.1 makeover. Make no mistake, the track is dynamic and exciting, but somehow I expected a fair bit more from this.
The sub will get a kick out of the explosions and the multitude of vicious impacts that take place. The positioning of some of the thuds can be nicely directional. Waves can crash from one side of the room to the other, and the rattling of scattered debris, or of jetting daggers of water punched through tiny holes and valves in the steel walls, can be fairly precise. Air cannisters rattle across the floor from left to right and chunks of masonry crash and thump all over the place. There's a nice little metallic ching! when Carter snaps that diver's knife in the door. And screaming can come over with tonsil-shearing alacrity - Jacqueline McKenzie gets a couple of occasions to vent her lungs. The stereo spread across the front is certainly wide enough to accommodate some of the more ensemble hysterics and bickering, so the film does feel as though it has been opened up.
There's plenty of rear support going on although, if I'm honest, it can still sound somewhat strained. Clanging thuds of three-ton sharks smashing into steel bulkheads, the constant roaring of water down halls and corridors, the odd harpoon-twang, a fair few explosions and the ominous groaning of the facility's foundations are often taken-up by the speakers at the back. I like the little sizzles of the falling debris in the burning shaft whistling down past us. The big explosion of the helicopter and the tower has a great front to back flaming surge that now has more impact than we have heard before. Although, as I said at the start, this is still not quite as bombastic as I had hoped it would be.
An area of more concern, though, is that there is a problem with the dialogue. Now this was something inherent to the original mix as well, so we can't lay the blame at the feet of this new transfer, but it only seems more apparent when heard in this lossless track, and that is that the dialogue during certain scenes is very noticeably sunken beneath the music and FX-material. One overt example is when poor Skarsgard has lost his arm and is being hurried topside to be picked-up by the Coast Guard. Voices are horribly lost in the squall and it is not a comfortable part of the overall design and does sound, to me at least, like something of a mixing mistake. But, as I say, this element - and it certainly happens elsewhere as well - has always been a problem with the film's audio, though you would have thought that a new lossless mix could have been used to make some attempt to rectify and rebalance this.
But, on the whole, Deep Blue Sea sounds terrific. The all-too-vital “oomph” is meatier, the score richer and more evenly presented, and the room-filling atmospherics better directed and more enveloping. Thus, after the sterling video transfer, Warner's UK disc gets another big thumbs-up from me.
There has been nothing new added to this release. Everything found here was also on the SD edition from years and years ago.
The commentary track from Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson was a bit of a jaw-dropper back when I first heard it, and most fans of the film will recall why. Basically, Jacko is only contributing to the commentary until the very moment when his character no longer has any bearing on the film - which is, of course, surprisingly early on. Now, on the surface of things, this is possibly only natural. He had no say and no participation in anything that followed (which is irrelevant to the chronology of the film's plot) so you could argue that he would have nothing of worth to actually add? But, as far as I am concerned, this was a film that he was irrevocably involved with and his opinions, which have made for intriguing listening up until this point, would have been interesting right throughout it. Moreover, the way that he leaves the chat-track set-up is actually a bit rude. “Right. That's it. I'm not in the film from this point on so I couldn't be a*sed talking to you any more.” That is about the size of it. Cheers. Thankfully, Harlin takes up the slack and delivers a very decent account of the production and the difficulties that he and his crew encountered. His chat is very tech-orientated but he manages to keep from getting too dry, if you'll pardon the expression. If Jackson had stayed on-board, I'm sure his anecdotes and knowledge of the other actors would have been an entertaining aside but, as it stands, this is an unusual commentary that for me, at any rate, feels unsatisfying.
The Sharks Of Deep Blue Sea is, as the title suggests, a look at the creation of the various monsters that were created for the film. Some fine examples of the animatronic art are displayed amid spoilerific clips from the film. But running for only around 8 minutes, this is little more than promotional fluff.
When Sharks Attack is sadly not a documentary about the real-life encounters with these lords of the deep, but just another look behind the scenes of the film. No bad thing, of course, but there is potential for something a tad more educational with such material, I would have thought. This one runs for almost double the length of the previous featurette and actually shows us some real sharks being filmed and even Thomas Jane going down under the waves to meet them. A little bit more in the way of interviews with the cast and crew keep this piece afloat.
We also get to see five Deleted Scenes, totalling about 8 minutes. Now most of this stuff, although nice to see, is composed of character and dialogue extensions that actually add nothing to the film or the story that would have been of benefit. They would inevitably have slowed down the pace and, therefore, their omission is understandable. Renny Harlin supplies an optional commentary for this selection.
The release is rounded out with the film's theatrical trailer.To be honest, this is quite a paltry selection. Nothing new has been added and what there is fairly mundane and disappointing. In an ideal world, I would have wished for a new retrospective making-of and a commentary from Thomas Jane and LL Cool J. But hey, at least we didn't get one from drone-voiced Saffron Burrows, eh? If we had you could definitely understand Jacko walking out.
Actually far too accomplished to be hailed as simply a guilty pleasure, Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea is, nevertheless, an example of supreme popcorn entertainment. The primal fear of Jaws welded on to the heroics of Cliffhanger, the film is the proverbially clichéd adrenaline-rush that refuses to come up for air until the final credits begin to roll after a breathless and explosive climax. Anchored by a taut performance from the always-likeable Thomas Jane and his effortless chemistry with LL Cool J, the film surmounts the ineptitude of poor and embarrassing turns from Saffron Burrows and Samuel L. Jackson to become an impressive tour de force. Harlin knows that if he pauses for too long, his venture will sink faster than the doomed research facility, so he keeps applying the thumb-screws through a never-ending series of ever more heart-stopping ordeals and traumas. The fact that these sharks are smarter than the fools experimenting on them is a great slant on the old monster-runs-amok chestnut and, like all those other science-tampering-with-nature flicks, the moral warning is rammed home with such visceral intensity that a part of you actually can't help rooting for the big bad Makos!
Somewhat disappointingly, Warner only ports over the same extras from that very early DVD release, but they render the film with a terrifically vibrant and unmolested hi-def makeover that more than makes up for it. The audio is exciting and dynamic, if still a bit lacking when compared to more recent fare, but, overall, I'm sure fans of the film will have little to complain about.
Deep Blue Sea, then, comes out on Blu-ray and takes a great big bite out of the screen. Disposable fun it may be, but this was a movie that actually dared to break a few rules. Showing no respect for superstars was a shrewd move and provided the film with a very refreshing kick in the gills. Hardly art, but this is top-flight entertainment that drops you in at the deep end and literally throws you to the sharks.
Awesome stuff, Deep Blue Sea comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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