So, it appears a direct-to-video sequel to Renny Harlin’s gonzo, creature feature masterpiece Deep Blue Sea is coming out. The original is nearly two decades old1 and I have to wonder how much name recognition it still has outside of genre film dork circles, but it’s not the worst sequel idea in the world. That award goes to Easy Rider: The Ride Back. Second place: Hard Target 2.2 So, let’s give it a shot, shall we?
Well, that looks like a DTV sequel to Deep Blue Sea, alright. It’s the same exact premise, in the same exact setting, only smaller and blander. The only difference is that this time the mad scientist is actually trying to make sharks smarter, instead of accidentally making them smarter in the process of trying to cure Alzheimers, thus avoiding the slight moral ambiguity in the first film. Scratch that. According to the tagline, he’s not making them smarter, he’s making them wiser, suggesting that they’re saving for retirement, know to avoid political talk in work contexts, and have a deep knowledge of magic, passed down from the Ancients.
That’s all pretty predictable, but what makes this particular DTV sequel stand out is how lacking in ambition it is, or rather how it pales in comparison to what might have been. Back in 2009,3 Warner Bros. approached Jack Perez (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Wild Things 2) about writing and directing a DTV sequel.
His pitch, which apparently was approved immediately, was an Aliens sort of thing, with the initial premise cranked up and tweaked into a combat film. I realize the Aliens route isn’t exactly a new idea when it comes to low budget sequels, with Carnosaur 2 being a particularly egregious example, but bear with me. Rather than being set in an underwater research lab, it would have been set in a research ship. A research ship threaded with water-filled tunnels, like Habitrails, connecting larger tanks. Habitrails for sharks. That’s right, Deep Blue Sea 2 would have been set in a ship filled with water. Think on that for a second. Said water-filled vessel is captured by Somali pirates, and a team of Navy SEALs have to infiltrate it and take it back.
Insane, right? But I haven’t gotten to the best part. The deadly sharks, in addition to being super smart, would have been surgically augmented to have machine guns and torpedoes. Machine guns and torpedoes. This could have been a b-movie classic, especially given that it would have been played totally straight. Said Perez:
I honestly didn’t even think of Austin Powers when I came up with [the weaponized sharks]. My whole intention was to play it as straight as possible, so that the kind of stuff that was used in Austin Powers as a gag, or later in things like Sharknado purely as camp, would be done pretty direct and dark. On paper, it seems absolutely comical, but my intention was to make these sharks Frankenstein-style mutations that were tragic and violent. With the exception of the quipping between the soldiers, it wasn’t going to be played for humor.
Which sounds about right to me. I’m generally not a fan of making things “dark” for no reason, but with a premise this campy I could totally see it working.
I really wish this version of Deep Blue Sea 2 had been made, but it was not to be. Perez was pretty deep into pre-production when Warner Bros. chickened out over the budget and pulled the plug. Imagine, though. Imagine if we had gotten sharks with frickin’ machine guns against SEALs and pirates instead of the unimaginative yawn-fest we see in the trailer above. This is one of the things that bugs me about low budget sequels. You could take any genre film title, put a “2” behind it, and slap it on just about anything and make a profit. The risk is low, so why not have some fun with it? But for every Wrong Turn 24 there’s another Lake Placid sequel with no ambition whatsoever. I feel the same way about SyFy movies and Asylum mockbusters. They’re missed opportunities.
Sure, Perez’s Deep Blue Sea 2 could have been a massive let down that only sounds awesome on paper, much like John Sayles’ unproduced script for Jurassic Park 4, but a guy can dream right? Here’s the trailer for the original Deep Blue Sea as an antidepressant. You’re welcome.
- Dude. What the hell? How did that happen?
- I actually haven’t seen the latter, and Adkins has a history of stepping in for Van Damme, but how on Earth do you make a Hard Target sequel and not set it in New Orleans? That’s one of the film’s distinguishing features. Ugh!
- STILL ten years later. Jeez.
- Which is really great, by the way.