Deep Blue Sea 3 Review: Madcap Mayhem Manages to Keep This Sequel Afloat

deep blue sea 3 movie sequel
(Photo: Warner Bros. Home Video)

In the decades since Jaws helped establish the concept of a "blockbuster," countless films have hoped to recreate that success by harnessing the power of sharks through virtually every concept imaginable. In 1999, director Renny Harlin delivered audiences Deep Blue Sea, depicting a group of researchers who hoped to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease by experimenting on sharks, inadvertently creating super-smart fish that hunted the researchers down through the sinking facility to hilariously exploitative results. More than 20 years later, Deep Blue Sea 3 dives right back into the outlandish oceans of the original installment, largely capturing the entertaining absurdity of what happens when sharks seek vengeance against their captors.

Shark researcher Emma (Tania Raymonde) streams her various underwater adventures to the followers of her blog, as she's discovered a great white shark nursery in a floating city whose population has almost entirely dwindled it due to global warming seeing an increase in sea levels. When former colleague Richard (Nathaniel Buzolic) appears with his own team on a sophisticated vessel, he reveals that he has been tracking bull sharks who have undergone brain-enlarging experiments, making them craftier and deadlier than ever. While the two teams both have different objectives, they all hope to make it out of the dire circumstances alive.

What really set the first Deep Blue Sea apart from its predecessors was not just its over-the-top ridiculousness in both its dialogue and deaths, but it unabashedly blamed the scientists doing the research in the first place as the true villains. Sure, it's the sharks that are the actual agents of terror, but their actions are entirely based on humans attempting to play God, even if they were doing it for the betterment of mankind. Despite those intentions, they were still subjecting animals to treatments that fundamentally altered everything about them, with the sharks essentially reminding them of the power of mother nature, confirming that the filmmakers would rather remind audiences of what humans were capable of as opposed to a film which merely vilified the animals for arbitrary reasons.

Deep Blue Sea 3 continues this trend, not only through the depictions of the village suffering the effects fo global warming, but also by once again embracing the concept of animals having to suffer through experimentation merely for the benefit of mankind. The film also doesn't merely repeat the events of its predecessors, as it shifts the focus away from mako sharks to bull sharks, while also throwing in some authentic information about how the species can survive in freshwater and how to tell the difference between male and female sharks.

A lot of the film's weight rests on the shoulders of its cast, with the initial group of researchers being diverse enough and having enough different emotional connections to one another to keep the audience invested. Raymonde does most of the heavy lifting in connecting all of the characters, as they don't entirely engage audiences on their own, allowing Emma to be a layered foil for the supporting cast to converse with. Luckily, Raymonde is equally effective when having to switch on her survival mode, making for a fully authentic lead for the franchise. The rival, corporate-backed team that arrives and serves as antagonists for the researchers are largely one-dimensional, but serve their purpose enough to keep the narrative moving forward.

What really makes Deep Blue Sea 3 stand out from its contemporaries is its complete earnestness. The Sharknado franchise may have earned interest from fans merely hoping to watch the ironic absurdity unfold installment after installment, opting to avoid making any attempt to develop a competent movie, writing off the poor acting, storyline, and effects as being an active choice on the part of the filmmakers. It feels its audacity is somehow clever, only for it to be the equivalent of watching someone sit on a whoopee cushion for 90 minutes.

The premise of Deep Blue Sea 3 is nearly as absurd as a SYFY original, yet it delivers a genuineness that engages a viewer more than anything Sharknado could ever convey. Admittedly, that's not to say that being authentic is a guaranteed path towards success, as the first half of the film has a number of expected tropes and conflicts, even if they're being portrayed by a committed cast. It would be easy to dismiss the film based solely on that first half, only for the entire endeavor to be saved by one specific moment.

We surely don't want to spoil what this moment is, but it's reminiscent of the famous scene in the original movie where Samuel L. Jackson's character meets an entirely unexpected demise after delivering a riveting monologue. It's when this homage to the original occurs in Deep Blue Sea 3 that fans who stuck with it are truly rewarded for their efforts, as we're given a number of truly jaw-dropping shark attacks, all of which are made effective by how the film plays them straight.

Herein lies the key to Deep Blue Sea 3's success: while an intentionally schlocky shark film might have more violence, that irony and artificiality wears out its welcome early, with our eyes eventually glazing over at every "wacky" death. This sequel, however, draws in viewers and establishes a sense of safety with the committed cast and crew, allowing the more absurd elements to feel like they came completely out of nowhere for audiences to entirely revel in the chaos. This sequel surely isn't for everyone, but those with fond memories of the original will appreciate the nostalgia of an absurd premise explored earnestly and never seeing itself wink at viewers, knowing that it's "so-bad-it's-good," all while actually just being "bad." Anchored largely by Raymonde's performance, Deep Blue Sea 3 just barely manages to save itself from mediocrity and has multiple crowd-pleasing moments that are the exact reason why the rewind button was invented, just to call other people into the room to witness deaths so extreme that they need to be seen to be believed.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Deep Blue Sea 3 lands on Digital HD on July 28th and on Blu-ray and DVD on August 25th.

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