02 October 2005

Into the Blue

Into the Blue vs. The Deep

I'm going to cut right to the chase.

If you want to spend two hours looking at Jessica Alba in a teeny bikini and close-ups of Paul Walker's abs, go see Into the Blue this weekend; you won’t be disappointed. This movie has eye candy by the gallon. But if you’re curious about this recent adaptation of The Deep, keep sailin’, there ain’t no treasure to be found in these waters.

Where The Deep was a bonafide thriller, Into the Blue is really just an action movie sprinkled with some suspenseful scenes and a big helping of T & A. Innuendos about the film’s "scenery" and "booty" aside, the only thing that keeps Into the Blue from being a total flop is its gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Into the Blue is loosely based on the 1977 Nick Nolte film The Deep (also starring Jaqueline Bisset). The premise for both films is basically the same: a treasure hunting couple discovers a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda. Unfortunately, the divers also discover a second wreck – one that’s full of illegal drugs. The divers must keep the location of both ships a secret while they search for an artifact that will allow them to stake a claim to the older wreck – a claim that could be worth millions. But the divers aren’t the only ones who know about the wreck loaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics. The local drug lords soon learn about the find and make life difficult for our heroes.

Where The Deep uses Haitian voodoo, eel attacks,* and a collapsing shipwreck to ratchet up the tension throughout the film, Into the Blue doesn’t have much intensity until the very end. If the entire film was as good as the last fifteen minutes, Into the Blue could have been a huge hit. Instead, genuinely interesting underwater sequences are interspersed with mediocre topside scenes of the four main characters bickering or, in the case of Paul Walker, flexing.

Though Into the Blue wasn’t a boring film, there was a lot of unrealized potential – especially considering the source material. If the characters had been a little smarter, or a little more charismatic, it would have made a huge difference. Walker’s Jared was too much of a generic everyman, and his sweet-as-pie girlfriend Sam (played by Ms. Alba) would have been completely dull if not played by one of the hottest actresses in film today. The couple just didn’t embody what you’d expect young treasure hunters to be like. The supporting characters, Bryce and Amanda, were one notch on the tolerable side of annoying, and it was difficult to believe that the Jared character was a longtime friend of the arrogant, untrustworthy Bryce.

The good news is, almost half the film takes place underwater. Director John Stockwell (Blue Crush) must have known to play to his strengths: a great underwater film crew and a group of very good-looking actors. I’ve been diving in some of the top destinations and the footage in Into the Blue blew me away. It’s very difficult to capture the magic of diving. Bubbles always get in the way, fish zip in and out of the frame, or everything just ends up a washed-out shade of blue. I also have to give credit to the cast for their underwater performances. Though stunt doubles were used for certain sequences, Alba and Walker did a lot of the work themselves. Alba was a certified diver prior to the film and appears in many of the shark dives, while Walker worked his way up to a three minute breath hold at seventy feet. Also worth mentioning – Into the Blue was filmed during the winter with water temperatures hovering in the low 70’s. At this temperature, you’d find most divers in 3mm or even 5mm wetsuits, but the actors did most of their scenes in naught but a swimsuit.

Something else I liked about Into the Blue, as compared to The Deep, was how the characters showed respect for the ocean environment. In 1977, blowing up part of the reef (or an artificial reef such as a wreck) was no big deal. Likewise, eels and sharks were portrayed as a threat and something that was expendable. Into the Blue takes the time to explain that not all sharks are dangerous and, for the most part, shows responsible diving behavior.

Into the Blue was supposed to be released as a summer blockbuster. Rumor has it that the film was pushed back due to Sony’s buy out of MGM.* * With a simplistic plot that relies mostly on its underwater action scenes and hard-bodied cast to hold the audience’s interest, the summer season is really where Into the Blue belongs. As remakes go, Into the Blue is in the same boat with Dawn of the Dead and City of Angels - the basic premise of the film is the same, but too much of the original film has been changed to warrant a fair comparison.

For two hours of entertainment, it’s not bad. Or you could put your $10 toward a vacation and some scuba lessons and can enjoy the Into the Blue experience first hand (annoying friends not included).

*If you’re a trained diver, you know such attacks are absurd, but, to a landlubber it’s scary.

** Supposedly Into the Blue was pushed back because Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony) already had a scuba movie slated for summer 2005 - The Cave. This film was laughably bad. When I saw it, the power went out in the theater about an hour into the film and the audience cheered.

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