The Big Blue (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

This is Luc Besson's "director's cut" of a movie which was praised before the director's cut came out. It adds back in 49 minutes of footage. That is a lot of footage.

I'm not sure how good the short version was, but this extended cut is a tedious movie which drags on forever. It's as bad or worse than Besson's Joan of Arc film. The extra footage must have been 49 minutes of really boring stuff, except for a few frames of Rosanna Arquette's breasts, and probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor. .

This film has all the same attributes that I've always noted about Besson, multiplied out several times.

  • His technical direction is typically superb. The colors, the underwater photography with dolphins, Sicilian and Peruvian panoramas - all spectacular. The music didn't impress me as much as in some of his other films, but it's still effective.
  • His writing is typically bad. In this case really bad. Besson is an adolescent boy in a man's body. That is a great characteristic in a director, but not necessarily in a writer. The women are miswritten completely. Poor Rosanna Arquette had to act like a character in some kind of S/F movie about people from other planets. She got no recognizable characteristics of a 20th century woman, and the lines they made her recite in the bittersweet finale were embarrassing to watch. It seemed like the old SCTV soap opera parody, "The Days of the Week".

The biggest problem with Besson the writer in this case, is that he just didn't write the kind of project that Besson the director is good at.  At his very best, Besson is incomparably effective with tension. He shows how the characters feel fear, how the conflicting forces are coming together for the showdown. He's just great at that.

But ....

 ... how much tension is there in competitive deep free-diving?

And, let me hasten to add, this is not a great spectator sport. Guys dive down to see how low they can go. They come back up.

This competition even minmizes the value of Besson's brilliant underwater photography because even the best photographic technique needs something to photograph. Underwater shots can be splendid if there is a coral reef, caves to explore, shipwrecks, lots of colorful fish, or dangerous predators. None of that is present here. A guy goes down really deep next to a rope that marks the depth. He's down so deep that it is really dark when he gets there. There are not even any fish in sight. End of story.

The deep-diving is the context, not the plot. The basic romantic plot is this:

  • Boy meets girl. Boy then meets fish. Boy dumps girl for fish.
  • Remember that character on the Simpsons who can only get off by ... um ... sleeping with the fishes? Well, that must be based on this guy. OK, it's not really a fish. It's a female dolphin. But close enough.
  • Rosanna Arquette gets jealous, of course, when fish-boy makes perfunctory love to her for five minutes, then later sneaks out of their bed and spends the entire night in the water with his dolphin.

Strange stuff.

Who the hell can you relate to in this film? Jean Reno, the dependable noir character actor, is completely miscast, and spends the entire movie in a bathing suit instead of wearing sunglasses and a cheap suit. I love his basso voice, but his growled English is so incomprehensible that I had to rewatch some scenes with English subtitles. Jean-Marc Barr, as aqua-lad, spends the entire movie with his eyes glazed over, and rarely speaks for any reason. Rosanna Arquette has to play a completely unrealistic character who seems to want to get pregnant so she can trap fish-boy into being with her instead of with his precious fishy. The minor characters are written so poorly and acted so badly that you'll laugh out loud several times.

And in the end, fish-boy just makes Rosanna cut the safety line on his power diver so he can go down to an unsafe level, down into the unfathomable depths and remain there forever. He goes down to a record depth, then his beloved dolphin shows up and carries him off somewhere.

The end.

I didn't make that up. That's really what the movie is about. And it's three hours of that. The film has developed a cult following with young people because of its rhapsodic adolescent sea mysticism.


Breasts and see-throughs from Rosanna Arquette in a couple of sex scenes.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

The Big Blue is a Luc Besson film available on DVD in a director's cut with an additional 49 minutes of running time.  It could be summarized as a pecker contest between French American Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) and Italian Enzo (Jean Reno) for the world's deepest free dive championship, and a love story between Jacques and Rosanna Arquette, an insurance secretary who falls instantly in love with him in Peru, and follows him to Italy.

The director's cut offers more than enough running time to explore several relationships, and, in the end, I think that is what this film is about. None of the relationships are simple. Jacques and Enzo grew up together on a Greek island, and shared a competitive love of the sea and diving. After Enzo makes it big, he sends for Jacques to compete. Enzo and Jacques have a deep friendship born of common history, mutual respect and a common love, the sea. Yet, they are fierce competitors. Jacques is completely enamored of Arquette, but only comes alive swimming with dolphins, and his real mistress is the bottom of the ocean. Arquette sees early on that the sea is her rival, but hopes her love is enough to carry the relationship.

If this sounds like a lot of relationship talk for a film about a pecker contest, you are starting to get the idea. There is a lot of positive news, including wonderful photography shot in Peru, New York, Sicily, France and Greece, and some amazing underwater dolphin shots.


DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic. excellent transfer

  • 49 minutes of extra footage

This is a difficult one for me to score. It is a very long watch in this extended version, although it does at least make sense now with the additional material. I did make it through the entire thing without the fast forward, and felt that I knew the characters. I understood the dark and rather strange ending. The cinematography and locations were impressive, and I suppose this is an epic character-driven drama, so your evaluative criterion becomes, "Are these people you would willingly spend that much of your life with?"

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed about $3 million in the USA, and about $10-15 million in France.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C+. It is a highly popular cult film which most people outside the cult will find unbearable - a definition which mandates a C+ in our system." Tuna says, "I am going to say C, a very solid if somewhat long film that genre fans should see once."

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