‘Deep Sea’ overview: One terrifying element practically sinks this gorgeous underwater odyssey

This yr has already introduced us a crop of gorgeous, stylistically different animated movies just like the anime Suzume and the groundbreaking Spider-Man: Throughout the Spider-Verse. Becoming a member of their ranks in highlighting the flexibility of animation is Deep Sea, a Chinese language function movie with a singular type of its personal: a mix of extremely life like CG and a way paying homage to Chinese language ink portray.

Director Tian Xiaopeng makes use of this mixture of life like and illustrative animation to inform the story of Shenxiu (Wang Ting Wen), a younger woman whose mom deserted her at a younger age. Whereas she continues to grieve this loss, her father has remarried and had one other little one, and he’s way more targeted on these two than he’s on Shenxiu. Because the movie opens, the household boards a cruise collectively on Shenxiu’s birthday, however there is no such thing as a celebration for her. The one birthday want she receives is a textual content from her mobile phone firm.


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Deserted on the household vacation, Shenxiu turns to a narrative her mom as soon as instructed her: If you want for one thing in your birthday, a magical beast often known as the Hyjinx will assist make that want a actuality. One want later, the Hyjinx makes a stormy entrance into Shenxiu’s life. It brings her to the magical underwater Deep Sea restaurant, which serves a clientele of fish- and walrus-people. It’s right here that Deep Sea‘s plot actually kicks in, and the place the movie runs into its largest drawback: a human chef named Nanhe (Su Xin).

Nanhe turns Deep Sea from a dream right into a nightmare.

Introducing the person of my nightmares.
Credit score: Tribeca Movie Pageant

Nanhe is the pinnacle chef of the Deep Sea, and he’s by far the scariest factor within the movie. Raging storms, the bushy tendrils of the Hyjinx, a suffocating monster often known as the Crimson Phantom…None of them evaluate to Nanhe. Or extra particularly, to his mouth.

The CG animation of Deep Sea, particularly that of non-fantasy parts like people, stays strikingly life like. Even when facial options are exaggerated for the sake of animation, you continue to purchase into the world the movie presents. Nanhe’s mouth breaks that immersion completely. His lips stretch too vast for his skinny face, and his jaw strikes in such a speedy, contorting means that’d you suppose his jawbone was made from elastic. One phrase from him is all it takes to move us from the depths of the ocean to the uncanny valley, the place the sudden horror of a too-wide mouth waits to swallow us complete.


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To its credit score, Deep Sea does current Nanhe as an antagonistic determine early on. Relatively than assist Shenxiu on her quest to seek out her mom, Nanhe desires to show the Hijinx into the Deep Sea’s signature soup! No surprise she views him in a daunting mild. On this extra villainous context, Nanhe’s terrifying mouth makes full sense.

Sadly, the uncanniness doesn’t fade away as Nanhe warms to Shenxiu. Even after he saves her from the Crimson Phantom and welcomes her to the Deep Sea household, that stretchy mouth of his persists. It turns into even extra scary on the events when Nanhe wears clown make-up. Sure, the make-up serves the plot, however Nanhe’s overdrawn pink lip turns his already-overlarge mouth into nightmare gasoline.

Nanhe’s mouth design is very baffling contemplating he’s Deep Sea‘s secondary hero. His character improvement from bumbling egocentric rogue to Shenxiu’s steadfast (however nonetheless barely egocentric) protector is on the coronary heart of the movie, so he (and his mouth) are onscreen rather a lot. However after I consider him, I don’t instantly consider him as a hero. As an alternative, I consider the Joker, It‘s Pennywise, or at its most excessive, the Titans from Assault on Titan. None of these are notably good firm for Nanhe to be in given his position in the remainder of the movie, and the visible affiliation between him and these genuinely scary villains makes for a complicated watch.

Nanhe’s mouth apart, Deep Sea is a fascinating animated movie like no different.

A young girl stands in the middle of a rainy field of colorful ocean plants.

It’s lovely. I’ve checked out this for 5 hours now.
Credit score: Tribeca Movie Pageant

As hung up as I’m on Nanhe and his very scary mouth, it doesn’t derail the remainder of what’s a very outstanding movie.

Deep Sea‘s largest draw is its visuals, particularly the painterly type the movie introduces as Shenxiu first delves into the ocean. The opening sequence onboard the cruise ship is grounded, muted, and nearly fully devoid of coloration, a wise alternative that makes the transition to below the waves pop much more. There, vibrant swaths of coloration swirl throughout the display, made up of small particles that bring to mind dots of ink.

The impact is especially spectacular in 3D. Like different ocean-set movies, together with Avatar: The Method of Water and The Little Mermaid, Deep Sea is aware of that 3D movies work biggest not after they’re surprising you with in-your-face pop-ups, however after they’re immersing you on the earth of the movie. As Shenxiu ventures additional into the ocean, you’re fully submerged on this fantastical setting along with her. Gentle reveals and bursts of coloration play throughout the display, their ever-shifting motion and psychedelic palette calling to thoughts a cinematic kaleidoscope.


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Nevertheless, Deep Sea isn’t animated this manner in its entirety. Tian makes use of the ink portray type extra as a option to improve the story than to inform it in full. The denizens and interiors of the Deep Sea are animated utilizing CG, leading to luxurious photographs of meals and textures that look actual sufficient to the touch.

Deep Sea‘s story is efficient, if slightly acquainted.

A young girl looks out a rainy window.

Shenxiu is about to go on the journey of a lifetime.
Credit score: Tribeca Movie Pageant

Deep Sea‘s gorgeous animation brings to life a narrative that can hit you with the complete drive of an ocean wave. On a fundamental plot degree, it jogs my memory considerably of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which additionally sees a younger woman transported to a world of unusual and magical creatures. Each Chihiro and Shenxiu find yourself working at a enterprise that serves these creatures, be it a bathhouse or a restaurant. On prime of all that, each want to reunite with their households.

However under no circumstances is Deep Sea a carbon copy of Spirited Away. Past being set within the ocean, Deep Sea additionally takes a special strategy to tackling the psychological well being of its protagonist. Shenxiu’s grief manifests itself because the monstrous Crimson Phantom, which oozes into existence every time she begins to cry. It’s a little bit of an on-the-nose metaphor for Shenxiu’s personal unhappiness, however a strong one with killer visible payoff.

Deep Sea‘s story does meander a bit within the center, in addition to falter with plot twists you’ll be able to see coming from a nautical mile away. Nevertheless, the movie executes these twists with heart-breaking precision, in addition to a rare quantity of world-building element.

With such an progressive and authentic type, it’s simple to forgive Deep Sea for a little bit of predictability — though I’m not completely able to excuse Nanhe’s mouth simply but! Nonetheless, Deep Sea stays one other instance of the vary of animation as a medium, and its dazzling visuals should be seen on the massive display.

Deep Sea was reviewed out of its North American premiere on the Tribeca Movie Pageant. It has but to obtain an American launch date.