These days, there is an impassioned debate going on about intentionally baiting and killing sharks of a certain size if they get too close to certain Australian shores. In order to help me understand of the issues and to reflect upon the implications of the policy, I decided to watched Sharknado.
This was also inspired by a Facebook comment about a post I did a while ago about the nearly unwatchable Olympus Has Fallen. One of my friends wrote, “Can’t be worse than Sharknado…” Up until that point, I hadn’t even heard of Sharknado, the 2013 SyFy original production that comes from the creative depths of The Asylum, but that comment led to a conversation with another friend that finally culminated in a latish viewing experience the other night.
And what an experience it was.
So the first question is, was it worse than Olympus Has Fallen or not? It’s hard to answer. It wasn’t good, that’s for sure. I could never bring myself to say, “Sharknado is a better movie than…,” about anything. But I’d feel the same way trying to put Olympus Has Fallen ahead of some other film on any sort of “least bad list”.
It’s sort of like Olympus Has Fallen was an expensive roast beef sandwich that you’ve bought from a deli but it’s not until you have paid for it and have walked away and are about two or three blocks down the road before you’ve bitten into it and realized that the mayo is off. Sharknado on the other hand is like a baloney & processed cheese sandwich you find in the back of our fridge wrapped in cling-wrap, and you don’t know how long it’s been there, but you’re starving so you’re probably going to eat it, even though you know it’s going to be awful. Which of those is worse? They’re different, but as we all must learn, just because something is different doesn’t mean that it’s any good.
The second question is “What did I learn about the issue of intentionally baiting and killing sharks?” And the answer to that is that it is certainly a bad idea to ever intentionally do anything to get sharks to come close to you, because they will certainly eat you. Even if you are on a boat. Even if you are on dry land. Even if you are in a helicopter. Sharks are vicious, deadly, malevolent, unstoppable killing/eating machines, and you’re only hope of survival is to have military ordinance ready at any moment. Or at the very least, a chainsaw. That, as far as I can tell, is the lesson to be learned from this movie.
If case you’re not familiar with Sharknado, let me tell you about it. The tagline for the film is “Enough Said!” The premise is that a big hurricane crashes into Los Angeles and forces thousands of sharks into the waterlogged streets of the city, wrecking havoc upon the city. Later, they actually fall from the sky from tornadoes, and attack people in a helicopter. So yeah, “Enough Said,” I guess.
But no! Because there is so much more to say!
First of all, the movie opens with a shot of lots of sharks, and a shot of tornadoes. So already at this point the movie has delivered on its promises – we’ve got sharks, we’ve got tornadoes. So far, so good. Quickly, we move into scenes of seedy ethnic-types pointing guns at each other and acting threateningly aboard a fishing boat. This doesn’t last long, as it turns out that a pod of thousands of sharks that are moving toward Los Angeles start getting washed aboard the boat by the storm and proceed to eat everyone, in spite being, you know, out of the water.
Then we cut to Los Angeles, where a guy from Beverly Hills 90210 and a guy from Baywatch go surfing together. The cute girl they are flirting with gets eaten by the bad CGI sharks that are being driven toward shore by the bad CGI storm, and one of the guys gets attacked. Luckily, the other one (named “Fin” of all things) saves him by swimming over to him and smacking the shark in the nose with a surfboard. Then he jet-skis his friend to shore and yells ineffectively at all the beach-goers to get out of the water. None of them do, and they pay for it as a result. The sharks swim right past Fin and start attacking people in about 1 foot of water. Eventually, all the survivors run to the shore, where they are safe…for now.
Because it’s not long before Los Angeles becomes flooded, and the streets are infested with sharks. They swim along the roads, attacking stranded motorists. They swim up sewers. They burst in through windows, and swim around houses. At one point, one of them pretty much climbs up a rope! And eventually, they fly through the air, thanks to the tornadoes, and attack helicopters. And they fall to the ground, like snow…snow made of giant snowflakes that are determined to eat you. And if the sharks are not enough, there is also a killer ferris wheel, which seems to come to life and chase people for one scene. There are also some requisite Jaws-references. And there is the line of dialog that goes something like, “We have got to fly the helicopter over the tornadoes so we can drop a bombs in them. There’s no other option”
Fortunately for the humans, they are accompanied by Nova, the 20-year old bartender who works for Fin, who has a mysterious backstory and a scar on her leg she doesn’t want to talk about, and is really really good with a shot gun. She blows away sharks both out of the water and out of the air (because that’s the world we’re living in here). She’s also sort of introduced as a potential love-interest for the much older Fin, but his cranky ex-wife turns up, so she ends up connecting with Fin’s son instead. Their affection is sealed when Nova ends her account of her tragic, shark-infested backstory with the comment, “They took my grandfather, and so I really hate sharks,” and then he replies, “Now I really hate sharks too.” The actor bringing him to life easily delivers the weakest performance of the film’s many sub-par performances.
Possibly the best performance comes from notable character actor John Heard (the father from Home Alone) who plays the drunk George, who joins the band of main characters for the first fourth of the movie or so. He defeats a shark with a bar stool that he carries around with him, so that’s kind of cool. Clearly, George is cut from the same cloth as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel, as he also ends up dying saving a dog from a car during what you’d have to call a natural disaster.
This trailer has some gruesome moments, but it gives you the general idea
Watching Sharknado, you don’t get the impression that the film makers were trying to particularly dramatic or scary. They weren’t really trying to be funny, either, though they occasionally were. Instead, you just feel like they simply didn’t care – they were going to make a movie called Sharknado about physics-defying sharks that eat people gruesomely (but unconvincingly), and it didn’t matter what anyone thought. And in so doing they created a film that doesn’t really excel at anything, except for being spectacularly audacious – what more could you say about a story in which a scene where man chainsaws himself out from inside a shark isn’t even the craziest thing going on?
Incidentlaly, Olympus Has Fallen vs. Sharknado? Tough call. Olympus Has Fallen has a lead hero with a tragic backstory, lots of people being shot in the head, and slightly better acting. Sharknado features a supporting heroine with a tragic backstory, lots of people being eaten in whole or in part, and is slightly funnier. Which is a better movie? It depends on your priorities, I guess.