A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Megalodon

August 3, 2010

Megalodon

I like to know where I stand with a movie. When I sit down to spend ninety minutes of my life watching something I want to know what I’m setting myself up for. With yesterday’s movie I was expecting just what I got – pure low budget cheese. Within the first few minuted of today’s offering I quickly got a sense of how this film stacks up in comparison. Whereas Sharks in Venice had a sort of Ed Wood level of bad to it, and gave the impression of having been made for pocket change (I’d say less than $100,000) tonight’s movie is a giant step up. It has a wealth of digital special effects. It has a number of actors who can speak English. It has a whole lot of sci-fi inspired sets. Overall it gives the impression of a made for TV effort with the budget of, for example, an episode of the Stargate TV show. Say somewhere between one and two million dollars.

The plot involves an enormous prototypical oil rig called Colossus off the shores of Greenland. It’s the baby of industrialist and billionaire Peter Brazier. I think he’s inspired by Virgin Air CEO Richard Branson – sort of a pioneer and adventurer. Mr. Brazier invites television reporter Christen to visit Colossus so she can document his efforts to make oil drilling more environmentally sound and efficient. It’s a largely automated rig, so in spite of it’s vast size it only has twenty-two crew members. We meet about seven of them. There’s Renascence man, spear fisher, and dive chief Ross. His girlfriend Maz, who drives one of the rig’s submarines. There’s the chief engineer and the chief medic and a few red shirts besides. Brazier seems like a pretty hands on CEO in that he’s right there on the rig the whole time and doesn’t seem to have to do anything but run things there. I guess the rest of his company must pretty much run itself.

It takes a long time for the movie to really get going. There’s a lot of time spent introducing characters and showing us the rig and its workings. We get to see the underwater elevator that can be used to shuttle essential personnel to the sea bed (though for what purpose is never really explored. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get out of the elevator once you’re down there and it has no manipulating arms or anything. I suppose it’s a sort of mobile command center or observation deck or something, but mostly it’s just a plot device for putting characters in peril.)

Eventually, about halfway through the movie it seems, the rig’s drill penetrates a vast underwater cavern and disappears into the murky depths. This cavern is apparently some kind of deep underwater land that time forgot, and all sorts of prehistoric beasties get unleashed when the drill breaks in… including (finally!) the giant forty-foot long uber-shark: the Megalodon. From then on the crew are in a battle for their lives as the giant shark menaces submarines, traps a bunch of characters in the aforementioned elevator, and generally rams the rig a whole bunch because it just bugs him.

Overall I found the movie to be inoffensively entertaining. It’s not great cinema, but for the most part it’s competently made and it feels like it mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do, in a bland sort of made-for-TV way. Some might complain that the effects are not quite up to the vision of the film, but I found them perfectly serviceable. You’re never going to mistake any of the vast majority of the film for real, because it has a very computer-generated feel to the whole thing, but if you can suspend your disbelief you can mostly enjoy it. (This is the Dr. Who fan in me speaking I know.) Somebody put a lot of effort into modelling the Colossus rig and the elevator and the submarine (there are three subs, I think, but they’re all the same computer model) and the sci-fi feel of the whole thing is pretty cool. My one complaint about the effects would be that the Megalodon itself lacks mobility and generally comes across as a lumbering mechanical monster and not an agile and threatening beast. This leads into one of my general complaints about the whole movie, which is that there is very little tension to the whole thing.

Even when the shark finally came on the scene I never really felt that the characters were in any peril. I’m not sure why this is, but although I wasn’t really disappointed in the acting or the effects or anything neither was I ever really engaged. The few characters I didn’t particularly like met their untimely ends, but I didn’t really care what happened to the rest of the crew. Except perhaps for Maz, who seems like a kind of cool woman except when she’s greasy and meditating… that scene kind of threw me. I think that I’m supposed to care about Ross, who seems most of the time like the most intelligent person on the rig and is kind of the main hero, but the performance of Al Sapienza who plays him is kind of monotone and grating. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to come across as brooding and intense, but it just didn’t work for me. As for Peter and Christen and Mitchell and all… meh. Nobody really stood out for me, they were all inoffensive and bland. Adequate. Like the effects.

The other problem I have with the movie is that it ends so abruptly. I know this might sound odd, that I’m saying “this movie was so bland, and there was too little of it,” but I felt in the end like there was a headlong rush to bring things to a quick conclusion. Perhaps they had budgetary problems or time restrictions or something. But after they spent so very much time introducing the setting and the characters it felt odd that once the actual story got going there was so little to it. There was little sense of danger, little action and little emotional investment, and then it was just over.

I should also mention a couple other small gripes. For one, the movie starts out with a wholly unnecessary news cast that sets up the plot. I can’t figure out why this bit was there at all, since just about everything in the newscast is later re-introduced more organically by characters in the film. Maybe they needed to pad it out to a full hour and a half or maybe the news anchor was a girlfriend of the producer? It mystifies me. My other complaint is that the version of the film we have (which is apparently the only version that was ever made) is clearly cropped from widescreen to the 3:4 aspect ratio of an old TV. I say this because some of the closing credits and bits in the unnecessary opening news broadcast are cropped off the sides of the picture. Why on earth would you make a direct-to-video production and have as its only release this defective version where you can’t even read all the actor’s names because they go off the edge of the screen. It made it feel as though perhaps the movie was not really intended to be released but was somehow leaked to DVD from a pirated copy or something. Very odd.

The movie was, for me, like a big bowl of luke-warm plain oatmeal. Filling but not satisfying. It wasn’t awful enough to be bad, but it wasn’t interesting enough to be good. It’s just kind of there.

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August 3, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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