A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 157 – Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus – August 4th, 2010

You know you’re watching some quality cinema when there’s a gigantic shark leaping out of the water to chomp on an airplane that’s still in flight. Sure, there was a giant octopus attacking a Japanese oil rig, but let’s face it, giant tentacles attacking an oil rig isn’t anything new or different. Doctor Who did it back in the 70s. But a shark attacking an airplane in mid-air, that’s something special. It certainly outdoes yesterday’s shark. I mean, I like my sharks to show some initiative.

This movie really begins with Deborah Gibson (yes, that Deborah Gibson) and some other guy (we don’t need to care about him) in a sub, doing some underwater whale watching. Things seem pretty calm until some illegal blasting shakes up an iceberg, I think, and the sub almost gets crushed. I don’t think I need to explain what was frozen in that iceberg. If you need some help, look at the title. The octopus and the shark attack a bunch of things, which is where the fantastic shark vs. airplane scene comes in. Emma (Gibson) meets up with her old professor, Lamar, to figure out what’s behind all the destruction. Meanwhile, a Japanese scientist, Seiji Shimada, is investigating attacks in Japanese waters. He shows up in the US and our three intrepid scientists do SCIENCE STUFF (you can tell, cause they have beakers and there’s neon lighting) until the US government grabs them and we meet Allan, played by Lorenzo Lamas, whose character can be summed up as an ignorant dickhead. And so they work on a way to deal with the beasts, eventually settling on getting them to take each other out. The octopus is the natural enemy of the shark, you know, so clearly that will work.

There’s not a hell of a lot of plot here. Shark, octopus, lots of destruction and scenes that are supposed to be inside submarines but are very obviously not. Allan acts like an ass and Emma and Lamar get snarky at him. Military dudes yell and get angry. Emma and Shimada hook up and their hookup provides the inspiration for how to lure the shark and octopus together. Theoretically it also provides some emotional stakes for the movie, since they end up on different submarines being chased by different giant sea creatures. I was totally on board with them hooking up, cheesy as it was. And I’ll give the movie credit for an Asian romantic lead (okay, he’s a scientist too and it’s action, not romance, but still). I’m not saying I really cared about these characters, but I can at least say the movie tried to give them personalities and relationships and backgrounds.

Now, let me be clear: This movie is cheesetastic. If the airplane bit wasn’t enough to convey that, there’s the SCIENCE scenes and all the Japanese military guys speak English. Shimada quotes Julius Caesar. Lamar talks about the shark and the octopus being horny. He uses the word “horny”, really. There are location titles for almost every scene, regardless of whether it’s the same location as the last scene. Everyone does a lot of very expressive acting in reaction to things they didn’t have the money to show us. The movie did have some money, but they seem to have put it all into Gibson, Lamas and the big climactic fight between the two monsters. They sure didn’t spend it on the sets, which are minimal at best and feature many recycled shots. They didn’t spend it on the script either. It would be a compliment to say the dialogue is stilted. We laughed our way through this movie, which is probably for the best.

What this movie succeeds at is being bad. Laughably bad. I still wouldn’t say it measures up to Sharks in Venice (now my ultimate gauge of Shark cheese), but this is not a movie that was made to win Oscars. I can’t honestly say there’s a fine line between bad-bad and awesome-bad. More a big grey area. But this falls closer to the awesome-bad end of the grey than to the other end. It’s the effects shots, and how obviously they blew the budget on them. It’s the complete lack of an attempt at any sort of scientific accuracy. But it’s also that there’s a simple plot and follow-through. There are holes, yes, but it does go from point A to point B to point C and we get some fun action and some cursory plot and character development at each. It’s bad, but it’s good at being bad instead of bad at being good.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

August 4, 2010

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

As with Sharks in Venice this is a movie that holds its entire beautiful premise within the title. But this movie has a little extra bit of magic. If you’re paying attention it’s right there in the opening credits: “The Asylum Presents.” For those of you unfamiliar with the world of movie mega cheese let me tell you about Asylum and their particular niche in the movie hierarchy. See they have a scheme, and it works pretty well for them. Asylum makes cheap direct to video movies. It’s all they do. The trick to their success is that most of their movies are made to appear to be hot new theatrical releases. Like when the new Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law Sherlock Holmes was in theaters earlier this year and Asylum released a Sherlock Holmes movie which was on the shelves in my Blockbuster. An observant customer would have noticed that the Sherlock Holmes on the video store shelves had a Pterodactyl and Tyrannosaurus Rex on the cover, but many gullible customers were NOT observant and rented the movie thinking that somehow the one in the theaters had already arrived in store. Same thing with Transmorphers (not Transformers) and Terminators (not related to the James Cameron franchise.)

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is a bit of a departure. Apparently it actually enjoyed a brief theatrical release. And I can’t think of any other movie that it could be compared to. What it reminds me most of is a Godzilla movie. The megalodon in this movie is no forty to sixty foot shark beast. It’s a shark the size of a battleship. The octopus, early in the film, wraps its tentacles around an oil derrick and crushes it (or so we’re led to believe – we see the tentacles but none of the destruction.) These are colossal enormous supernatural monsters. More akin to natural disasters than sea creatures.

The movie involves rogue biologist Emma. She’s stolen an experimental submarine for a joy-ride and to find a pod of whales. But when she finds the whales they are going insane because some shady organization (possibly the US military?) is performing experiments with an illegal sonar device. In their panic the whales smash into an ice wall, releasing a frozen pair of prehistoric monsters. The shark and octopus, once freed from the ice, set out to destroy everything in their paths. Only they leave no witnesses, so nobody knows what’s causing all this destruction in the oceans.

Off the shores of Japan the octopus destroys an oil rig, which inspires the Japanese scientist Seiji Shimada to start investigating. Meanwhile, Emma has lost her job due to her submarine purloinage, and after asking too many questions about the mysterious whale and shark corpses washing up on the Californian shore she is being followed by suspicious government types. She goes to her old teacher Lamar with a piece of shark tooth she’s discovered and together with Seiji, who has joined them from Japan, they uncover the cause of the disasters.

We soon find that the US government has been battling the shark for some time, but not with much success. Conventional weaponry has no effect on movie monsters. So they abduct the three scientists and demand that Emma, Seiji and Lamar find a way to rid the world of these beasts. (Have I mentioned the evil government goon who runs the entire anti-monster effort, played by the star of the hit TV show Renegade: Lorenzo Lamas? Yeah, he and his greasy pony tail feature prominently in the second half of the movie.)

You know what? Who cares about this plot stuff? Shark! Octopus! Carnage! When you have a scene in your movie where a giant shark leaps out of the ocean, grabs a jumbo jet in its jaws, and pulls it out of the sky and under the waves you don’t need plot.

I had a big stupid grin on my face through most of this movie. It often felt like something I would have written myself in high-school. The level of the dialog is hilariously juvenile. I wonder how the cast were able to deliver some of their lines with a straight face. The computer effects are about on the same level as those in yesterday’s movie, although the shark and octopus themselves have a much more animated feel to them than yesterday’s shark. But even so the movie is undeniably fun to watch.

Oh, sure, it has its flaws. The lighting is bizarre. Apparently the DP thought that using a whole lot of strong primary colors would spruce up the look for the film, so people are often bathed in bright green or red light with blues and purples in the background. Or multiple colors from different angles to provide a sort of fever-dream feel. Don’t even talk to me about the “science” scenes with the lead characters pouring brightly colored water into beakers. The editor uses a kind of white flare (with accompanying “whoosh” sound effect) to punch up the cuts in action scenes and often plays with the speed of the CGI effects shots – speeding them up and slowing them down seemingly at random. And there’s a whole lot of camera shaking during the action scenes. It gives the last third or so of the movie a strange frenetic feel. I don’t know if I would describe it as engaging action, but it’s certainly not dull.

If I had made a movie in high-school about a giant shark and a giant octopus this would have been the movie I would want to have made. I have to hand it to writer/director Jack Perez. He has created a cheesefest of uncommon directness and simplicity. It is a pure and joyful work. Thank you, Asylum, for bringing a smile to my face.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment