A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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August 4, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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