Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Cinema File #202: "Sharktopus" Review

Like Kung Fu movies, Shark Attack movies are a genre of film that considering the totality of my tastes, I probably should be more enthusiatic about, and more well-versed in, than I currently am. The visceral awesomeness of a Shark as a threat to human life in the exaggerated setting of a B movie is undeniably entertaining, and yet there has always seemed to be such a glut of similar movies with the same premise that I've until recently shied away from the arduous tasking of cutting away the wheat from the chaf. What I look for in a Shark movie is a hook, an interesting location, a sci-fi twist, or some other reason to hold it above the rest. To whet my apetite for the upcoming film Sharknado, I decided I would watch a series of Shark Attack movies that I thought had that crucial X-Factor I'm always looking for. First up, the classic Syfy Channel/Roger Corman schlock-fest Sharktopus.

Sharktopus is the story of what happens when a Shark and an Octopus love each other very much. Or at least I assume, as my admittadly limited knowledge of cross breeding and genetic engineering leads me to believe that for all the kooky science involved in this hybrid, at some point a Shark had to get it on with an Octopus. In any case, the result is Sharktopus, a monster with the front half of a Shark and the back half tentacles of an Octopus, bound by a metal control collar and bred by the military to be the perfect undersea weapon for I guess when Al Qaeda decides to leave the desert and start operating out of underwater domed cities. Yes, its silly, and it will only get sillier when you realize it was created by Eric Roberts, but then I can't see how you walk into a movie called Sharktopus and not expect that.

My biggest problem with this movie is the creature itself, which takes what I find to be an ingenious premise and picks the less interesting of the two obvious configurations for its composite monster. While it is presented as much more dangerous than a Shark or an Octopus due to the combined traits of both, I think the reverse (an OctoShark if you will) would be much more threatening, specifically, an Octopus with eight Shark heads for arms instead of tentacles. Basically Hydra Shark. How much more awesome would that have been? Also, sometimes it seems like they threw in other animals and didn't tell anyone, like in how the monster is apparently amphibious, suggesting it may actually be a SharFrogtopus, or how it has seemingly useless quills on its back, possibly making it a SharFroctoporcupine. By this point, I think it gets a little too complicated and confusing.

Then again, that is mostly understandable considering the lead scientist played by Eric Roberts is apparently a huge drunk. As soon as the monster (spoilers!) escapes, the first thing Robert's character does is pour himself the biggest glass of scotch he can and just keeps refilling it, getting progressively drunker as he is forced to deal with a situation spiralling out of control. His belligerent arguments with his military benefactors are the best part of the movie not directly involving Sharktopi, and I only wish drunk Eric Roberts had actually been the hero off fighting the Sharktopus instead of the unknown shirtless dude he hires to do the leg work. I've criticized Roberts in the past for phoning in his performances, most notably and literally in A Talking Cat !?!, but on some level, I always have to respect his willingness to do absolutely anything for a buck and commit to it at least as much as it deserves. 

Overall, Sharktopus fails by resting on the laurels of its title, never aspiring to be anything more than you would expect it to be, and thus never even reaching the heights of insanity its premise demands. Even forgiving the bad special effects as I often do, the few moments I liked in the movie were drowned out (no pun intended) by the vast swaths of boring interspersed between them. Not only that, but pretty much every cool moment in the movie, save drunk Eric Roberts and a funny Ralph Garman cameo, are in the trailer, and even if they weren't, these few scenes of clever Sharktopus attacks like chomping on a bungee jumper in mid-air are so obviously telegraphed that I would have seen them coming anyway. Come to think of it, if this had just been a trailer, like one of the fake ones attached to Grindhouse, it would have been one of the better ones. Unfortunately, the concept does not sustain a movie, or at least the producers of this attempt don't know how to make it work. It's not a complete waste of time, and I can't say I regret watching it, but I can't say I recommend it either.

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