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October 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
cast: Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Sean Lawlor, Vic Chao, and Mark Hengst

director: Jack Perez (as Ace Hannah)

90 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
With a title like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, you'd be forgiven for hoping this film is better than you might possibly expect. You'd be wrong, however. It is an astonishingly inept piece of filmmaking, despite the postmodern knowingness of its title. Rather than the ironic pandering to cliché of, say, Snakes On A Plane, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus harkens back to the appalling B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s with their mind-numbingly literal-minded titles.

Deborah Gibson - 1980s' pop princess Debbie Gibson as was - plays Emma MacNeil, an oceanographer. While studying whales in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast - which seems to contain a remarkable number of warm water creatures - in a submersible she 'borrowed' from her employer, MacNeil witnesses a secret military experiment cause a pod of whales to ram a nearby glacier, which promptly releases the titular prehistoric creatures...

On returning to Los Angeles (an impressive distance for a research submersible to travel), MacNeil is called to view the carcase of a beached whale. Her boss (Mark Hengst) believes its wounds were created by an oil tanker's propellers, but she disagrees. He fires her - for arguing with him, and for taking the submersible without permission. Later, MacNeil sneaks back to the dead whale and retrieves a giant tooth from one of its wounds. She takes this to her old professor, Lamarr Sanders (Sean Lawlor), who is Irish. An Irishman called Lamarr. Right... The two of them identify the tooth as belonging to a megalodon, a prehistoric giant shark. (Note: these actually grew to 50 feet in length, not the several hundred feet of the monster in the movie.)

Meanwhile, in Japan, an oil rig is destroyed by a giant octopus. There is a single survivor. He is held in a "Tokyo federal prison" and interviewed by Dr Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao). Coincidentally, Sanders contacts Shimada about the megalodon tooth. Despite the oil rig's destruction being hushed up by the Japanese authorities, Shimada travels to Los Angeles to join MacNeil and Sanders in their hunt for the two prehistoric creatures. After the sinking of a US Navy destroyer, the authorities, in the person of shady government official Allan Baxter (Lorenzo Lamas), approach the three scientists and ask for their help in tracking down the two creatures. Cue various doomed attempts to destroy the mega shark and the giant octopus...

It's hard to know where to begin when cataloguing this film's faults. Hollywood is hardly known for carefully thought-through product, but Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is in a class of its own. The central premise is no worse and no dafter than that of many the last century's SF B-movies - most of which are now available in cheap boxed sets of 1950s' films - but some of the uses to which that premise is put don't so much suspend disbelief as put a noose about its neck and strangle the life from it. Your average less-than-discerning viewer might be able to swallow a giant octopus destroying an oil rig, or a giant shark biting a substantial chunk out of the Golden Gate Bridge. But it takes rampant stupidity to imagine that he or she would accept a megalodon leaping thousands of feet into the air to attack a passing Boeing 747. Or, as later happens, to have the mega shark described as swimming at 500 knots.

There's a blatant lack of thought in the details too. Take the earlier mentioned 'Tokyo federal prison'. Japan is not a federation; it would not have federal services of any kind. And the US Navy destroyer that was sunk by the megalodon... is quite clearly a battleship - the USS Missouri, in fact, from the '63' on its bow. Another US Navy warship shown later is a Portuguese frigate - NRP Anotónio Enes, identifiable by the F471 on its superstructure. A little bit of work to find appropriate stock footage, and perhaps the filmmakers wouldn't have looked like such complete idiots.

And, they're cheap idiots, to boot... The CGI throughout is terrible, on a par with an early 1990s' computer game. I have only seen one 21st century film with worse CGI, Timothy Hines' version of H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds (2005). None of the budget for Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus spent on sets, either. The same industrial plant control room stands in for the bridges of the various US Navy ships and submarines. It in no way resembles the bridge of a warship.

As if all that weren't enough, there's an attitude to authority on display in the film which is outdated and was never especially accurate in the first place. It made, I suppose, for good drama in decades past. And perhaps during the Cold War there was even some slight justification for it, but no longer... Now it just comes across as bad plotting. I'm referring to the way in which the authorities are assumed to cover-up or ignore anything which does not suit their purpose. The Japanese government, for example, covers up the destruction of the oil rig by the giant octopus. That's simply not plausible. Likewise, no US administration could keep secret a megalodon terrorising the world's seas. There are other symptoms of this laziness in storytelling. MacNeil's boss pooh-poohs her claim that the beached whale's wounds are the result of an attack by another creature. The viewer is supposed to believe he is too stupid to consider the great stinking body of evidence in front of him. Likewise, during the final chase scene, when the megalodon is after the US Navy submarine carrying MacNeil, Sanders and Shimada, the USN rating at the helm panics and pulls a gun on his captain. Take a look at any photograph of a USN submarine crew at their stations. They don't carry handguns.

Even for a stupid film, there's too much wrong with Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. The most astonishing thing about it is that someone gave the filmmakers enough money to make it and, further, subsequently went on to fund its distribution and promotion. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is not, as some have said, the sort of film to watch with a bottle in front of you. It's the sort of film you should watch after a frontal lobotomy.
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