Shark Swarm (2008)

AUGUST 25, 2010)


As modern TV movies go, Shark Swarm really isn’t all that bad. But it’s simply too damn long to sustain interest; the DVD has both parts (it aired as a four hour miniseries, which translates to 168 minutes without commercials) back to back on one side of the disc, but if I was watching it on air, I don’t know if I would have bothered coming back for the second night.

For starters, there are too many goddamn characters, none of them particularly interesting. John Schneider is the only one I gave a shit about, mainly because he was playing the same sort of blue collar, hard-working decent man he played on Smallville (when he died he took the last bit of interest in that show I had along with him). But he was surrounded by a bunch of generic cardboard cutout characters: Armand Assante’s greedy land developer, F Murray Abraham as the wise old expert who spends most of his scenes looking at monitors and saying “the sharks are getting closer!”, a daughter who is about to go off to college, her boyfriend who Schneider doesn’t approve of because he’s a beach bum instead of a hard worker…. The list goes on and on. Since the writers have obviously seen Jaws, I wonder if it ever struck them that that movie only had 5 people, 2 of them (Ellen and the Mayor) not particularly important.

Also, that pretty much everyone’s favorite scene in that film is Quint telling his Indianapolis story. But based on this film, you’d think that it was endless scenes of the sharks swimming around and killing someone off camera (sort of – pretty much every kill involves a CGI shark swimming toward camera and “eating” it) that really drew people’s attention, since there are about two dozen in the film. Most occur right before a commercial break, which makes the few non-kill “cliffhanger” moments stick out like sore thumbs. I particularly liked when a few of our heroes argue with Assante, culminating in the EPA chick yelling “I will never grant you the permits you need!” before the tell-tale fade out. Dun dun DUNNNN! And, it should probably go without saying, there’s nothing compelling in any of the minor attempts at adding dimension to these people – Schneider’s mom has a new haircut, Daryl Hannah is going to miss her daughter when she goes off to college, Assante’s main “enforcer” wants to go off on his own, etc. Generic characters with stock back-stories…

…and almost none of them die. The only protagonist that dies gets shot (not by a shark – that would be awesome), and only the expected villains bite it, so it’s a 3 hr movie without any surprises as well. They could have at least killed Abraham, but that would mean having him actually leave his little lab set for once in the movie. Well, besides the scene where he signs an autograph anyway – this movie has a lot of padding too, making its length even more questionable. In fact, I often wondered if it was even written to be this long, or if they had a two hour movie and simply filmed a bunch of other crap to milk the TV stations that wanted to air it. I do like that Abraham’s character’s name was Girdler though, presumably after Day of the Animals director William Girdler, a movie that also had a giant cast but had the good sense to be under two hours. And have Leslie Nielsen shirtless. For the ladies.

As for the sharks, they’re OK. Again, I am on my little portable player, so the picture quality bites to begin with, but they looked OK on there. And the climax, albeit stolen from Piranha, at least has a lot of action and even a few moments where I thought a hero character was in actual danger. It’s certainly not worth watching the entire movie for, but if you are channel surfing at 2 am and see that the film has just started its final hour, it’s perfectly enjoyable late night fodder. I wish they had actually killed a few sharks, but their little EMP guns were kind of cool, and it’s always funny to see a bunch of CGI sharks getting scared of some invisible force and swimming away.

Also, the score sounded like Meet Joe Black’s, which is fitting as that movie was definitely written to be a normal length movie but Martin Brest had everyone pause for hours in between lines, resulting in a 3 hour movie that only has like 12 scenes. I’m going to consider it a very odd reference and thus improve my opinion of the movie overall, since I’m pretty much the only Meet Joe Black fan in the world (and I LOVE that score – I want it played at my funeral, though I bet this score will be used instead as it’s probably cheaper).

What say you?

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