Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ice Sharks (2016) & Planet of the Sharks (2016)

So there I was, sifting through the new arrivals for Amazon Prime on the TV set.

With the missus out for the evening, I figured it was time for a little popcorn and a Dan Movie, "Dan Movie" being defined as any of the admittedly few films the missus just can't bring herself, in all her love and good-naturedness, to sit through alongside me as I watch. (And who knows, she might've been up for at least one of these two if she'd been home. But I kind of doubt it.)

Anyway, while sifting, I came across these two titles sitting right next to each other in the list. And since both looked like they might pass the minimum bar I hold for shark movies (i.e. any sharks portrayed are more or less of a natural state--not undead, roboticized, etc.--and also limit themselves to life in the water--no sand or snow burrowing, no sustained flying about in the air, and so on), I decided to give the trailers a watch. And I was actually excited when I did.

Why was I excited? Well, it wasn't because either movie appeared to be that (apparently mythical) film I've been looking for ever since the summer of 1975: a shark movie that holds even a dim, flickering candle to Jaws. No, neither of these looked to have particularly watertight (*NPI) plots, outstanding effects or remarkable performances. Even so, I was excited. The reason is, watching their trailers, I realized both movies actually take themselves and their audiences (kind of) seriously. And it is not often, my friend, that a shark movie does that.
*No Pun Intended

Well, now that I say it, I guess The Shallows was serious. And Bait 3D at least worked hard trying to be serious. But c'mon, you gotta admit the vast, vast majority of recent shark films have not only been atrocious but have run an exceedingly narrow gamut between tongue-firmly-in-cheek and outright parody. (And I'm sorry but I just cannot do tongue-in-cheek, let alone parody, with a shark movie. I just can't.)

To be sure, these two films have their shark-related gimmicks. Going completely gimmick-free is (apparently) more than I can hope for, but these films come closer than most have done in quite awhile. At the very least, there's no mention of sharks being whipped around inside tornadoes, swimming under the soil, having 2 or even 3 heads, and there were no sharktopuses, sharkensteins or airliner-snatching mega sharks to be seen anywhere. These movies pretty much stick (again, for the most part) to sharks. The kind that just swim. In the water. And like I said, both movies played it reasonably straight, to boot. No (excessive) actor-hamming, no breaking the fourth wall, etc.

I can't say any of the actors in either film are people I've seen anywhere else, and according to IMDB most of their collective work has been in movies of similar vein, but I also didn't get a sense that anyone involved was noticeably untalented. I admit there was a little watch checking going on during both films as they chugged along to their respective climaxes, but I think the mild impatience I experienced at times was more related to plotting than performances. I could see pretty much everybody in front of the cameras producing decent work, providing they had the right creative teams around them. At any rate, I was damn grateful to have any shark movie to watch which wasn't blatantly farcical.

So here's a bit about each film, and I honestly think you could do worse than give them a watch some weekend, when you're already bored and not particularly worried about losing that few hours of your life these movies will take and never give back.



Ice Sharks


So the deal here is there are a bunch of folks at an arctic research station who come across (or get camed across by) a "previously unknown variation" of Greenland sharks, lured in from who knows where due to global warming. Well, these sharks (unlike your garden variety Greenland shark) can swim at speeds of more than one mile per hour and will ravenously attack anything on, in or near the water.

Oh, and they're pack animals, too. Wolf-like, the sharks work together to separate and snack on our heroes, who eventually end up sunken (in their mostly air tight station) on the ocean floor, with hungry sharks all around them. Shenanigans and plot holes abound, until eventually those destined to survive do (survive I mean).

So yeah, nothing like that beast on the poster, but there are some twenty plus footers in the movie, and apparently that's accurate for the species in real life. Not that the filmmakers tried especially hard to have these things look life-like, a good thing, since real-world Greenlands are pretty unassuming in spite of their size. As you see below.

You can also see that the movie's sharks don't entirely stay in the water. That's okay, they don't in the next movie either. It's all still a damn site better than witnessing the horror that was Sharknado....

Unassuming Real Greenland SharkDeadly Ice Sharks Greenland Shark

TWO AND A HALF EYE-PARASITE BRAINS

You'll have to do a little research to be in the know on that parasite reference. Oh, and nice callback to John Carpenter's 1982 take on The Thing, what with this movie's rescue ship crew all being named after Carpenter's (and the original novella's) arctic research crew. Well done, with that.



Planet of the Sharks


Well the culprit here is (again) global warming: it's melted all the polar ice and 98% of the planet is underwater. Most of the planet's human population has died out, and those left have adapted to life on top of the water in the form of boats and little towns made from tied-together rafts.

Some scientist types have scrounged together just enough technological scraps to have a go at launching a whatzit into the upper atmosphere, which they hope will reverse the warming and refreeze the ice caps to get a little more land mass available for everyone. (Yeah, the "science" in the film is a little dubious, but I'm rolling with it.)

Unfortunately, about this time it becomes apparent some sharks (at least the one we see in this movie) have evolved to be able to control other sharks via some kind of hive mind, and as a result sharks have learned to attack and kill people on top of the water by leaping out and knocking the intended victim into the water. And then munching upon them.

So anyway, stuff happens and people windsurf while being chased by highly-evolved-alpha-sharks and scientists eventually save the planet as alpha sharks are destroyed and land does indeed (eventually) reappear as credits roll.

Alpha Sharks have glowey ampullae of Lorenzini......and make other sharks do this.

So yeah. This one wasn't quite as good, overall, as Ice Sharks. But it was watchable. In the right circumstances (like the ones I was in). No super obvious character callouts this time (both films were made by the same company, so I thought there might be), although we did get a character named Dr. Roy Shaw, which has gotta be an amalgam of Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw, doesn't it? (Although I suppose whoever named the character might've also just been a fan of this guy.) And then we get a Dr. Caroline Munroe, which I figure has to be a Hammer Horror reference, right? Not that Hammer ever made a shark movie (and not that she was only ever in Hammer films, but she never did a shark film at all, far as I know). Yeah. So anyway.

TWO GLOWEY ALPHA BRAINS

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