Starring Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Sean Lawlor, Vic Chao, Dean Kreyling, Stephen Blackehart, Mark Hengst and Michael Teh
Written and directed by Jack Perez
CAUTION: This review spoils the tentacles off Mega-Shark Versus Giant Octopus, but hopefully saves you the trouble of watching it yourself.
Oceanographer Emma MacNeil (Deborah Gibson) ((If you’re expecting “Lost in Your Eyes” and “Electric Youth” jokes, you’re going to be disappointed; I’m more of a Tiffany fan.)) “borrows” a research submarine to observe the behavior of humpback whales off the coast of Alaska. All is going well until a military helicopter drops an experimental sonar device into the middle of the whale pod. The sonar drives the humbacks crazy, causing them to swim at high speed into the submerged face of a nearby glacier. Entombed in the glacier are a megalodon (henceforth referred to as mega-shark) and a giant octopus (henceforth referred to as giant octopus), two ancient aquatic beasts that were apparently frozen in the midst of a tooth-on-tentacle ((Though octopodes indeed have tentacles, they are typically referred to as “arms”. If you ask me, tentacles are far cooler than arms, so I will continue to take some artistic liberty with the terminology.)) fight several million years ago. As the suicidal whales collide with the glacier face, tons of ice shear off and fall into the ocean, releasing (and, for reasons unknown, simultaneously reviving) the antediluvian combatants.
Mega-shark and giant octopus swim off in different directions, leaving MacNeil to wonder whether she actually saw the big beasties or they were a delusion brought about by the powerful sonar device. The oceanographer returns to California, where she’s called in to investigate the mutilated corpse of a whale that has washed up on the beach. Before she can complete a thorough investigation, MacNeil is fired for stealing (and damaging) the submarine. ((Okay, let me get this straight: MacNeil works in California and somehow manages, on a lark, to not only make off with a research submarine but take it all the way to Alaska and back without her company sending the Coast Guard after her. Did she also “borrow” a boat to transport the submarine, or does this magnificent submersible actually have the range to make the round trip without a surface support vessel?))
Something about the beached cetacean doesn’t sit well with MacNeil, so she sneaks onto the site after dark and manages to retrieve a fragment of tooth lodged in one of the wounds. The fragment is more than a foot long, and it’s not until she teams up with her former teacher, Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawlor), that she is able to identify it as coming from a tooth that is perhaps eleven or twelve feet in length—a tooth that could only have come from the massive mouth of Carcharodon Megalodon. ((In fact, C. Megalodon‘s teeth were probably around seven inches long, so this shark is probably a Carcharodon Ultra-Mega-Megalodon.)) Mega-shark.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to MacNeil, the mouth in which her tooth fragment once resided is busy chomping on, of all things, a big ol’ jet airliner. That’s right, mega-shark leaps out of the water (presumably thousands of feet out of the water) to take down a passenger jet that has descended below the cloud cover to avoid turbulence. Mega-shark officially dominates both sea and sky (at least sky that’s over sea), which means humanity is totally screwed.
What is giant octopus ((Hmm. Mega-pus?)) up to while mega-shark feasts upon fresh whale with a side of passenger jet? Why, attacking an oil rig off the coast of Japan of course! Indeed, the colossal cephalopod unleashes eight tentacles of doom upon the oil-drilling platform, ((Ganbatte, Tako-Ooki!)) leaving only one survivor (Michael Teh) to tell the horrific tale. Dr. Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao) contacts Sanders for assistance identifying the attacker based on a police sketch. Shimada flies to California, where he meets with Sanders and MacNeil, who have acquired videotape shot during MacNeil’s submarine joyride. Comparing the sketch made by the survivor of the oil rig attack with a grainy shot of something moving past the submarine’s external camera, the trio come to the only reasonable conclusion: a giant octopus destroyed the oil rig. ((It’s a fact: oil rigs are considered a delicacy among octopi.))
Meanwhile, the military has completely failed to kill mega-shark, ((It’s not even a little bit dead.)) and that has Allan Baxter (Lorenzo Lamas) in a cranky mood; not only isn’t mega-shark dead, the warship that was supposed to kill it has been destroyed, and warships are expensive. ((Well, real warships are expensive. Stock footage of warships with muzzle-flashes superimposed over the ever-bow-facing guns is probably significantly less expensive. Real warships also have keels; when the camera switches to mega-shark’s-eye-view for the deadly attack, the computer-generated hull of the warship is as flat and featureless as a toy boat in a bathtub.)) Baxter’s mood isn’t at all improved by the fact that he must now rely on Science to succeed where Big Friggin’ Guns have failed. But does Baxter bother to pick up a phone and ask Science to give him a hand? Of course not; he sends an armed commando squadron to Sanders’ house to abduct the scientists and their fancy brains. ((If you must turn to Science, at least hold the scientists at gunpoint while they work. It reminds them that Guns > Science.))
Sanders, MacNeil and Shimada decide that the best way to deal with the big beasts is to lure them into shallow water where they can be trapped and neutralized. Their efforts to create an effective means to attract the monsters are futile until Shimada and MacNeil duck out for a quickie in the broom closet and, basking in their afterglow, hit upon the idea of using pheromones to lure the creatures into the shallows. ((“You sure smell pretty.” “Eureka!”))
Pop quiz: How do you know when you’ve hit upon the right formula for your pheromone-based prehistoric critter attractant? Why, when it glows, of course! Vive le Science!
Science accomplished, Shimada heads back to Japan to trap the giant octopus while Sanders and MacNeil use a mini-sub to set the pheromone bait in place for mega-shark. If all goes to plan, the prehistoric predator will be lured into San Francisco Bay, where it can be…well, the plan doesn’t really go into a whole lot of detail after mega-shark is in the bay, really; the scientists insist that the creature should not be killed, but there’s never much talk about how to confine and control a shark large enough to pluck jet airliners out of the sky. It’s okay, though, ’cause there’s just no way things will go according to plan.
Sure enough, Sanders has trouble with the mini-sub’s manipulator arm ((I’d hate to be the maintenance technician who cleared the mini-sub for operation; his best hope of working around subs again is getting a job as a Sandwich Artist.)) and is unable to release the bait. As mega-shark approaches, MacNeil wrestles with the mini-sub’s controls, trying to knock the bait container free of the manipulator arm. She barely succeeds in time to maneuver the submersible out of the monster’s way.
Perhaps realizing that there’s not a whole lot of plan in their plan, Baxter orders the Navy to open fire, but once again the military’s Big Friggin’ Guns prove entirely useless against the awesome might of mega-shark. This tactic would probably have been more effective with a larger special effects budget. As it was, the underwater shots of mega-shark being buffeted by explosions were so poorly realized that it’s no wonder the monster got miffed and decided to eat the Golden Gate Bridge (but only after destroying another terribly expensive Navy warship).
Shimada uses the Navy sub’s videophone ((Surprise! Subs have videophones! Videophones that can be used while submerged!)) to report that his efforts to trap the giant octopus in Japan have yielded results: namely a pissed off cephalopod and massive human casualties. Science, it seems, has failed in a manner most epic.
Crankier than ever, Baxter wants to nuke every giant dorsal fin and oversized tentacle out of the ocean and damn the consequences. ((Radioactive seas, massive loss of marine life, blah, blah, blah…Go hug a coral reef, hippie.)) MacNeil offers an alternative solution: Sharktopus Deathmatch! ((Technically, she compares it to the “Thrilla in Manila”, but I’d rather watch a Sharktopus Deathmatch any day of the week.)) The sassy scientist wants to use the pheromone bait to draw the two ancient enemies together for a long overdue, no-holds-barred grudge match.
Everybody who’s anybody (and there aren’t a lot of those) is already aboard one attack submarine or another, so they agree to used the pheromone bait to lure mega-giant octoshark into the Arctic Circle, where the pair will hopefully resume their Hatfield-Capulet feud and kill each other. ((It never seems to occur to anyone that either beastie will survive.))
With mega-shark in hot pursuit, Baxter, MacNeil and Sanders race toward the Alaskan coast to meet Shimada and the giant octopus. Mega-shark must be getting tired, because it’s having trouble catching the submarine despite the fact that it reportedly swam at 500 knots while chasing the pheromone bait into San Francisco Bay. ((By comparison, an SSN 21 Seawolf-class fast attack submarine has a top speed of 25-35 knots while submerged.)) Mega-shark eventually overtakes the sub and chomps down for a very special version of Seafood Delight, but not before Baxter, MacNeil and Sanders escape in the mini-sub. When mega-shark turns its baleful gaze ((“Like a doll’s eyes…“)) upon the mini-sub, the trio is saved by Shimada’s timely intervention (and a broadside of torpedoes).
Shimada’s sub is grappled by the giant octopus, and it seems that MacNeil is about to lose her fine-scented lover until the cephalopod’s hatred of all things sharktacular comes into play. The tentacled terror releases Shimada’s sub in favor of getting all up in mega-shark’s gill(s) and Shimada is spared.
In the ensuing tussle, nearly every military submarine is either octopulverized or sharkenated. I give style points to giant octopus for demolishing several subs at once, but then immediately dock it several points for having mega-shark all wrapped up and then sticking a tentacle in the one place you don’t want to stick a tentacle when you’re wrasslin’ a shark. Come on, giant octopus! You’ve had 1.5 million years frozen in a glacier to think about this! I’ve seen your diminutive cousins open a screw-top jar, but you don’t realize that it’s a bad idea to stick your arm in a shark’s mouth? Get with the program!
The prehistoric pugilists sink into the icy depths, presumably to die in one another’s embrace, and our heroes return to dry land. Whatever becomes of Allan Baxter? I have no idea, but I’m sure there’s plenty of glowering involved. As for MacNeil and Shimada, they enjoy a romantic moment on the beach before Sanders barges in with infrared images of whatever beasties they’re all going to have to battle ((With Science!)) in the sequel.
I enjoy a schlocky creature feature as much as—and probably more than—the next guy, and have admittedly low standards when it comes to “The Most Dangerous Night on Television”, but Mega-Shark Versus Giant Octopus was a complete bait-and-switch. It’s a bad film made worse by a cheesy-yet-awesome trailer. Mega-shark attacks passenger jet! Giant octopus destroys fighter plane! Mega-shark eats the Golden Gate Bridge! Everything in the trailer (even Deborah Gibson’s “Thrilla in Manila” line) hints at the sort of ridiculous escapism that makes movies like Snakes on a Plane so much fun. The Asylum ((The same production company that brought you Snakes on a Train and Transmorphers.)) appears to have thrown most of the budget into the few shots that made the trailer so awesome, leaving next to nothing for the eighty-eight minutes that weren’t in the trailer. Shots of mega-shark—all of which are very clearly computer-generated ((The CGI mega-shark is very poorly done, apart from one or two shots that made it into the trailer and perhaps a few seconds of the Sharktopus Deathmatch. I’m okay with a shark that looks fake; I expect the shark to look fake, but not that fake.))—are recycled several times and the submarine interior sets are so sparsely decorated that they bear more resemblance to Shimada and MacNeil’s coital broom closet than anything one might see on an actual submarine. The final product wants to be “so bad it’s good”, but is just so bad.