There’s an episode of the amazing podcast How Did This Get Made about the ridiculous Deep Blue Sea where wonderful comedian Paul F Tompkins asks the question “what are the stats on shark movies? Still just the one good one?” And he’s got a point. There are a shocking amount of shark movies, and if it’s not the original Jaws, it’s probably going to be terrible. I’ve talked before on this site about how wonderful and perfect Jaws is, but much like the comic Watchmen, its legacy is pretty blighted. Jaws was a wonderfully crafted and amazingly successful suspense film that featured a shark. And Hollywood took the wrong lesson from it, and decided people wanted shark movies. And were never able to make a decent one again. There’s a slew of terrible shark movies out there, from legitimate Jaws sequels, to Jaws ripoffs, to SyFy original movies starring one-hit wonder musicians from the 80s, to a whole bunch of wonderfully terrible Italian movies. But no other good shark movies. And yet, people keep trying to make the damn things. They try to tackle it from other angles or put clever new spins on the premise, but in the end of the day, it’s just another damn movies about sharks, and it fails. But hey, a new one came out! The Shallows came out this weekend, and I started to see a shocking amount of critics I respect give it good reviews. It was usually given with a huge caveat, like calling it really fun and schlocky or something, but it was still a positive review. So, since I didn’t really want to debase myself and pay money for the new Independence Day movie, I figured I’d go and check out the Shallows, hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
The premise of the movie is incredibly simple. We follow a woman named Nancy (Blake Lively) who we eventually learn is thinking about dropping out of medical school ever since her beloved free-spirit mother died of cancer. She’s lost her faith in medicine, and has decided to go to some secluded and secret beach that her mother once went to to try to reconnect with her and figure her life out. She was supposed to be there with a friend of her, but the friend got super trashed and didn’t want to come, so in the first of several terrible ideas, Nancy decides to go surfing in a secluded beach that she doesn’t even know the name of, by herself. So Nancy starts surfing, meets two dudes who barely speak English, and has a good time. But when the two dudes leave, and tell her she probably should too, she decides to stay and catch one last wave. At which point she notices a dead whale is floating into the cove, and decides that she should totally go investigate. Which is when the horrible monster shark that killed the whale shows up, and decides it should start devoting its life to destroying Nancy. The shark bites her leg, and gets her trapped atop the dead whale. But she notices a small little outcropping of rock that’s closer to the beach than the whale that’s been uncovered due to low tide, so she swims over to it, barely avoiding the shark, and introducing us to the real start of the film, Steven Seagull. Steven is a little seagull who was trying to dive into the water and got smashed into Nancy, dislocating his little wing, so they both get trapped on the rock.
And the rest of the movie is basically just Nancy trying to survive, and get off the little rock before low-tide comes and kicks her off. She uses her medical knowledge to bind her wound and pulls off some make-shift sutures to keep the wound closed, and even pops little Steven’s wing back into place so he can survive. But once that’s accomplished, she’s pretty much out of ideas. There’s a dingy close by, but too far to get to before the evil shark could get her, and the beach is too far to get to. So she basically just sits on the rock, getting dehydrated and sun-stroke while three stupid guys show up at various points and get eaten. But one of the guys had a GoPro camera on his head, so she gets it and records what’s basically a final message to her father and little sister, assuming she’s doomed. So she tosses the camera into the water, hoping for a message in a bottle scenario, and decides to dive into the water to get to the dingy, right after setting Steven adrift on part of a surfboard, hoping he can get to the shore and be fine. So she makes it to the dingy, while the Terminator shark is following her, and after some ridiculous bullshit involving a flare-gun and some randomly placed whale-oil, she lights the shark on fire, and starts fighting it with the dinghy. At which point she plans this elaborate plan that eventually gets the shark impaled on the anchor of the dinghy, killing the beast. At which point she basically drowns, but luckily that camera washed up on a shore, and a little boy fetches his father, who had previous given Nancy a ride to the beach, who finds her body washed up on the shore, and brings her back to life. So Nancy lives. Woo. Oh, and Steven makes it out! Yay! And the movie ends with a needless epilogue where we see Nancy a year later, now a doctor, getting ready to teach her little sister how to surf, because some people never learn.
So yeah, that’s the Shallows. It was a shark movie. It was fine. It didn’t blow me away, and I really didn’t feel the same amount of charitable fun that some people are. The movie certainly got a little goofy in parts, but not really enough to push it over to an enjoyable place. The CGI was pretty spotty in parts, the acting occasionally went to that Revenant territory where it’s just screaming and crying, and there was virtually no plot. The shark was pretty fun sometimes, since it was just so ridiculous. It was huge, and seemed to have super-shark powers to the point that it felt like this shark came straight from fighting Debby Gibson and Giant Octopus, but even that campiness wasn’t enough to really save this movie for me. It wasn’t really a bad movie, and it was a lot better than most shark movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s not that great. I liked Steven Seagull quite a bit, but overall, this movie was just kind of a dud for me. So don’t worry Paul F Tompkins, the stats have not changed.
The Shallows was written by Anthony Jaswinski, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, distributed by Columbia Pictures, 2016.