On Friday night, my son insisted on watching the movie 5 Headed Shark Attack on Amazon Prime. It was the best shark-themed action movie I’ve ever seen since he wanted to watch 3 Headed Shark Attack. I can only assume that next year, my imagination will be fully exploded by 7 Headed Shark Attack. I mean, since it’s obviously the most logical progression for the series to take. Unless the studio wants to get bold and jump right to 9 Headed Shark Attack. I don’t know.
I hate to pick on this movie since it’s obviously a straight-to-video B movie, from what I can tell. It’s just that it’s symptomatic of the problems I’ve seen even in major blockbusters in recent years. It’s not about good storytelling, it’s simply about the “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…?” factor and throwing in as much “cool” stuff as possible. There isn’t anything interesting that happens in the movie. But it’s sooooo cool to watch a shark with multiple heads eat a normal great white shark. Twice, because they had the CGI done and had to use it a couple of times.
The characters don’t matter either. Sure, a guy named Shawn dies and everyone is upset about it, but he dies in the only scene he appears in. It’s really cool when he dies because the shark heads rip him apart. They do it to several characters but Shawn’s is supposed to be impactful, I suppose.
My son likes movies about killer sharks. It’s the age he’s at. He doesn’t necessarily love schlock either. He considers Jaws to be excellent but I’m not sure he understands why Jaws is such a perfect film and something like ___ Headed Shark Attack is shit. I don’t think modern moviegoing audiences do either, even adult ones.
What gets me is that the people who make modern movies have clearly seen good older movies and they remember the stuff that’s in them. They just can’t figure out what it meant for the story, much less how to re-create it. Like, remember the part in Jaws where the sea captain is recounting the story of the USS Indianapolis? Of course. Who could forget it?
5 Headed Shark Attack had a similar scene in which an eccentric sea captain talked about how he had seen a shark eat somebody once. However, where Captain Quint’s story provided an important backstory for his character and explained the tragic decision he later made to pursue the shark without summoning aid, the story told by the character in this movie meant nothing. He didn’t do anything. Didn’t go on any sort of Ahab quest. Didn’t even die. The whole story was apparently there just to reinforce the idea that he knew how to hunt sharks, but it came far too late in the story to establish his credibility. He was just a cool, wild guy with a boat and a box of guns to shoot a big shark with.
Again, I’m not singling out this movie. It’s a factor in most modern movies. All that matters is putting more heads on a shark. The original Star Wars had a Death Star? We’ll make a bigger superweapon. Now it’s a whole planet! No, you won’t like the new characters as much but it doesn’t matter because the ships are bigger than the Star Destroyers you remember. That stuff is cool! That’s all that matters!
Yes, I’ve entertained the possibility that I’m a fuddy-duddy and hate everything that’s new, but I don’t think that’s the problem. The empty and bland shittiness of storytelling for the sake of cramming in shit that’s cool is a fairly recent phenomenon going back only maybe 8 years. The first time I noticed it was with Sucker Punch. Now it’s sort of the norm. It’s like everybody agrees with me that the same cool movies from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were totally cool but everybody has forgotten why they were compelling and interesting. Why they were worth remembering.
Sometimes I do wonder if I’m being unfair. I go back and watch a movie from my own youth that I remember fondly just to see if it really is any good. Case in point: last night, I watched Runaway with my son. The one with Tom Selleck. That movie wasn’t hugely popular. Wasn’t even the best sci-fi movie the year it came out. I think it was the same year as Terminator.
I liked it as a kid but hadn’t rewatched it in a couple of decades. So I sat down with my son (who is 8) to watch it again. You know what? The special effects held up well, but the story was as good as I remember. Yeah, the robots looked cheesy but they still presented a real threat more than a cartoon shark did no matter how many heads you gave it. The bad guy was still terrifying.
Near the end, I went downstairs to get something to drink and my son followed me downstairs because he was scared. The scene was intense and he was worried about what was going to happen to the characters and wasn’t sure everything was going to be okay. I went back up and watched it through to the end with him. Most post-2010 movies we watch now? Yeah, he doesn’t give a shit. He’ll laugh at stuff and think the stuff is cool, but I think he knows something is wrong with it.
I like to think that we’re right on the cusp of seeing good movies and real creativity make a comeback. Maybe I’m just optimistic, but I believe that a lot of people are as frustrated with the current state of films as I am. A few more years of awful box office returns might spur it, but who knows?