Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Sean Lawlor, Vic Chao, Jonathan Nation, a mega shark, and a giant octopus
Written and Directed by Ace Hannah
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus ... Are you ready to rumble?
A Megalodon shark and a giant octopus were frozen in mid-combat back during the Ice Age. Their Alaskan glacier melts; the two creatures revive; both immediately set about cutting a swath of destruction. The octopus dismembers a Japanese oil rig. The Megalodon goes all "Air Jaws", leaping from the water to bite a 747 out of the sky. The octopus swats planes with its tentacles. The shark chomps the Golden Gate Bridge. It's glorious, I tell you. Absolutely glorious!
The biggest knock against Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is that while there are some truly tremendous moments of mega shark and giant octopus mayhem that will surely tickle your b-movie funny bones, the budget clearly wasn't there for more of them. These moments happen in quick bursts early on, followed by a long stretch without anything other than stuff that is implied but never shown, such as when the giant octopus reportedly gets into Tokyo Bay and goes all It Came From Beneath the Sea on the city (I believe this now marks the second Asylum film where a tentacle monster attacks Tokyo and we don't get to see any of the devastation), and then a whole heck of a lot of mega shark vs. giant octopus vs. US and Japanese submarines chaos during the finale. I just wish there were more. I'm sure writer-director Ace Hannah does too.
It's definitely too ambitious given its budgetary restrictions, though you can tell every penny is on the screen. All of the computer animation falls into the category of being cheap looking and never appearing completely realistic nor is it brutally bad like that seen in many an Asylum or Sci-Fi Channel production. Even the interior sets of Naval destroyers and submarines are comically paltry. Certain F/X shots get repeated. Given the giddiness of the old school monster movie tone Hannah and company sets, a lot this obvious fakery adds to the charm.
What Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus lacks in budget it more than makes up for with moxie. Ace Hannah's infectious enthusiasm appears to have spilled over to the rest of the cast and crew, crafting an unmistakable amount of upbeat energy even when scenes turn grim or get a bit too talky. Under his real name of Jack Perez he previously wrote and directed the MTV movie Monster Island, a comic homage to monsters movies of old I found too self-aware of its bad movie campiness for my personal taste. This time it appears that everyone knew exactly what kind of movie they were making and decided to have fun with the supremely silly material without winking at the audience to make sure everyone watching fully understood they were in on the joke. Seafood may be on the menu, but ham is the order of the day.
Eighties teen pop music sensation Deborah Gibson stars as perpetually perky maverick marine researcher Emma McNeil. Her former teacher, Professor Lamar, is one of those scientists with craaaaaaazy theories. Joining them from the country most familiar with giant monster catastrophes is Dr. Shimada, a young Japanese scientist with a George Takei voice whose mannerisms are straight out of a 1960's Godzilla movie. Shimada also gives Debbie Gibson someone for her to "shake your love" with. Hey, just because prehistoric predators are on the prowl doesn't mean there still isn't time for a broom closet quickie.
The United States military brings in the three experts to come up with a means by which to deal with the super-sized sea life causing oceanic calamities across the globe. Decked out in his finest Steven Seagal wear, Lorenzo Lamas is ... I don't think I ever caught the name of Lorenzo Lamas' military character. Doesn't matter anyway. It's Lorenzo Lamas and Lorenzo Lamas only plays variations of Lorenzo Lamas, and here he's very Lorenzo Lamas-y. This was the most inspired I've heard Lamas sound in years. How could he not be getting to bark dialogue such as, "Now if we don't find a viable means of stopping this fucker, Sharkzilla is going to own the sea. Own the sea, own the world. Limeys and spics got that right. What? I'm an equal opportunity racist."
Ah, yeah. Hannah's script has some real zingers. This is a movie where a submarine captain being chased by a giant shark deadpans, "We're headed forward with a devil on our tails!"
Or how about when trying to convince Lamas' military man that their plan to lure the two behemoths of the sea using pheromones will work, Professor Lamar asks of him, "Those guys have been frozen in ice for millions of years. Wouldn't you be a little horny?" From what I know about Lorenzo Lamas, you could lock him in a meat freezer for a week and he'd still come out ready to bang the first big breasted blonde he sets eyes on. So needless to say, he's convinced.
After a wonderfully wacky musical montage of the three scientists smiling with delight as they conduct chemistry experiments with vials of brightly colored liquids - a montage that was just screaming to be set to some peppy 80's pop song about teamwork, friendship, or hard work paying off, they concoct a plan to use pheromones to lure the shark to San Francisco Bay and the octopus to Tokyo Bay, intent on capturing the two prehistoric sea creatures alive. Somehow Hannah forgot to have Lamas ask these scientists what exactly they plan to do with these gargantuan animals once they have captured them alive. Put them in a giant fish tank? Permanently shut down San Francisco Bay and have the President declare it "Megalodon National Seashore"? I understand scientists wanting to keep these amazing long extinct specimens alive for research, but eventually logistics have to rear their ugly heads. I don't think it would be considered a spoiler to tell you this plan fails.
Time for Plan B: lure the two creatures somewhere away from civilization so they can fulfill the prophecy of the film's title.
In all reality, there is only so much that can be done with a shark fighting an octopus underwater; the octopus can grapple and swat with its tentacles and the shark's offense is mainly ramming and biting. The millions of years in the making smackdown still proves a billion times more satisfying than the final battles of, say, Komodo vs. Cobra or even The Asylum's very own Alien vs. Hunter.
Before it's all over we'll even get to enjoy some amusing continuity errors. A woman's hand with black fingernails is shown pushing buttons on a control panel even though we can easily see as she pilots the sub that Debbie Gibson's nails are not polished. A pilot radios a mayday about being knocked out of the sky before he's shown getting swatted out of the sky. Again, all part of the charm.
For all the faults you could level against a movie like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus - God knows there are many - that inescapable enthusiasm cannot be denied. Eighty-six fast-paced minutes of bad b-monster movie bonanza with a campy glee that will bring a smile to the face of many. I'll be the first to admit this movie won't play well with everyone. But then why would those people even be watching a movie called Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus in the first place?
With a bigger special effects budget Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus would be a guaranteed cult classic in the making. Hell, it may still prove to be for all I know.
3 1/2 out of 5
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