SyFy Movie Review: Megalodon
Last night Megalodon premiered on the SyFy channel during their final installment of their annual Sharknado Week. This is the latest in a series of shark movies released by The Asylum studios. This is a film I’ve been excited about ever since I first learned that it was happening. I love sharks, and I love shark films, and I love shark films done by Asylum and shown on SyFy.
As with most Asylum films, this was made in response to a summer blockbuster, in this case, that film is The Meg. The problem with Asylum/SyFy collaborations tends to be dismissed outright because of the reputation they have for outrageous plots, over the top acting and poor-quality special effects. However, this has a very similar plot to the big-budget Warner Brothers picture which is also about a giant shark and considering the fact that The Meg made $145 million worldwide in its opening weekend, I think any skepticism about anything done in Megalodon should be put on the back-burner.
The film is directed by James Thomas and stars Dominic Pace as Captain Streeper, Caroline Harris as Commander Lynch, Ego Mikitas as Captain Ivanov, Sebastien Charmant as Vallier, Aimee Stolte as Yana Popov, Scott C. Roe as Jameson, Elizabeth J. Cron as Munoz, and Paulina Laurant as Cheng, among others. The film begins with a Russian sub crew trying to drill into a communications cable in order to spy on sensitive communications in the United States. Popov warns Ivanov that they are making too much noise with the drill but he ignores her and orders her to continue her work. She of course does, and it draws the massive shark to them. It promptly attacks the sub and Ivanov seals the room to prevent it from taking on water, leaving several of his own crew to die.
This leads the sub to be discovered by the crew of an American battleship who are able to use a submersible called The Bell to travel down to the sub and rescue the survivors, as well as get information from them as to why exactly they were there in the first place. Of course, not wanting to reveal anything to the Americans, they simply state that they were whalers doing a shark survey.
During the rescue operation, The Bell is swallowed by the absolutely gargantuan shark. For movie purposes, the size of the Megalodon is exaggerated. Scientific estimations put the beast at between 40-70 feet but in the film, it’s much, much larger. There is no exact specification given, which is probably for the best, but it’s large enough to bite and crush a submarine.
What follows is a tense battle not only between the Americans and Russians but also between Streeper and Michael Madsen’s Admiral King, then, of course, the battle with the shark. Now it’s not what you’re thinking – the shark is not single-mindedly attacking the battleship because it views it as a rival, or because of some baseless plot contrivance. No, the shark is staying near the ship because it is intentionally being lured there to keep it from heading towards Hawaii. There is a lot of scientific talk being thrown around, and while it might sound like mumbo-jumbo, it’s actually factual. When Lynch talks about the Faraday Cage, that’s not only a real thing, but its use is exactly what it is described in the film. Also, while not everything is scientifically accurate, the film sets specific rules and then follows those rules throughout the remainder of the action. Unlike some movies that will start off by stating that things can only be done one way, but then a convenience of the plot allows that thing to be done differently to resolve the story.
This film subverts your expectations about Asylum films. This isn’t a mindless, poorly acted action set piece heavily reliant on poorly done effects. The effects you see in the film are not perfect, but this isn’t a big-budget film and visual effects are generally the most expensive part of a film, excluding cast contracts. However, as I stated during my live-tweeting of the event, I really liked the way the shark looked. No one knows exactly what it looked like as sharks do not leave behind skeletal remains with the exception of teeth and jaws because they do not have traditional skeletons made of bone, but instead, they are made of cartilage. This is what makes determining the exact look of prehistoric sharks very difficult, but in this case, they added some spiky ridges that truly made it look like an ancient relic from some forgotten past. I really liked the way they made it look and I think the design team did a great job, especially by adding some battle scars to the creature, hinting at the possibility that not only did this massive animal hide from humanity, but something else, something just as terrifying as itself did as well. I mean, what else could possibly give an apex predator such wounds?
There is some genuinely excellent acting. Dominic Pace commands respect and dominates every time he’s on screen. He brings a strength and gravitas to his character and plays exceedingly well with everyone else he shares time with, including staring down Michael Madsen and refusing to blink. Ego Mikitas is cold, cunning and calculating. His fight scenes are exceptional and simply a look from his icy eyes could freeze water. Caroline Harris taps into a primal rage and pure instinct. Elizabeth Cron uses real-world experience from her early life to bring authenticity to her role. Paulina Laurant exudes confidence and competence and owns every scene she’s in. Aimee Stolte concurrently showed steely resolve and terror and defiance. The camera angles and shots used to convey certain aspects of emotion without using dialogue by James Thomas were masterfully done.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough. I enjoyed this film, knowing what kind of film it was going to be, knowing the passion that the actors and director were going to bring to it. I had a lot of fun with this movie, I even had an emotional moment when a speech got me all misty. The writing was so well done that it elicited a whole range of emotions. There were some great one-liners, and like I said, a stirring and emotional speech. I don’t like to give ratings to films but I do recommend them. If you like sharks and you like good acting with solid characters without a lot of needless exposition or character backstories that have no real bearing on the plot. There were no wasted scenes used to bloat the runtime. This wasn’t a perfect film by any means but was a very good film and it was enjoyable on many levels. It will be airing on SyFy several more times this week and will be coming to Netflix in September. Give it chance, you’ll be glad you did.