"Octopus Approaching: 300 Meters Off The Port Bow!"
Robert I. Hedges | 08/25/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw part of "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus" when it had its cable TV premier on the idiotically renamed Syfy channel a few months ago. I knew I had to obtain it for my library. How could I not, it has all the stars in the cheese universe perfectly aligned: ridiculous title, ludicrous plot, complete lack of knowledge about sharks, octopi, or the military weaponry needed to fight them, preachy environmentalist plotpoints, terrible acting, and cast members that Ed Wood could only dream of, most notably Debbie (oh sorry, Deborah) "Shake Your Love" Gibson, and master cheese maker Lorenzo Lamas. It's a perfect conflagration.
The film starts in the mountains (?) of Alaska, and after a very long credit sequence, progresses to oceanologist Emma (Debbie Gibson) driving a stolen submarine under a glacial icecap while a helicopter hovers overhead dropping a secret buoy into the water which makes a pod of whales get suicidal, and ram into a glacier freeing two long-frozen combatants, a huge shark and really huge octopus from millions of years of freezer burn. For some reason the helicopter crashes, and Gibson doesn't know about the buoy, but the helicopter pilot intones over the radio that it's a secret and that it could endanger national security. But Debbie hijacked the sub, right? So why is the secret government helicopter helping her look for whales? What? Huh? This is just the first five minutes of the movie. Unfortunately it gets way less lucid from there.
Shortly Gibson gets fired from her job, and goes to live with her old brilliant professor, Lamar (Sean Lawlor) who was booted out of the Navy for running a nuclear sub aground to avoid hitting a pod of dolphins. Oh yes, there's more true-to-life backstory for you. Meanwhile, a deep-ocean oil rig gets eaten by the giant octopus, while the giant shark gets busy by jumping 30,000 feet in the air and eating a 747 in cruise flight. Truly, Asylum Home Entertainment really pulled out all the stops on this creature feature. And the CGI is so lifelike, too!
There's a lot of extremely ponderous dialogue in the movie, much of it with a brain-addled environmentalist bent, but also lots of terrible pillow talk, ridiculous science talk, and perhaps worst of all, oodles of military and nautical jargon horribly misused by the screenwriters. A favorite example is when in a discussion of the release of the giant creatures Debbie says "Maybe this is our comeuppance." Why would that be? Oh, of course: it's because man is melting the polar ice caps with his global warming releasing these prehistoric predators. The shark and octopus dyad is also analogized to Hurricane Katrina. I am not even kidding.
There are two scenes of shark versus battleship (there are no battleships in the active Navy inventory, by the way, but that is picking at nits) and at one point the shark manages to set a hijacked Finnish oil tanker on fire after it was hijacked by pirates. How did the shark do that? Some unnamed government agency headed by Lorenzo Lamas (as Allan Baxter, complete with ponytail) interrogates Emma, Lamar, and Emma's new love interest, the pointedly Japanese Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao, who probably turns in the best performance of the movie) in a room that Lamar accuses of having "the same lighting as Guantanamo". Got to get every popular anti-government jab in, no matter how laughably executed.
After the eye-rolling exhortation "Sharkzilla's going to own the seas!" from Lamas, the scientists come up with a plan to corral them in San Francisco and Tokyo Bays for the shark and octopus respectively. But how to lure them? While working under armed guard, Emma suddenly feels...urges...and invites Seiji into the broom closet to help shake her love. It's then they get their "ah ha" moment...pheromones! They will synthesize giant octopus and mega shark pheromones to lure them to their respective bays "using UAV technology". Again...what?!? Really?
After the gratuitous destruction of an F-15/F-14/F-18 (depending on which piece of the stock footage you were paying attention to) by an octopus tentacle, we get a load of pontification from Emma analogizing herself to Einstein and Oppenheimer and the decision to build the atomic bomb. (Seriously.) After some submerged action of a highly ridiculous nature, they release the shark pheromone with much ado, the shark accelerates to 500 knots underwater (marine engineers, feel free to chime in on hydrodynamics here) and the Octopus is cornered in Tokyo Bay by similar means. The shark promptly gets loose, eats the Golden Gate Bridge (why?) and Lamas considers the nuclear option prompting disgraced Irish former submariner Lamar to say that the nuclear option is preferred by the US government because "that's the military way." This only goes to prove not only the reflexive ideology of the filmmakers, but their total lack of grasp on actual US military policy, training, or strategy. Not that I should expect much from a movie like this, of course.
Emma decides that the way to get rid of them is to have them battle each other, so a flotilla of navy ships and submarines puts to sea with more pheromones attracting the two combatants to each other. All goes about like you would expect, with massive causalities ("All five ships destroyed by octopus!") and Emma and Lamar taking their submarine through an ice floe to lose the pursuing shark (which is, of course, impossible if he can swim faster than most jets can fly). Obviously the final smackdown happens in good time, and amid clouds of ink in a ferocious battle, the two prehistoric killing machines sink out of sight. Are they dead? Wait for the sequel.
The film ends with lovebirds Emma and Seiji planning their future dreamily on a beach (their chemistry is...uh...amazing) when Lamar walks up and requests their services to help identify another giant life form in the North Sea. Groan.
I gave the film three stars. I would have given it four for camp value but the complete ignorance of the subject matter and portrayals of the US military as idiots lowered the rating. Submariners are not likely to mutiny by pulling a pistol on their skipper, but then again they aren't likely to battle a giant shark either. This film takes itself way too seriously for the subject matter, but would have made an excellent MST3K. This would make an excellent Christmas gift for the lover of cinematic cheese in your life."