Wherein Jolly reviews a movie that everybody who might have cared stopped caring about months ago.
I’m a huge fan of killer shark movies. Jaws has remained my all time favorite film for nearly two decades now. I’ll happily watch Deep Blue Sea any chance I can get. I find your average Syfy fare like Three-Headed Shark Attack or Sharknado a dumb but enjoyable distraction, but I enjoy it more when the movie takes itself seriously.
So of course I was immediately interested when I saw the first trailer for The Shallows. But due to real life complications, I had yet to be able to watch it. Until last night.
The Shallows is a story of girl vs nature. Blake Lively’s character Nancy is dealing with the loss of her mother, and is attempting to figure out her path in life. In an attempt to gain some sort of perspective, she visits a secret beach in Mexico her mother once told her about to do some surfing. Obviously, this is where our shark comes in.
Excellent: The beautiful location stands out here, and the movie does an excellent job of making the crystal clear waters a place to be feared. As an avid watcher of many many shark documentaries, I also really appreciated how, in the beginning, the movie used pretty common themes from Surfer attacks ( the attack doesn’t happen immediately upon Nancy entering the water, but when she is almost done for the day) and some scientific reasoning ( a nearby dead whale carcass) to explain why a huge Great White is suddenly staying in an area he usually wouldn’t.
And I’d be remiss to not mention the true star of the movie, receiving his own credit at the end, Steven Seagull.
Decent: Nancy does a pretty good job of putting her med school knowledge to work throughout the movie. The shark itself looks pretty good for most of the movie, with occasional dips into some poor CGI. I don’t personally think it ever sinks as low as Sharknado CGI, but that doesn’t absolve it from it’s own poor quality. The movie does a pretty good job setting up tension, and takes numerous cues from its predecessors in the Shark Movie genre with PoV shots from the shark and low musical tones. Blake Lively has some pretty good scenes where she reacts to the horror in front of her rather convincingly. And, being a horror movie at its core, we get to see some awesome kills as the colossal shark feasts on potential rescuers, would-be thieves, and near anything else in his way.
The Ugly: The Shark’s earlier stated varying degrees of CGI quality aren’t helped at all by the fact that the movie can’t seem to decide how big this shark actually is. At times it seems nearly as big as the monstrosity from Jaws, at others it seems about the size of station wagon.
The movie also does itself no favors by constantly throwing a view of Nancy’s watch on screen repeatedly. It doesn’t add anything a simple text scroll wouldn’t have accomplished ( beside the big clear “Casio” advertising), and often detracts from that feeling of Girl Vs Nature I’m pretty sure the movie was going for.
For all the praise I lavished the beginning for setting up why this shark is around, in the third act it throws it all away and steers directly, blatantly into Deep Blue Sea territory. It devolves into shark torture porn, with Nancy facing increasingly ridiculous odds while this demon shark all but ignores the Thanksgiving feast of a whale in front of it to stalk this 100-pound-soaking-wet girl and kill any of the other bony figures that come to rescue her. Nancy’s safe haven, a small tiny rock island, seems like it’s within easy reach of the creature, but it never even attempts to pick her off there, but instead circles around with no real rhyme or reason.
Conclusion: Overall, I was pretty happy with the movie. I got exactly what was advertised; no more, no less. It’s not the next Jaws, and it most likely won’t go down in cinematic history. But it was a pretty enjoyable popcorn flick, and I can think of far worse ways to spend 86 minutes. If you’re at all interested in this genre of movie, I recommend at least a rental. Just don’t go in expecting a realistic, scientific look at sharks, and remind yourself this shark is pretty much the ocean equivalent of Jason or Michael Myers, and you’ll probably have yourself a pretty good time.