Megalodon (2004) – By Timothy Martinez

A multi-billion dollar, state of the art oil rig has gone into service off the coast of Greenland, drilling into the ocean floor some five-thousand feet below in hopes of cracking into a previously inaccessible oil deposit of potentially tremendous size. However, the company running the operation is being bombarded by allegations of unsafe practices and environmental damage stemming from their work. In an effort to show the world the good work being done, as well as the steps being taken to safeguard the environment, the gentleman running the company invites a television reporter and her cameraman to the rig to witness first hand the job being done.

The first hint of trouble appears when some equipment malfunctions on the ocean floor and when brought up top, reveals a dangerous fish within it. A fish that was thought to be extinct. More trouble looms when the drill on the ocean floor breaks into a large cavern, sinking from sight but revealing a world of new and exotic life forms never before seen by man. Raise your hand if you know where this one is going. Yeah, I thought so.

In addition to lots of weird fish being released into the ocean, the immense cavern (it’s so big that when two different mini subs ping it, they don’t get a return signal) is also the home of something much, much bigger… and much more dangerous – Carcharadon Megalodon, the prehistoric ancestor to the Great White Shark. The great leviathan emerges from it’s home and chaos, action and death ensue. Well, death ensues. Those other two are sorely lacking in this muddled tale.

I must confess to being scared to death of sharks. That and spiders are the two creatures that frighten me most. Sharks especially, because when one encounters them one is in their domain and at their mercy. That feeling of helplessness is something that really contributes to their ability to scare the crap outta me… and I speak from experience, having spent many youthful years surfing the Northern California coast. I had my own up close and personal encounter with a shark and I do not wish to repeat the experience. All that being said, for some odd reason I have never been able to fathom, I have been drawn to horror movies featuring sharks and spiders. I’ll leave the self-psychoanalysis for another day, but perhaps it’s my way of trying to cope with my fears. Who knows. Anyway, a film about the granddaddy of all sharks was too hard for me to pass up. Sadly, I think the sharks in Finding Nemo were more frightening.

Things got off to a dismal start when the film opens with a mock television news cast, complete with reporter and news desk. The two main elements of the film – offshore oil drilling and environmental concerns – are mentioned here, setting up the story. This approach, while being a time saver, is the easy way out. It is the modern equivalent of the annoying narrators who set up the premise of the film that plagued so many monster films of the 50’s. Sadly, things went downhill from there.

To call this film a mess is almost an understatement. First off, the story – if that is what you wish to call it – is horribly assembled. At first I thought that there might have been an explosion in the editing room, with bits of film tossed about and the producers having to splice together a movie out of all the surviving pieces. Then I realized that the constant jumping around from one scene to another, with jarringly sudden transitions, is due to the ineptly written script. There is a definite “by-the-numbers” feel here, as the script seems focused solely on hitting all the requisite plot points and ignoring anything that comes in between. There is absolutely no sense of timing here. One instant the characters are in a submersible at the bottom of the ocean and just a few seconds later they are back up top having drinks. There is a horrible lack of transition shots in this film, just POW – moving straight from one shot to another. This really made the entire film seem like one long scene. One long, boring scene. In additon, this mad rush to get from one scene to another leaves zero room for character development.

Being a new film, there is naturally an abundance of CGI on display. Some of it is actually quite good when considering the low budget origins of the film. The shark itself looks pretty good in some shots, far better than the blocky Mako sharks of Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea. Even some aspects of the oil rig and various underwater shots look incredibly well. However, far too many shots involving subs, helicopters, ice flows and boats look like the fancy cut scenes you’d find in a new computer game. The rippling surface of water is notoriously hard to achieve with CGI and it shows here.

I suppose my biggest complaint about the film is the fact that the shark doesn’t even make it’s initial appearance until nearly fifty minutes into the film. Considering that the narrative ends at the seventy-eight minute mark and you’ll see why there is a dirge of chomping time. Who wants a shark movie where most of the time is spent watching dull people talk and when the title critter does show up, all the beast does is swim in circles, ram an oil rig, and chase the odd sub? People watch shark movies because they want to see characters get chomped, and in this film there is very, very little of that. There is never any real sense of dread or danger conveyed in the scenes with the shark and the viewer ends up praying for something… anything to happen. Oddly enough, of the six deaths seen in this film only three are caused by the shark… and in only one instance do we actually see someone get “chomped.” Far too little shark action in my book.

In spite of some good music now and then, this is a film to watch only when you are desperately in need of something to kill some time. Even then, I’d be wary. If you are a shark movie enthusiast be warned – the animated Shark Tale had more thrills than this one. For those who absolutely must have their shark fix, skip ahead to the forty-five minute mark and watch the last half-hour. You’ll save yourself some time and brain cells. In the end, the most frightening thing about this film is the twelve-minute (yes twelve!) ending credit sequence. If the shark didn’t put you to sleep, that will.