Monday, 7 June 2010

Some thoughts on... Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

This was written for a friend's technology website:

I first saw Shark Attack 3 in May 2005, whilst theoretically revising for my history finals. I like Trotsky, Cecil Rhodes and Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, but cheating on them with a shark just felt right. Energised by what I'd seen, I embraced my gargantuan inner nerd, scooting off to set up an SA3 fanpage at Empire Online. It transferred to the new boards a few months later, where it's still the most viewed (250,000 hits) and commented on (5,600 posts) film thread on the forum. As RollZero readers, you'll doubtless know what all those words mean.

There are many great films. The Searchers. Legally Blonde. The first episode of hideously offensive sitcom Heil, Honey I'm Home, which prompted the show's immediate cancellation. And then there is Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.

Following in the tradition of Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, SA3 pits its toothy protagonist against a pair of orange Americans, several poorly-dubbed Russians and a former naval officer with a torpedo in his garage. It was financed by South Africans, incidentally - proof of what we can achieve if we all work together. The film begins, as all great films do, with a scuba diver finding a shark's tooth in a fibre optic cable. From then on in, all bets are off. Unless you're betting that a man will water-ski into a shark's mouth, or two fully consenting adults will boff in what looks suspiciously like a church. In that case you're spot on.

I was introduced to the film by a lovely chap called Hugo. Spring was in bloom, fairy cakes were on special offer at Tesco (not a euphemism) and Hugo was wearing plastic bags on his feet for a reason lost in time (smelly feet?). He kept tittering in anticipation of The Line, as it shall henceforth be known: John Barrowman's appalling, ad-libbed assault on the ears of co-star Jenny McShane. I won't reveal it here. I don't ruin great art. It would be like pooing on The Hay Wain. And I should know.

Working from a script by William Hooke (famous for The Making of Spy Game featurette) and wunderkind producer Scott Devine (the man behind Jessica Tandy: Theatre Legend to Screen Star), director David Worth weaves a tale of death and destruction like some modern-day Neith. The Egyptian god of weaving, I had to look it up.

Back to the plot. Having found the shark tooth, Ben (Barrowman) sends a picture off to a research centre. Scientist Cat (McShane) takes one look at it and heads for the scene. She knows there's a prehistoric, man-eating shark out there, and she wants it captured on film, ideally by two goofy All American perverts called Davis and Freidman (both played by Russians, naturally). So far so good, but when the shark devours a para-sailing group, the gang realise they have to call for back-up. Enter ex-navy submariner Chuck Rampart, who's a bit miffed that his shady employers have hushed up the megalodon threat. Thank goodness he's got a Mark 44 torpedo in his shed.

As you'd expect, the characterisations are pretty sweet. I've tried my best, but it's hard to forget such inexplicably sweary characters as joshing jocks Davis and Freidman ("You are the ass man - and you'd do ANYTHING for that ass!") or ex-naval psycho Chuck, with his calling card of "Bull-fucking-shit". The script mixes wisdom with terse poetry: "My lawyers are the REAL sharks", "Always carry a spare - it's the navy way," "You're my bitch" and - of course - The Line. It's testament to the film's universality that you can say almost anything and claim it's from SA3. When I lent my copy to call-centre chum Tim, he claimed in all seriousness that his favourite line was: "He's going hand-gliding? He better not do anything sexy." If that isn't in the film (and it categorically isn't), then it certainly should be.

What Jaws and Deep Blue Sea never had, aside from a bit where Roy Scheider spouts filth at his wife in a car park (see: The Line), is a shark that can grow and shrink at will. Having secured around three seconds of shark film and a copy of Foto$hop (Korean import), Worth and his team of technical wizards simply use the same clip over and over again, regardless of what the Megalodon is swallowing. So sometimes the shark is as big as a man, at other times the length of a yacht. It's proof, as if any were needed, of the commitment to freewheeling, bravura uselessness that runs through the very centre of SA3. That and The Line. A quarter of a million clicking nerdfingers can't be wrong.

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