The celebration of sharks is one of Ole Miss’ most time-honored traditions. The football team’s “Landshark Defense” is a generations-old identity beloved by all fans of the red and blue, and no other mascot or idea about what best represents Ole Miss is as honored as our many shark-themed motifs. “Fins up,” say the fans in the stands! “Fins up, fin ‘em up! Hotty Toddy and fin those boys up good!” The shark mascot and shark-themed clothing are everywhere. Everyone’s sharkin’ around. You can picture this clearly, because sharks are very much Ole Miss.
It is because of our love for sharks — a love shared unequivocally by all Ole Miss fans to have ever been — that I watched last night’s SyFy world premiere of Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. The film stars Tara Reid and some other people, and is very much sports. It is apt that I am reviewing it in this space.
My thoughts on the film are as follows.
Oh and, uh, SPOILER ALERTS I guess?
Ole Miss’ defense does not play a prominent role in this film.
More specifically, they don’t play a role at all. I watched all however-many minutes worth of this film and did not even catch a reference to Ole Miss, let alone a guest appearance from the Rebel D. So if you were hoping to see Marquis Haynes or Breeland Speaks running around and wrecking shop in this film, or even just a casual nod to the SEC’s sharkiest fan base, then we regret to inform you that you will not.
The details, where present, are off.
The film’s larger story arc — aside from the general “oh shit there’s a tornado filled with sharks” — is that our two protagonists are on a mission to recover their son, who is whirling around the world inside of a super Sharknado that is capable of ripping through space-time. Stop the Sharknado and save their son, and humanity’s salvation will be a nice little lagniappe. There’s some stuff about druids and artifacts and magical Sharknado killing machines in there as well, but we are all better off if I didn’t attempt a summary of that.
Every other detail of the story, and there are a surprising number of them, is presented so quickly and devoid of context, that Sharknado 5 is both difficult to follow and understand. It engages in a sort of cinematic hedonism, indulging the audience in a continuous stream of mindless action, sexual innuendo, and attempts at humor. There’s just so much shit happening at once — oh, look, another celebrity cameo! — that the jokes (are they?) and plot points are delivered rapid fire and randomly enough to give the, uh, film(?) a remarkably muddled quality.
It’s confusing and so loaded with lazy writing that the viewer is left with the horrible baggage of unanswered simple questions.
Like, why was NATO meeting in London? Why did that meeting coincide with a meeting in London of all of the world’s top scientists? Why aren’t people worried about Sharknadoes until they’re literally in the middle of one? How is a Sharknado able to sweep away an alpine skier but leave others untouched because they were just, like, sorta ducking? How is it that something as simple as a helmet can protect someone who has been swept up in a Sharknado? How were the Azetcs, Celtic Druids, and Ancient Egyptians supposed to have communicated and collaborated on building a gigantic Sharknado destroying device? What exactly was the motive of the guy who did not want the Sharknadoes destroyed? Is he just some sort of agent of chaos or is there something much bigger at stake?
I completely understand that one must suspend a lot of disbelief to watch a film whose premise is built on a deadly weather phenomenon filled with carnivorous fish, but one can’t forego effective storytelling just because the story’s foundation is absurd.
So Tara Reid’s character is ... a cyborg?
Or is she an android? I always get those two confused. Anyway, she is paralyzed or something at some point, which isn’t really shown or explained at all (for real, she was swimming one scene, then a commercial break came, and in the next scene she’s getting surgery to fix her mangled legs). Of course, this moment, like much of the film’s twists, was used to drum up some remarkable deus ex machina devices. Her character, to make her into an even more effective shark killer, is at this point given cybernetic everything, a 3D printed heart (she didn’t seem to need that), and pink highlights. You know, for killing sharks.
What struck me as even more odd though was how the dialog from these scenes suggested that something happened between the first couple of Sharknadoes and this one that led to her having cyborg (or android?) parts already, because all of this cybernetic enhancement is all talked about as if it’s some sort of repair job. This would explain how, early in the film, she uses her cyborg (android?) strength to throw a helicopter with her bare hands, and I’m pretty sure at some point she flies around using rockets in the soles or her boots or something a la Ironman.
I still don’t really understand what the fuck that was all about, but she did get to use her new powers to kill sharks, which is convenient.
Speaking of god from the machine, the movie’s final scene is of a post-apocalyptic Earth roamed alone by our protagonist, Finn Shepherd. His wife(?) died, having sacrificed herself and destroyed the Sharknado using the powers within the great Pyramid of Giza, and his son was never recovered from the storm. Having saved Earth, but not humanity, Shepherd wanders among the planet’s wreckage for years until, amazingly, his son comes back from the future in a time traveling Hummer. The two are re-united and, in an extremely heavy-handed nod to Back to the Future, go back in time to ostensibly stop the Sharknadoes from happening and to set up the sixth film of this franchise.
Oh god. They’re going to make a sixth Sharknado movie.
Oh god, no.
The physics and material makeup of the sharks are inconsistent.
So the Sharknado in this version can travel through time and space, which explains how the film takes place in Mexico, England, Switzerland, Kansas, Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Egypt. That we just have to believe. That’s fine. But the sharks themselves are presented as either these indestructible, unconquerable beasts, or comically fragile and very much mortal.
The sharks are seen being blown through buildings, only to emerge flipping and flopping on the other side. They, on their own, literally smash several characters to death in the way that an open hand can flatten a mosquito on your forearm. But when these same sharks are not horrifying agents of death and destruction, the film’s characters are able to kill them by punching or kicking them, slicing them completely and cleanly in half with a machete, stabbing them with ski poles, hitting them with an umbrella, and all sorts of other things that suggests that the sharks have a consistency akin to that of room temperature butter.
There was even a scene where a Swiss figure skater is able to slice a shark completely in half using one of her skates. Like, she’s skating, so the skate is on her foot and whatnot, and the shark comes flying at her before she acrobatically kicks her leg up and just slices the shark — an entire shark — in half. Using an ice skate.
And I’m supposed to believe that these sharks are able to literally destroy entire cities?
It’s both excessive and unfulfilling
At one point, the Sharknado engulfs a shipping vessel carrying nuclear waste and becomes a some sort of superorganism shark monstrosity that then attacks Tokyo — a sight aptly described as “Sharkzilla” by an intrepid extra. This moment wasn’t funny. It was just really fucking stupid. At this point, it became clear that the point of this film was to basically fill two hours of air-time with silly shit for the sake of cheap entertainment.
And, yeah, they did just that, and it was indeed a form of entertainment, but it was entertainment in the way that a Golden Corral is technically still a restaurant. “Here y’all, it’s just a bunch of shit. Take from it what you want. Thanks for coming by.”
After all the gore, violence, time travel, bad CGI, Indiana Jones references, sexual innuendo, Xfinity product placement, and clunkily inserted one-liners, the movie scans as a collection of silly, excessive moments, as opposed to an actual film telling a compelling narrative. The silliness, the celebrity cameos, the campy CGI shark deaths — none of it pulls the viewer in to create any sort of sympathy or pathos, nor does it render the story at all suspenseful or even particularly interesting.
And speaking of the celebrity cameos, Let’s recap some:
- Chris Kattan plays some sort of butler and, like his comedy career post-SNL, is quickly killed.
- Bret Michaels plays himself, and is hit by a bus in London (he survives the collision, though).
- Geraldo Rivera plays an eccentric billionaire who built a sort of zeppelin designed to kill sharks.
- Fabio plays the Pope, who bequeaths to the protagonist a holy shark-killing chainsaw.
- Tony Hawk plays himself, and assists in pushing back the sharknado by skateboarding all over the roof of the Sydney opera house to activate the secret weaponry housed within. He has his own theme song.
- Gilbert Gottfried plays a news correspondent broadcasting live from the Serengeti somewhere.
- The cast members of the Today Show play themselves, with Al Roker giving what we presume is his last ever weather report. He reports that the world is coming to an end, but does so in his usual folksy way while being immaculately dressed in a seersucker coat. The scene really captured his professionalism and “the show must go on” work ethic, and really is the flim’s best performance.
And not even Al Roker’s thespian chops yet could save Sharkado 5. All of this fun, needless camp and kitsch gave it the feel of a cheap 1980’s sci-fi thriller, but it almost felt like the film’s poor quality was too intentional. It’s a very bad movie, but not in the charming, low budget way that the original Sharknado was. Sharknado 5: Global Swarming is still decidedly low budget, but its insistence on itself makes it feel more like a parody of the franchise than it does an actual part of it.
Simply put, it’s so bad that it’s not even ironically entertaining.
In one of the film’s opening scenes, our hero is speaking to NATO to encourage the alliance to act swiftly against the looming storm. “Back home,” he says, “we’re trying to make America great again, but if you follow my lead, we’ll make the world great again.” Unfortunately, we followed your lead, Finn, and you and your unreasonable ambition destroyed the world, just as we followed this horrible film right to the destruction of a franchise.
“Make the world great again,” you say? How about “make Sharknado great again.”
OFFICIAL RED CUP FILM REVIEW RATING: 0.5 cups out of 5.