As you might remember, i frankly hated Planet Of The Sharks, so i post-poned the review of Empire Of Sharks, which i also incorrectly described as a sequel.
Because it isn’t: completely different cast, completely different characters, no continuity, you know the drill by now.
It still kind of a follow up to Planet Of The Sharks, as in this is The Asylum trying again to make work the ill-conceived- and under budgeted – mash up of Mad Max, Waterworld and a shark movie.
I don’t why exactly they felt the need to try again, since i’m not even sure it raked in much profit for the Asylum, but i guess Mark Atkins wanted another go at the concept, so this time he directed but also wrote the script himself, which is not necessarily encouraging piece of info.
But fair is fair, and this time the script it’s a bit better, as in here i can actually follow what the hell is going on without constantly asking why the fuck the characters are doing that, and i don’t enrage myself when – after watching the thing – i finally piece together the messy plot and realize how incredibly stupid their plan to get rid of the giant pack of sharks was.
It’s still a very stupid plot, as we’ll see, but you can actually follow it fine because it has a clear structure and overall goal for the protagonists, they rip-off a little better the obvious “ inspirations”, and this helps in giving it more of a proper narrative structure.
The plot is set in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Waterworld’s, so the surviving humans live in raft-villages as land has recessed into the seas, and like in Mad Max society has regressed into a “survival of the fittest” scenario, with a warlord controlling troops to shakedown tribes and cities of their resources, and fitted with special gloves that he uses to control packs of sharks and send them after anyone that doesn’t obey his orders. But – unknown to him – a girl from a small village of fishermen also has the ability to control sharks by using her pendant….
Like Planet Of The Sharks, they also filmed this in Cape Town…. but overall it looks less “fakey” this time, you don’t get many obviously telling shots where the waters are a bit too see-through for a village – supposedly – built on rafts over an infinite ocean, and not using that laughable CG shots of the cities from afar helps a bit. Still, the sharks are CG crap and the occasional practical dorsal fin peeking out of the water, all the gore is done conveniently underwater AND off-screen. Bleh.
As i said, it’s still pretty stupid, starting from most of the characters, like one who – totally umpropted – decides to not only give the villain’s right-hand man (played by a visibly tired but kinda goofy Jonathan Pieenar, one of the most recognizable Asylum’s recurring actors) scrap instead of the machine parts, but also puts a bomb in it. Leaving aside how dumb that scene is, it’s kinda hard to really despise the generic characters when the main lead is both stupid, reckless and wimpy.
He’s supposed to be the typical hero that’s not very capable or strong but he’s brave and has to the will to fight for what is right, but he comes off not only as kinda wimpy and puny, but as a pathetic, stupid coward as well, because he almost quits half-way through the quest, his hastily assembled crew has to talk him into going forward, and giving him good reasons to do so as well.
Hardly i’ve ever seen a more pathetic, ill-fitting character, supposed to be an underdog hero but so flippant between bravery and dumb cowardice he comes off as a spineless fool, at least until the writer finally decides if he wants the MC to be more Monkey D. Luffy or Usop. And even when that happens, it really doesn’t.
If it was ALL up to this lead character alone, he would have quitted the quest half-way through and resolved absolutely bugger all. I think a literal shark would have done better in his stead.
The other main character fares a little better, even if it takes her 70 minutes into this 82 minutes film to realize she can actually control the sharks and sends them after the villains and his henchmen. Yeah, she has poorly explained psychic powers amplified by her sunstone pendant, a memento from her father, who was also able to control sharks, a figure we find out – at the very end – known as the “Shark Caller”, and apparently there’s a whole more to it, as she too learns in the last minute by one of her fellow island abitants, as they start to train her to become a “Shark Jedi” or something.
The highlight of the movie is definitely the villain, played by John Savage the same year he had a small part in the Twin Peaks: The Return, so he definitely kept himself busy outside of these Asylum movies, and here plays basically a half-baked mash-up of Mad Max’s Immortan Joe and Waterworld’s Deacon, fitting but it’s a very crappy mix that eskwes the more interesting traits of both, and instead we have John Savage using VR gloves to control sharks using the power of X-Box’s Kinect. Still, he gives the best performance, even if the acting overall is bad as you’d expect.
In conclusion, Empire Of The Sharks ironically had to try less than its 2004 “precedessor”, Planet Of The Shark, which tried to mash up too much with a low budget and one of the worst scripts i’ve ever seen for a shark movie, shockingly bad and confusing even for The Asylum.
… and it’s a better execution of the overall concept of a Mad Max and Waterworld pastiche with sharks, as in this time you can actually follow the plot, and despite some badly directed sequences that wound up confusing, there’s more of a structure to the stupid plot, this time featuring psychic powers to mind-control sharks, kinda random and badly explaining, but it ups the entertaiment value and makes up for one of the more puny and stupid “hero” character i’ve seen in a while.
Even with John Savage doing what he can with the material (not much) and slightly better production values, the improvements aren’t enough to make Empire Of The Sharks go anywhere near mediocrity, it’s “just” sub-par shark shlock, a fairly big step up from the frustrating, confusing, enraging bullshit of Planet Of The Sharks, but it’s still pretty bad and pretty darn stupid regardless.
On a positive note, this one you can actually watch WITHOUT having to see the plot getting off it’s own fuckin tether multiple times in a row, making itself virtually impossible to follow as a result.
At least there some nuggets of enjoyment you can squeeze out of this one. YAY?!