Thursday, January 17, 2008

Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)

Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)
Director: Hans Horn
TC4P Rating: 4/9
Shark appearance: quite surprisingly, in dialogue only -- and the constant implied threat that they may show up, which they never do...


I understand. Really, I do. I get the basic appeal when an Open Water or a Saw comes out, and the world flips out because, by and large, the genre films we had gotten for the brief period preceding the respective debuts of those films had been a soggy lot overall. Something slightly off-kilter from that with which we had been deluged seemed refreshing -- it's the reason why the world shat bricks when The Blair Witch Project went "Boo!," giving half the audience the chills, and the other half motion sickness.

Me? Open Water was indeed a breath of fresh air... for a very short while. But then a pair of completely self-absorbed lead characters brought me to the early conclusion that mere death by exposure, hypothermia and drowning was simply too nice a way out for these people -- so, bring on the sharks, by all means! I was inventing gods so that I could momentarily believe in them long enough to be able to pray for the deaths of these egotistical idiots. Render them to shreds, finny ones, and torture those assholes until they are left spitting fear and half-mad from exhaustion and blood loss. Too harsh, you say? Clearly you are the sort of person represented by the characters in Open Water. You just don't know how wrong you are...

Here is where I am confused by the introduction of a sequel to that film, appended with the numeral "2" and followed by a colon, after which we are given a subtitle: "Adrift." On my end of things, I love sharks, so it would seem that I love films that would feature sharks. (Hence, the reason for this blog.) The problem is that when sharks are featured in these films, it is generally as agents of man's destruction. The sharks come off as evil, which they aren't, and the people, with the rare exception of an outright villain, come off as the hapless victims of these intruding and terrible creatures, which neither one is at all. As with Jaws -- a film that as a fan of both genre film and great movies in general, I adore unreservedly -- sharks can come up on the losing end of the deal in a very major, nature-crippling way when too much negative media attention causes the public to backlash against an imagined threat to humanity. (For this very same reason, it is surprising that the Black-Eyed Peas are still alive for all the damage their music has done to our culture. Quick, Time Magazine! Put up a cover article about that form of terrorism! Let's get our fishermen trying to haul in Fergie...)

So, it would seem that I would not want shark movies to be out there in the abundance that they are. Yes, we have twenty years of Shark Week helping the public understand the role of sharks in our world, but our primary impulse when shown a picture of a great white or mako is instant fear. I love sharks, but if I walk around a corner and there is a giant shark statue or poster staring me square in the face (as has happened most recently at Disney, and previously as several other locales such as aquariums), despite my admiration, I still jump. Despite my knowledge that it is a mere representation, I still jump. Certainly, fear is our most primal instinct; certainly, fight or flight are our two most necessary reactions. It doesn't surprise me that people reacted in the way they did to Jaws, though for reasons pertaining to my own agenda, I like to chalk it up to the fact that most people are basically morons. And it doesn't surprise that there is an audience for films and shows that continue to play off this fear, even in an age where we really should know better.

I know better. So, why do I watch and even anticipate shark movies, even when I shouldn't according to my own politics. One would be I like to see people get eaten. I don't want the shark to get hurt at all, but I don't mind someone sliding down something else's gullet. But, here's the chief, A-Number-One reason: I am simply waiting for another really good shark movie. There is Jaws... and then that is pretty much it. I kept going to the sequels, because I kept waiting for that magic to strike again. Ugh. What a waste of time that proved to be. If you corner me, I will tell you why I own a copy of Deep Blue Sea: because, despite the fact it is a bad film, it's actually a great time at the movies. The script is so crazily constructed, with half-assed concept on top of another half-assed concept on top of yet another half-assed concept -- a tower of klutzy half-assedness that equals the size of the massive underwater shaft the protagonists have to negotiate through within the film's plot -- that it becomes rather lovable, like a lost, drunken puppy. Plus, there is a completely unnecessary but perfect strip-down-to-her-scanties scene, a handful of good, amusing lines, an amiable hero, some half-swell and half-horrible special effects, and a great though thoroughly ridiculous Samuel L. Jackson death. And LL Cool J plays a preacher/cook who closes the credits with a song about how his "head is like a shark fin!" C'mon, it's so pathetic and stupid, I have to love it.

But, it's still not a good film. And that is what I was hoping for in the original Open Water. This, you may have surmised, it turned out not to be. Still, I am not one to instantly dismiss the chance that a sequel can outshine its predecessor. (I am an Empire Strikes Back and Mad Max II guy, after all.) It's rare, but it can work out. But, even though it goes against what I just espoused above, there was one thing I was completely expecting out of Open Water 2: Adrift... friggin' sharks!

Screw spoiler alerts! I don't care if it pisses anybody off, because if you get to a certain point in the film, no matter who you are, no matter what you feel about sharks... there will come a moment about midway through the film where you casually say, "I wonder where the sharks are? I mean, gee, it's great that someone has expressed their concern about sharks showing up, but... when do they show up?" Then, about ten minutes later: "Boy, those sharks should be here by now!" You will tap your watch, and then check to see if it matches the time on your DVD player to make sure the universe hasn't gone out of whack, and that you haven't got caught in some sort of time loop where you are stuck endlessly watching a six-pack of complete douchebags who have stupidly leapt off a yacht anchored in Mexican waters without first creating available access by either rope or ladder to get out of the water, float about and slowly go crazy trying to figure out another way out.

Ten more minutes, you'll be checking the disc envelope to see if it actually does mention there are sharks in this film so you can sue someone for false advertising (it doesn't -- you are sooooo lucky, Netflix!). Five more minutes, you start frothing at the mouth. You will jump off the couch and over the coffee table in one magnificent leap, yelling "Here's your fucking shark! I'm your goddamn fucking shark!," and then you will start to chew your way through the television in the hopes that you will take out one of the remaining whining cast members with your own gnashing jaws, mastication skills learned from all of the shark movies you rented where the sharks that were implied to show up did show up. Then, you will need someone to call an ambulance for you, since your mouth is now full of shards of glass, and your face and upper torso are possibly covered in second degree burns. And you won't ever know if sharks actually do show up in the last ten minutes. Which they don't.

No one renting this film is doing so with the belief that there aren't any sharks in it. People are renting it because they have either seen the first film, and either liked it or were at least entertained just enough to feel like checking out the sequel, or they have heard second-hand from someone who liked it the first movie and were told how scary the shark scenes were, and now find themselves faced with a late-evening nothing-else-on-the-store shelves choice between this and a Mary Kate and Ashley shopping caper. "Well, this one has sharks in it, so I will rent it!," they might say. They will hear a character impart her fears early on that sharks may come, and they will also view a scene not much later where there might be a shark or something else large and unseen bumping someone's leg underneath the water.

And then, half an hour later, each and every one of these misled people will attack the television in the manner which I described earlier. Somewhere, in that mythical TV land that we hear so often about (and where Nickelodeon makes easy money off of suckers), televisions huddle in fear over a story about a legendary DVD that causes human beings to try and chew their way through a screen in complete raving madness because the disc didn't actually have sharks in it when it was implied through the simple marketing of a title that there were. It will become known as the TV Land version of The Ring, where a television has 70 minutes from the time the disc is inserted in the player before it is trashed to pieces. All because of a shiny, seemingly harmless little disc called Open Water II: Adrift, that doesn't mean to lie to us, but causes untold destruction from its inability to follow through on its inherent implications.

Open Water 2: Adrift is actually well-shot, not too badly acted by most of the cast, creates a fair amount of suspense, sticks to its initial intentions, and isn't really exploitive. It was filmed independently without really being intended as a sequel to the first film, and was released internationally as simply Adrift. So it is probably not the filmmakers' fault for its ultimate disappointment for mere association with what is widely and famously known as a shark movie, but rather the studio that released it. 

Imagine Jaws: The Revenge actually being about a bunch of dentists stuck in the middle of the ocean, where they just talk about sharks the whole time, never see one. "Water, water everywhere, but none with which to rinse and spit!" would be the tagline. The dentists would float about until they devoured each other out of starvation and boredom. 

Actually, this might have made a better movie...

RTJ