Sunday, May 5, 2024

Shark Watch: Sharknado 4 - The Fourth Awakens (2016)

Watched:  05/04/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Anthony C. Ferrante

So, in honor of May the 4th, which is the day everyone says "ha ha, May the Fourth be with you" - I made Jamie, Dug and K watch Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens because I am that guy.  

It is not a real movie, it's a Sharknado.  And I think there's something fascinating about where we were at as movie consumers, what the SyFy channel could afford, and -in particular- the movies made by The Asylum, and how all that led to the first Sharknado movie.  And people forget this, but Mia Farrow's delighted real-time tweets helped make Sharknado a thing the night of the first broadcast, took that lightning in a jar and held it up for all to see.

In the decades years prior to Sharknado the First, SyFy had given up on making *good* programs, discovering the might of things like a Mansquito and Giant Shark movies, which were mostly Z-list actors standing around talking about the creature at hand, but rarely seeing it.  Because seeing the creature cost money.  The Asylum rode this wave by producing an ever evolving array of usually very-large animals to attack submarines or campers.  And there was often a straight-to-video component of the company that was making off-brand versions of whatever was coming to the cinema.  Transmorphers.  Shurlock Homes.  You get the idea.  But all cheap and cheerful.

Sharknado was a late-era entry that came out of the trend of mixing concepts.  Why have a Giant Python when you could have a Giant Squid Python?  And, was, of course, the notion of mixing Twister with Shark movies.  And you get a Sharknado.  

As the movies went along, much as celebrities appeared as guests on the 60's Batman TV program as villains, or as folks Batman & Roobin met whilst climbing the side of a building, legitimate actors (usually a bit C-Level) started showing up.  From Lorenzo Lamas to, my faves, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.*  

But the first Sharknado was an oddball media event. pulling in millions and millions of viewers.  As had the second edition.

After that, they made one per year, I think.  And like a good idiot, I watched all of them.  This is how I'm spending my all-too-brief time on this rock.

By the time we got to Sharknado 4, a lot of things happened in the world of the movies and in how the movies were being made.  Writer Thunder Levin, director Anthony C. Ferrante had already brought the sharknado fighting Shepards into space, they'd fetishized chainsaws.  But, also, the second Sharknado film had been an opportunity to enable a bunch of cameos as the gang (and whirly sharks) hit New York.  I think that's where we first saw The Today Show cast, as neighborly Al Roker gave the Sharknado weather reports - and who became part of the recurring cast.  And that continued as a main feature (the only cameo that leaps to mind from the first Sharknado is Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch).  

So, yeah, you had recognizable faces happily getting eaten by sharks.

But here in the 4th movie, the who's who has become a series of D-Listers with some highlights.  And, at that, those D-Listers were very much flash-in-the-pan "celebrities" like Real Housewives and whatnot.  Which is fine.  They're shark fodder for the most part.  But it does mean these movies have the shelf life of an actual shark.  

But we also briefly get Wayne Newton and for longer stretches, Cheryl Tiegs (the movie is an excuse to bring out old movie and TV crushes of the producers, I am betting, as Knots Landing star Donna Mills makes an appearance).  And, with no joke being too obvious, you can see  Caroline Williams of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fame showing up as the owner/ proprietor of a chainsaw store.

Does it have a plot?  It does.  

It's been five years since the events of the prior Sharknado movie.  An Elon Musk-type, played by Tommy Davidson, has installed towers that will prevent the formation of Sharknadoes all over Earth.  Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) has to leave his son, Gil (yes, this is that kind of movie), alone with his mom in Kansas as he heads to Vegas with either one of his kids or his niece or something, I think to meet up with his son, Matt, from the first movie.  Fin is mourning the passing of his wife, April, who died/ was written out of the third movie.

Anyway, a dirt devil kicks up, and, lo and behold, it's full of sharks.  If you want to see Vegas get wrecked by a Sharknado, just tune in for the first fifteen minutes.

From there it's a cross-country adventure as the Shepards hit many, many points in the US that look like that one ranch you will no doubt recognize from decades of TV watching.  

Like Fast and the Furious, Sharknado is really about *family*.  I guess Tara Reid got sober or something because she's in more of this movie, returned as a superhero-like cyborg.  Because, like everything else, why not?  She's been fixed up by her mad-scientist father, Gary Busey, because of course he is.  Oh, and the Hoff plays Zierings' dad, because, actually that's good casting.

Anyway, along the way, we have all kinds of Sharknadoes, including a nuclear Sharknado, and you're either going to enjoy this or you aren't.  

Before watching this, I was of the opinion "eh, what can it matter if you watch these our of order?" and I am now, to my own dismay, not of the opinion:  it actually matters and you should watch these in order.

I also think there's so much going on in these movies - that what these movies are about has nothing to do with what's on screen.  Starring two people who are kind of Hollywood has-beens (sorry, Ian), and using the "this cast is too large" nature of disaster movies to litter the movie with cameos, merging of high concepts, and a genuine "literally, who gives a shit?" perspective - PLUS they knew to just stop after six movies.  I mean, that's not nothing.  

*I didn't know I needed this battle royale in my life, but I'm glad it exists

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