Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Angry Animal Watch: Under Paris (2024)

Watched:  06/05/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Xavier Gens

It is summer, and, thusly, it is time for me to watch movies about animals attacking/ eating people.

As of last night, I knew what my first two films would be, and who am I to say *no* to a movie about sharks in the Seine?  Yes, this is a French shark movie, and, ooo la la..! vive la difference!

Under Paris (2024) seems to be a not-good movie for most of its 1:45 or so runtime.  There's a pretty great scene around the 56 minute mark, and then it slows down again.  And then the ending is absolutely baller, and that's where the budget went.  

Here's the thing: the ending honestly surprised me - in a good way.  If you can hang in there, I think there's an interesting movie here, but it's not the one you're watching for the first 85 minutes or so.  

The basic deal is an intensely tropey set-up if you've ever seen a monster movie or shark movie.  

A scientific expedition at the Pacific Garbage Patch which is looking for a particular shark goes sideways when it turns out there are many sharks, and they are hangry.  Sophia, our lead, is one of two survivors, and, gang, it will surprise you to find out she is haunted by what happened.

Wouldn't you know it - that same shark they were tracking shows up in the Seine, causing the cops to want to probably shoot it, and an eager young Zillennial eco-warrior to want to save it.  

Anyway, things get bloody and bad when they do find the shark again, and the mayor - surprise! - does not want to hear about it.  A triathlon, which is for legal reasons not in the 2024 Olympics, is scheduled to have folks swim in the Seine, and she is going to make it happen.  Sharks or not.

The movie is full of lots of "but why are they going in the water with a large, clearly dangerous shark?" scenes.  But here's the thing...  it really kind of took the last scenes and the end for me to say "wait, was this movie brilliant?  Or did it just luck into a great finale?"


I sit here, a man who is not sure how to answer the questions above.

My feeling is that this movie was made by secret nihilists, who kind of know what you expect out of one of these movies, and play with that a bit, waiting to get to the ending to make this an actual horror/ comedy film instead of a clunky horror film.  I am curious to watch it again.

The hints are there along the way.  There's the heavy-handed bit about the Pacific Garbage Patch, which never really gets mentioned again.  But the things is also very real, and a massive problem for the planet.  And, like, a good 50's Atomic Age horror film, asks "what are we doing to ourselves via our terrible stewardship of the planet?"  Well, we're making mutant sharks.  Who want to vacation in Paris.

The movie seems like it will explain how the shark came to Paris from the Pacific, but it never does.  And I have mad respect for that.  (I kept waiting to find out Mika had lured the shark there, but I don't think that happened.  Correct me if I'm wrong.)

That scene I suggested you watch at the 56-ish minute mark is remarkable in that it never says, out loud, "hey, Planeteers, your hug-individual-animals approach is maybe terrible" while also very much side-eyeing influencers and fame goblins.   

Of course there's a horde gathered there for their Instagram moment - dumbly watching with their phones out.  While, of course, our eco-influencer gets gnawed upon by the big mama shark she was there to save.  

(late edit:  reading comments online, I seem to be alone in this.  But I'm still going to go with "I am right on this".  I've definitely seen both comments that were viewers thrown off that Mika was not the hero of the movie, as well as viewers who just found her annoying and were happy she went.  But - y'all, I think the movie was trying to say something about her motivations and why she's allowed to become chum here.  What seems to have cheesed off some viewers is that Mika is killed for her beliefs, and we're sort of trained to see young idealists as "the hero".  I'd just suggest folks look at how unhinged Mika seems and how weird she is with her girlfriend.)

At first, I was just semi-annoyed by the youths flipping out and knocking each other over, but the absolute mad panic seems part and parcel.  They'd likely be *fine* if they thought for two seconds.  But after the past 5 years, can you blame anyone for saying "but people flip out and kill other people"?

I mean, back during COVID one of the big memes was to pull the dialog from the mayor in Jaws and apply it as our own elected officials were more or less kicking and screaming to get back to business-as-usual when that sure seemed like it was going to kill Grandma.  We *know* the mayor is going to move forward with the race, and she does - against all reasonable caution.  But, she does not lie when she said "I told them to take care of it".

And - frankly, the cops do a terrible job at every turn.  No one just hangs a lamb's leg off the side of the boat to get the shark's attention.  They keep getting in the water when a GoPro is the better option.  It's all machismo.  

In the end, the cops, who are set up to have their heroic moment stopping the big-bad in her nest, of course actually make everything worse.  This scene should have been where we saved the swimmers after the initial plan went sideways and we had to improvise.  But, instead of simply blocking up the tunnels, the cops, and Sophia, are going to follow the movie trope of putting themselves in danger and planting explosives.  

Explosives, it turns out, are a big fucking problem.  As is swimming into a nest of sharks.  As is firing machineguns in a circle into the water when you don't really know where the shark went.  But I was enjoying it in the way I enjoy all of these movies when shit goes looney tunes at the end.  

(late edit:  again, I think this is all intentional.  A lot of folks took shots at this for being "unbelievable" or whatever.  But I'm going with my reading that everyone just looks at the problem from their personal toolbox - if I am a hammer, everything is s nail. "Cops take reactionary action and blow things up and make bigger problems than they need to" is not different from "politicians will try to cover up problems in the short term hoping they go away".)

But it was during this whole sequence as the sharks headed into the Seine to chomp on the racers that I began to think "wait... was all of this intentional?" and began to move the pieces around in my head.

I mean, yes, the foxy mayor and her staffers all get it.  But - yeah, with the fallen WWII ordinance shaken up by the sharks and the guns, etc...  you get the final explosions, and a sunk Paris.

And, the punchline of this very long walk seems to be:  well, now the sharks trashed YOUR home and the sharks are over populating in ways that will be bad for YOU.  And...  yeah.  That's pretty good stuff.  That name "Lilith" feels a bit more on the nose. 

Anyway, I could be wrong.  This could all be just someone making a clunky horror movie.  But I'm going with my interpretation.    (late edit:  And by this, I mean - it may be none of this is *intentional*, which would be disappointing.  But I also think it's a fair reading of the movie and where it takes you from the first scene to the last, and what the humans do to further their cause as we go along.  And that's why I'm not sure if we got a dark comedy intentionally or we got one by sheet happenstance of an over-caffeinated filmmaker.)

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