Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - It Jumped the Shark

Note: This review contains spoilers related to Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) and Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016).

In 2016, SYFY aired the fourth installment of the Sharknado film series by The Asylum. We somehow did not review the movie during that year, so we decided to review it close to the airing of the grand finale of the series, The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, in order to finally fill in the unsightly gap in our Sharknado reviews.

Five years have passed since the ending of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) and the world has been Sharknado-free thanks to technology developed by Astro-X’s Astro Pods, developed by tech mogul Aston Reynolds (Tommy Davidson); Astro-X had also developed a new type of shuttle that recovered Fin’s father, Col. Gilbert Shepherd (David Hasselhoff), from the moon. Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) has also moved into a farm in Kansas, “April’s Acres”, where he lives with his mother Raye (Cheryl Tiegs) and son Gil (Christopher and Nicholas Shone). During the opening night of a shark-themed hotel in Las Vegas, which inexplicably houses a giant tank of sharks, a new Sharknado forms within the city, but the Astro Pods can’t stop it, since it wasn’t created from water. With the world once more in danger from the Sharknado phenomenon, Fin must once again step up to save the world.

The plot which follows is so ridiculous that I genuinely facepalmed a few times. Not only can a Sharknado now spontaneously occur without a body of water, but it can absorb the elements to become a new type of -nado. One chain of -nado transformations is a Bouldernado, which turns into an Oilnado, which then catches fire and becomes a Firenado. This Firenado is then extinguished (by exploding fire extinguishers, naturally) and touches some power lines to become a Lightningnado; we were disappointed they didn’t instead call it a Shocknado, but that might’ve been too clever for the writers. The ultimate of these transformations is a Nuclearnado/Nukenado, which contains so much concentrated radiation that the main cast should’ve honestly died from coming into contact with it.

While Fin is out fighting the -nados, the movie goes through two sub-plots. The first involves the revelation that April Wexler (Tara Reid) had not only survived the ending of the previous movie, but had also been turned into a cyborg by her father, Wilford (Gary Busey), in order to keep her alive. This sub-plot is the closest the movie gets to having familial conflict, but the context in which it's presented means it’s hard to take at all seriously. The other involves Aston and Col. Gilbert working on potential solutions for fighting the -nados, which includes introducing new isotopes to the Astro Pods (sure) and the construction of a wearable mech suit. This sub-plot, though heavily involved in the story, relies on the audience taking everything the characters say at face value.

In general, however, Sharknado 4 relies on breaking conventional logic just so the story can continue, which includes Gil surviving a Nukenado by hiding in a regular wooden barrel. The plot is also littered with convenience and contrivance, especially the final scene, in which it’s revealed that not only did Fin’s immediate family survive the events of the movie despite almost all of them being eaten by sharks, but all of the sharks involved within a chain of sharks being consumed by ever larger sharks (matryoshka sharks, if you will), culminating in a random blue whale, happened to all be the same sharks that consumed the Shepard family.

As is natural for the Sharknado series, there are plenty of pop culture references peppered in. However, the references in this movie feel incredibly forced and a lot of movie quotes often feel completely out of place, as they are completely removed from any context in which they would work. Some of the more obvious references include those related to then-relevant Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), such as a Star Wars-esque opening title crawl and a chainsaw weapon modeled after Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, not to mention April being able to wield an actual lightsaber. One other notable reference is several related to The Wizard of Oz (1939), if only because of how long and dragged out it is. At this point, the movie even has the gall to point out how ridiculous it is:

Fin: “Follow the road! Follow the yellow brick road! I can’t believe I just said that.”

This, of course, does not excuse the fact they still went for it.

Apart from the incredibly bad special effects, and not in the fun way, there are plenty of celebrity cameos. However, these cameos are generally of a decidedly lower tier than its predecessors. Some of these include David Hasselhoff, Gary Busey, Carrot Top, Gilbert Gottfried, Steve Guttenberg, Vince Neil, Corey Taylor, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adrian Zmed, although we also see the return of Al Roker and the inexplicable addition of Chippendales strippers (notable by virtue of their prominence in the first act). Many of the celebrities are also either crushed or eaten by sharks, including Carrot Top (probably his best act in years). I’ll also mention here that the movie can be very brazen and in-your-face with its product placement, most notably Xfinity, since they reference it by name, show off a voice-controlled remote feature and almost literally rub the logo in your face.

Before I end, I'll note that if there are any fans of Lavalantula (2015), this film seems to make a reference to it that implies it's within the same universe as Sharknado.

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens marks a clear turning point in the Sharknado franchise. The story and plot are too ridiculous for their own good, the special effects are laughably bad and the references and product placement are too forced and unnatural. It may be better than its successor, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a franchise entirely about sharks had somehow managed to jump the shark.

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