Shark in Venice – “Welcome to the perfect tourist trap”

(Don’t ask me where the plural “s” comes from; I have no idea)

So yesterday, I joined the majority of the rest of the world in celebrating the beginning of Shark Week 2012 (and boy was it fun); today, Shark Week 2012 – Day 2!

I want to start by painting a word-picture for your mind-eyes. The setting is a conference room at Nu Image Films (who helped bring us such gems as Flu Bird Horror, S.S. Doomtrooper, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, though also the actual gem of The Expendables). The scene – a new movie needs to get made, and everyone’s tossing around ideas.

Nu Image person 1: Could we maybe do a movie with puppies and fluffy kittens?

Nu Image person 2: Only if there’s rainbows, and there’s no rainbows in that one. What about puppies and non-fluffy kittens that actually turn out to be aliens?

Nu Image person 1: Nah, that’s basically been done before. Maybe something with chickadees…

Nu Image person 3: Here’s one – how about Indiana Jones meets James Bond. With sharks!

That’s about the best way I can think of to describe the essence of Shark in Venice. David Franks (Stephen Baldwin, The Usual Suspects; Born on the Fourth of July) gets called to Venice after his father goes missing while on a mysterious dive in the canals. Concerned for his well-being, his fiancée Laura (Vanessa Johansson, The Objective; Day of the Dead) tags along. Once there, they meet police Lt. Sofia Tottie (Hilda van der Meulen, The Russian Specialist; Attraction) who gets assigned to escort them as they search for David’s father. Meanwhile, Vito Clemenza (Giacomo Gonnella, Caótica Ana; Tea with Mussolini), a local mobster who financed David’s father’s expedition, aims to convince David to finish the job.

Top left – David Franks; top center – Laura; top right – Lt. Sofia Tottie; bottom left – Vito Clemenza; bottom right – George the shark

One thing I actually liked about this movie was that they didn’t rely overly much on CGI sharks, instead using (admittedly stock) footage as much as possible. While this did lead to many shots being used again and again (and again and again…), it helped keep the movie that much less ridiculous. Of course, any decrease in the ridiculousness from use of stock footage was soon replaced generously by the use of CGI. The scenes with CGI sharks stood out as not only ridiculously poorly animated, but also ridiculously ridiculous in terms of what happened. They included not just attacks on divers, of which there were many, but also scenes where the shark (or possibly sharkS, it’s hard to tell) jumped out of the water to eat people in boats or on jetties. For those of you who read more about the feeding habits of great white sharks (that’s the species in this movie), you know that great whites are known to leap out of the water; but only vertically, never laterally (not that’s been documented to my knowledge, at least), making these scenes all the more ridiculous.

“I CAN FLY!”

Add on top of that the sub-par acting, the ho-hum dialogue and the cartoon villain-esque plot, and you end up with a movie that has some wonderful, hilarious moments interspersed throughout a lot of formulaic dreck.

“Sir, I can’t find quality anywhere!”

First off, I should point out that I cannot find a definitive answer as to whether sharks naturally frequent the canals of Venice (the movie argues that they don’t). By and large, I would suspect that the water is too polluted and active to be attractive to sharks, though I’m sure occasionally some wander in. That being said, were sharks to be released into the canals by, I don’t know, an idiotic mafioso intent on protecting the hidden burial site of an ancient treasure brought back from one of the Crusades by members of the Medici family, I would expect the sharks to simply swim out to the Mediterranean Sea in search of food (it should also be here said that the Mediterranean already has quite a population of great white sharks, so they’d fit right in). Though it is also possible that sharks, being the fairly intelligent creatures that they are, could in fact be trained to stay in certain waters, if they were regularly fed. Likewise, Vito’s assertion that the sharks are too big to swim out of the canals doesn’t make much sense to me, given the efficacy with which they attack divers throughout the movie.

OM NOM NOM!

So above, I mentioned Indiana Jones (by now, the James Bond comparison should be pretty clear), and I did so for a reason. See, David’s father was hired by Vito to find a lost treasure brought back from the Eighth Crusade by three brothers of the Medici family, with the help of Marco Polo. Once back in Venice, the brothers buried the treasure in a trapped vault, then killed everyone who knew about it before being killed themselves. When David goes looking for his father, he stumbles upon the secret location of the treasure. Not only is it a treasure that would have made Aladdin overjoyed, but as soon as David sets foot in the cave he nearly gets skewered by spears. A missed axe blade later has him in the midst of gold and jewels. Overall the whole thing feels too Last Crusade-y for my taste (though I will also have it known that Last Crusade is possibly my favorite of the series).

“You dare to copy me?!”

Additionally, this gets at another parallel between the two, and an overused movie trope, wherein a parent of the hero, typically the father (or mentor), either goes missing or gets kidnapped, inciting the hero to finish the father’s or mentor’s work in order to find them. Indiana Jones uses this plot device not once but twice in the series; a variant of it also serves to set Luke Skywalker on his path in Star Wars.

They’re all basically the same person

For me, the point when this movie truly jumped the shark – aside from when a shark actually jumps out of the water and crashes through a gondola; and ignoring the fact that the shark seems to have some sort of homing beacon so that it always knows when people are getting near the treasure cave; and leaving out the numerous occasions on which David manages to get the drop on thugs sent to assassinate him as though he were in fact a spy – was when, just before climbing into the treasure cave, he gets bitten in the freaking torso but still manages to pull himself up a rock wall, walk around the cave, and generally seem completely whole and hale, until he tells Laura that he’s about to pass out from blood loss and decides that his only hope is to jump back in the water to try to outswim the shark.

Bulls-eye!

David goes from this…

…to this. In two days. (The leg is actually a chilling metaphor for this movie)

I’ll put this bluntly – a person cannot outswim a shark, even in the best of health. The current world record for the 4 x 200 meter men’s freestyle relay is roughly 7 minutes. This means that four people each swim 200 meters as quickly as they can, and altogether take about 7 minutes. I used the relay to get a rough average speed. The world record for the individual 1500 meter men’s freestyle is 14.5 minutes, give or take, a race swum at a slower pace. The top speed of a great white shark is upwards of 40 kilometers per hour, or 667 meters per minute. For a shark to swim 800 meters at top speed would take approximately you’re dead. At a more standard, unhurried pace, they average about 15 kilometers per hour, which is 250 meters per minute. For a shark to sedately swim 1500 meters would take approximately you’re still so very, very dead. In summary, do not try to outswim a great white shark. Punching it in the nose is a better plan for survival (though not by a whole lot). If you don’t want to watch that whole video, start it around 6:20 for the shark-punching point. (Disclaimer – Jumping Sharks does not, in any way, condone the punching of sharks for survival or entertainment reasons, nor should it be construed that Jumping Sharks believes punching sharks in the nose is the best survival tactic. For that, we would have to recommend staying on land.)

You and me, nine rounds in the ring! Let’s go!

Similarly to Shark Swarm, Shark in Venice does surprisingly little with the titular shark. Although the shark ties in more closely to the rest of the movie than did the shark swarms in Shark Swarm, by and large it serves as a constant present danger (that randomly jumps out of the water to eat people) rather than a focus of the plot. Likewise, the movie never really resolves what happens to the shark, though if you watch the credits, you get a hint.

And that’ll do it for Shark in Venice. Come back for another lap tomorrow, along with another review of a sharktacular bloodbath. Until then, aim for the nose!

Posted on August 13, 2012, in B-movies, Movies, SyFy Channel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Can we all just agree that the only good CGI sharks are in Deep Blue Sea? On another note, Stephen Baldwin should’ve challenged the sharks to a drinking contest.

    • That’s pretty much true about Deep Blue Sea, yeah. At least, those are probably the best I’ve seen in a movie so far, though I suppose it’s possible something this week could rival them; but I wouldn’t bet on it!

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