Dinoshark – “Fear what’s just below the surface”

It’s day three of Shark Week, and we’re finally seeing just what shark movies are supposed to be. Unlike Shark Swarm or Shark in Venice, which used sharks primarily as a backdrop and not as much of a feature, Dinoshark puts the dinoshark front and center, not bothering to weigh down the movie with pesky concepts like “plot” or “character development”.

Yet again, we’re warned of the dangers of global warming (though to be fair, the writers shy away from explicitly blaming increased temperatures for the release of the shark), as ice falling into the sea from polar icebergs causes dozens of baby dinosharks to thaw out, unleashing them upon the unsuspecting world. Trace McGraw (Eric Balfour, Haven; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) returns to his home of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico due to troubles in the economy (this is 2010, after all), planning to return to his roots hiring himself out as a captain for wealthy tourists. While catching up with friends, he meets Carol Brubaker (Iva Hasperger, Vlad; Malevolent), an environmentalism professor and coach of a girls’ water polo team scheduled to play as part of a canal festival. As people go missing, Trace and Carol soon realize that the dinoshark is responsible and attempt to hunt it down.

Top left – Trace McGraw; top right – Carol Brubaker; bottom – Gary the dinoshark

This will mean more later in the week, but I’m quickly recognizing a trope I had always missed before now (though I have written on it before) – the idea that polar ice has somehow managed to freeze prehistoric monsters in stasis, and that as the Earth warms, they’re slowly being released. It’s a plot device found not only in B horror movies, but also in some rather popular blockbusters, most notably Ice Age: The Meltdown (aka the continuing adventures of the saber tooth squirrel). And I’m not the first person to notice this trend, either (obviously):

Beyond the cliché of ice holding undreamt-of horrors, again we have a case where one of the main heroes has a background and résumé in environmentalism. Fortunately for us, they don’t really drill home “save the planet” messages, but the fact that it’s even in there in the first place is getting old. (And why is it that every movie that takes place in or near Mexico has something involving death? This one had Los Muertos Reef, The Lost World: Jurassic Park has Las Cinco Muertos, and on and on. “What’s that? You mean to say that people are dying near the reef of the dead?” Seriously, get a clue already.)


But anyway. Ice falls into the sea and melts, releasing dozens of cute little baby dinosharks. One of them grows up (apparently the rest die? Or something? I don’t know, they never really explain it), and proceeds to eat its way down the west coast of North America. Now, I know that the thing looks like a shark with a T. rex head, but it also displayed a lot of behavior that struck me as rather crocodilian, as well; and given that this movie has absolutely zero basis in reality (not that that’s a bad thing, of course), I’m going to analyze the “dino”shark as more of a “croco”shark, and assume that somehow, a crocodile and a great white got together and birthed a terrifying lovechild (why a great white? Because why not, that’s why. Also, it’s body structure is vaguely correct for a great white). Carol also at one point posits that it looks like a pliosaur, so I will also discuss that possibility insofar as I can.

Kinda like this…

…but really more like this!

Let’s start with how the babies survived in the ice in the first place. The answer is cryobiology, of course! The dinoshark is assumed to be a species that evolved to live at cold temperatures (like the Greenland shark), but that for some reason had an adaptation to allow it to survive in warmer waters. Now, let’s take a look at some maps. The maps below show the ranges of arguably the three most dangerous species of shark:

Range maps for the tiger shark (top left), bull shark (top right), and great white shark (bottom; that’s right, the whole world!)

Look closely and you’ll notice something; great whites and bull sharks both range into waters generally agreed to be really frickin’ cold, and while tiger sharks stay in warmer water latitudes, they are also known to live at depths of up to 900 feet, at least temporarily. And as you can see here, at 900 feet deep, the ocean is roughly 5°C (41°F). Now, I grew up in Wisconsin, and as such, I’ve gone swimming in the Great Lakes occasionally, and even in the summer, they can be a lot colder than is pleasant. The point is that these three species of sharks share two things – they can all tolerate cold water, and they all have ranges that include cold waters as well as warm waters.

“5°C? Cold?! Ah hahaha! That’s a good one!”

There are two reasons this is significant. First is that apex predators, such as these sharks, often hunt over a very wide range (great whites have been known to migrate thousands of miles, for example; and even the Greenland shark, mentioned earlier, has been seen as far south as Spain). The second is that none of these sharks are restricted by temperature (though tiger sharks tend to stay in warmer waters). Thus, the idea that the dinoshark would need an adaptation in order to survive warmer waters, such as the coast of Mexico, doesn’t make much sense.

“Oh, hey guys. What’s up?”

As in any given shark movie, the dinoshark spends the whole time eating, apparently digesting its kills instantaneously, constantly needing more food (though if I’d been frozen for 150 million years or so, I might be rather peckish myself). But after the initial feeding frenzy upon release, which would be understandable, how much would the dinoshark really need to eat to stay alive? A great white eats about 11 tons of food per year, or an average of 60 pounds per day (using the US short ton as the starting point; if the British long ton is used, they average 67.5 pounds per day). Even assuming an killer appetite, no shark would realistically eat in a day as much as sharks in these movies do.

“But what’s for dessert?”

So what about crocodiles?

Crocodiles are much more interesting in that they can survive for long periods with little food, which makes me think two things; first, that they will eat as often as they can, and second, that they don’t eat very often. I know that seems like a strange pair to put together, but my point is that they probably don’t eat a whole lot on a daily basis, either. Which makes the concept of a shark – even a dino or crocoshark – eating everything in sight highly suspicious at best, and ludicrous at worst.

“Hilarious, I’d say!”

This brings me to my next few points. Why is that, in movies like this, the shark almost exclusively attacks humans? I know that Shark Swarm has some scenes where the sharks eat each other, and Dinoshark has one where the dinoshark eats a crocodile, of all things; but by and large, it seems as though these sharks deliberately attack humans preferentially to fish, which doesn’t make any sense at all. For example, Dinoshark has numerous scenes where the shark either jumps out of the water (laterally, of course) to eat people on boats/surf boards/jet skis/etc., or jumps onto a boat to destroy it. My question, naturally, is how does the dinoshark, which has never seen humans, let alone a boat or a jet ski, know to specifically attack the fleshy delicious bits, and not the icky metallic bits? Along these lines, how could a dinoshark possibly have instincts that tell it to jump onto things when attacking? Were there all kinds of prey floating about on the ancient seas that we just don’t know about? I suppose it’s possible, but even then, I would assume that the behavior that would evolve would be to strike from below, not above. I am actually more inclined to believe that the dinoshark would naturally know how to attack a parasailer, as at least there, the person is behaving somewhat bird-like.

Natural tactics and prey of the dinoshark (or so they’d have you believe!)

More plausible (to me) hunting tactic

Along these lines, it seems that every chance the dinoshark gets, it not only attacks people, but specifically attacks their head and neck. This is certainly reminiscent of how pliosaurs possibly attacked plesiosaurs, as shown below. It’s also suggestive of a crocodile’s attack, wherein the crocodile grabs whatever part of the prey it can (often the head or neck, as the prey is drinking) and drags it under water to drown it.

Bad day for a plesiosaur…

I could go on with this movie, like how the dinoshark takes down a helicopter, or how the heroes somehow believe that a chain-link fence submerged underwater will stop a several-hundred-pound dinoshark (incidentally, the shark just jumps over the fence, which is its own brand on nonsensical), but I think I’ll just leave you with these little tidbits. First, the CGI deserves a special shout-out for being noticeably bad.

“Well, that was predictable…”

And second – “That’s no dolphin! That’s a shark!”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself”

There’ll be reviews of more jawesome shark movies later this week, so be sure to check ’em out!


Posted on August 14, 2012, in B-movies, Movies, SyFy Channel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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