Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus – “Winner… Eats… All!”

Day 5 of Shark Week brings a twofer, with the return of Franchise Week as well as a review of probably the best-known movie this week, with the possible exception of tomorrow’s offering. Yes, I’m talking about Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, the film from The Asylum with a plot so bare-bones the name alone tells you (almost) exactly what will happen. (Almost…)

(This. This is what happens)

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus opens in the Arctic Ocean as Emma (Deborah Gibson, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid; Ghostbusters) and her assistant find a pod of whales in migration. Unbeknownst to them (but knownst to us), the military is simultaneously conducting tests using sonar emitters. As the emitters go off, ice starts cracking off of a nearby iceberg, releasing the frozen forms of the mega shark and the giant octopus, foes who had been locked in combat for millions of years. She doesn’t believe her eyes until a whale washes up dead on a beach in California, from which she extracts an enormous fragment of something. She takes it to her former professor, Lamar (Sean Lawlor, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Braveheart) and together, they deduce that it is a fragment of a tooth belonging to megalodon. Meanwhile in Japan, an oil rig gets destroyed by what the government deems an accident; but when Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous; Pearl Harbor), a world-renowned marine biologist, interviews the only living survivor, he gets a description of a gigantic octopus. Emma and Lamar call up Seiji to ask for his help, and when he arrives, he learns about the shark and they learn about the octopus. Before they can take action themselves, they get arrested by government forces to consult on defeating the creatures, under the supervision of Allan (Lorenzo Lamas, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Grease), a military commander with little imagination or tolerance for monsters. Then a mega shark and a giant octopus fight.

Top left – Emma and Lamar; top right – Lamar; middle left – Seiji; middle right – Allan; bottom – natural accident

Being a movie that relies heavily on CGI, one would think that a good deal of effort would have been put into making the images of the shark and the octopus pretty decent, overall. However, one would be wrong. While the CGI in this movie definitely has a certain artistic character to it, as well as a consistency not always found in these sorts of movies, I couldn’t help but feel that it also had a certain unfinished quality to it, as though the designers had intended to go one step further to make everything look real, until someone higher up stepped in and said “good enough”. The acting was hit-and-miss, but overall not a huge problem. The dialogue was more miss than hit, but certainly was sufficient to the task.

“You’d better pray I miss!”

So how was the science? As I promised here, this is another movie that would have us believe that all kinds of monsters and terrible creatures are frozen in the ice at one of the poles, just waiting to be unleashed upon a world completely incapable of handling them. Additionally, Emma suggests that the destruction caused by the mega shark and the giant octopus are possibly humanity reaping the rewards, as it were, of global warming, making this the third movie this week to feature the idea that the oceans need to be saved from the plague that is humankind, as well as the umpteenth movie in general to say the same. Now, while I can’t dispute that we as a species really do need to take much, much better care of our planet than we currently believe, I also cannot believe that the ice at either pole could possibly cryogenically freeze any sort of macroorganism (although there are all kinds of microbes that have been found living in glaciers, the rate of freeze that (I imagine) would be necessary to put something as large as a shipping vessel into suspended animation without causing massive tissue damage to my knowledge does not occur naturally, at least not on a large scale).

“Global warming? Is that still a thing?”

The species of shark starring in this movie is given as the megalodon, so that’s what I’ll use for shark facts; as for the octopus, the largest known is the North Pacific giant octopus (certainly, the Pacific giant octopus is a contender for that title, competing with the seven-arm octopus; but given that Wikipedia discusses unreliable claims of Pacific giant octopi with armspans up to 30 feet, that’s the one I’ll use as the basis for the giant octopus). Also, last year, there was a claim by Professor Mark McMenamin that he had found a set of fossilized icthyosaur bones that had been arranged into the likeness of a kraken, presumably by that creature. As such, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and allow that a giant octopus could have existed at one point (though there has been no direct evidence yet found implying its existence, partly because octopi are really difficult to fossilize). So I’m not going to discuss whether or not a giant octopus once existed on this planet, but rather treat it as an enlarged, ancestral Pacific giant octopus.

For a start, do sharks and octopi fight? I mean, sharks are top predators and octopi are… well… not. Right? Except that they are. Not only are octopi pretty smart, but they’ve also been known to attack and eat sharks, as can be seen here. Likewise, many octopi have defenses to help them hide from predators, including sharks. In other words, the idea that a mega shark and a giant octopus would have fought, had they found each other, definitely fits what we see in modern sharks and octopi.

Or possibly consensual S&M

Also, this time, I’m not even going to dispute the likelihood of either a megalodon or a kraken attacking modern things at least a few times, as they would have no idea whether or not a submarine, for example, would be tasty, but they would definitely have the ability to find out. And the movie makes clear that the beast are attacking more than just metallic things, as Emma finds a whale with a piece of megalodon tooth stuck in it, which is good enough suggestion to me that they’re eating appropriately.

“Here comes the hug!”

Now. Sharks have been known to eat land birds, though the most likely explanation is that the birds die as they’re migrating south across the Gulf of Mexico (for example), and that the sharks eat the corpses. Likewise, octopi have been observed eating birds, at least on one occasion. However, it should be noted that in both these cases, the animal eats the bird after the bird has entered the water. As far as I can find out, neither animal goes to great lengths to pull birds out of the sky. On a seemingly unrelated note, and despite the fact that I want to rely mostly on megalodon facts, shortfin mako sharks typically grow to be about 10 feet long, and have been known to jump up to 30 feet or more into the air. Ignoring for a moment that this is the fastest known shark, let’s assume that an average shark can jump 3 feet for every foot long it is (yes, this is incredibly fuzzy logic). Then a megalodon, which is estimated to have been 52 feet long or more could jump somewhere around 150 feet into the air. Why all the talk of birds and jumping? Because at different points in the movie, each animal pulls a plane out of the sky. The shark jumps out of the water to do it, and assuming that megalodons could have jumped 150 feet vertically if they wanted, that scene is roughly accurate. As for the octopus, it decides to knock a jet fighter down using a tentacle. Between the two, the octopus attack strikes me as much less realistic; however, neither animal seems like it should really have that sort of behavior instinct, as when their modern relatives eat birds, the birds are already in the water and not typically in flight.

Prime examples of hunting techniques

The last big thing I want to talk about is not related to mega sharks or giant octopi, but rather the popular perception of science. As some of you may know, one of my biggest pet peeves is the ways in which science is portrayed – alternately as this monolithic thing that can only be understood after years and years of study; or as this thing that can give you all the answers you want in no time at all. Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus features two separate science montages that crushed a part of my soul. They show Emma, Lamar, and Seiji mixing brightly-colored liquids or looking through microscopes or mixing brightly-colored smoking liquids or what have  you; I haven’t done much research in my life, but I have done some, and I’ve seen a good deal more being done, and nowhere were there brightly-colored liquids or instant answers (though there are plenty of colored liquids used in science, often in chemical reactions for various reasons). And while a microscope is a wonderful tool, it is in no way the decoder of cryptic samples that many representations would have you believe.

Look! They’re doing science!

The reason all this bothers me is that it spreads the idea that science doesn’t take a lot of work, and while I’m all for helping make science more accessible, there needs to be a realistic understanding of the limitations of research as well as the lengthiness of it. If a kid goes in to science thinking it’s all bright liquids and instant answers, he or she will be sorely disappointed in a hurry. The point is this – on this blog, I talk about the ways in which scientific facts get bent or distorted or completely ignored; and this movie came along and couldn’t even get right a representation of science itself. A pheromone cocktail should not glow green, for Pete’s sake! Let’s at least aim for a little realism, please! In other words, stop reaffirming the validity of this comic.

I don’t know what you put in there, and I don’t want to know

Okay. Rant over.

So that’s all I have to say about Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, except for this – the movie suffered from a severe lack of mega shark versus giant octopus. For a majority of the movie, the two creatures destroy things on opposite sides of the world, and even then only rarely. When they do finally fight, it’s for maybe 10 minutes, 15 at the most. I won’t say don’t watch it, but I will say that if all you want to see is the best scenes of the movie, just watch this trailer instead.

Oh, and this happens

I hope Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus does better…

Posted on August 16, 2012, in B-movies, Movies, The Asylum and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So I agree with your assessment of Octopus dofleini (Pacific giant octopus) as the largest known species, with a reliably measured record arm span of 32 feet. There are also reports from divers off Japan of one that might have had a spread of 50 feet or more. However, you should also go check out the cryptid Octopus giganteus. That’s basically what they’re going for here.

    • Thanks for that. Octopus giganteus does seem to be what they were aiming at with this movie. And I have to say, there’s a certain cachet to me about a recognized scientist giving serious discussion to the possibility of the existence of a kraken (an Octopus giganteus or something else entirely) at some point in the planet’s history. I was using Enteroctopus dofleini more as a real-life comparison than as what I thought they had imagined. After all, how often do you get pictures of octopi eating birds? That’s… well, that’s just pretty neat.

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