When I was about three years old I had a VHS recording of a handful of hours of Shark Week. I wore that tape the hell out. Watching a Great White go berserk on a bag of bait or even just glide by a pathetic human in a cage was enough fodder to foster my imagination for years.
Around the time I was ten Shark Week debuted Air Jaws. It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time before the world knew that Great White sharks launched themselves into the air with jaw-dropping lethality, but there was, and to be a shark-obsessed ten-year-old boy presented with this new information was beyond exciting.
Even on VHS.
More than ten years after that there are high definition cameras and televisions and Blu-Rays and the BBC crew has committed some of the planet’s most breathtaking occurrences to film in documentary series like Planet Earth and Blue Planet.
And Shark Week 2013 kicked off with a faux-found-footage-docu-drama-B-movie called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.
One more time: Megalodon, colon, the Monster Shark Lives.
For those of you out of the know, the Megalodon was a massive prehistoric shark. That indisputably no longer lives.
Show me a soap box and I’ll show you a man that possesses a literally bottomless trench of frothy rage for the travesty that is Shark Week 2013. I could rant and rave without end through the next ten Shark Weeks on every conceivable facet of Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. But I won’t do that. I have a plan.
First I’m going to talk about how shitty Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives was.
The story starts with text explaining the footage about to be seen was taken in April 2013 off the coast of District 9. Then we see a bunch of white people on a boat during the day, then we see a bunch of white people on a boat at night, then the camera shakes a bunch and they’re all dead.
From there we meet our leading man and I feel the need to ruminate on this if only to highlight that actual people actually acted in this movie. A man woke up in the morning with the conscious intention of dedicating a day of his life to Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives and shortly thereafter carried out those intentions. I would give you the guy’s name, but wouldn’t you know it none of the cast is listed on IMDb.
The lead plays a scientist who is supposed to be somewhere between Matt Hooper and Fox Mulder but ends up coming off somewhere between a high school conspiracy theorist and anyone who hosts the Today Show on weekends or holidays. From the sunken wreckage of the attacked ship our correspondent quickly deduces the culprit wasn’t a whale because whales only jump on top of things and the boat was sunken from below. This is the most logic used in the entire movie.
Our intrepid hero is suspicious and pretty much immediately deduces the obvious: an extinct shark nearly 60 feet in length has reappeared after hiding all evidence of its existence for over a million years (not an exaggeration) just to reemerge at surface level and eat the shit out of some honkies. Duh.
Sure this theory is a little out there, but with the next piece of evidence out heroic jabroni finds his theory moves a little closer to fact. Some lady on the beach snagged a picture of a whale, some blood and a big shark fin on her iPhone! How big a shark fin you ask? Well, by drawing a line on the picture with a Sharpie the brilliant scientist figures out that it is “6 ft.” This leads him to believe even more that the creature in the picture that a woman took on her iPhone was a 60 foot shark that had somehow previously been able to elude mankind. Forever.
But that’s not all. The photo also reminds him of another photo he once saw. Brace yourself. A secret Nazi photo. He remembers a secret Nazi photo.
One more time: a secret Nazi photo.
And wouldn’t you know it, when he draws a line on the sepia-tone dorsal fin in that photo it also measures “6 ft.” This leads to the conclusion that not only is the secret Nazi picture taken 70 years previously of the same species as the one on the ladies iPhone. It is the same exact individual animal. Not an exaggeration.
The highest compliment I can pay The Monster Shark lives is that it is consistent. By that I mean this bullshit does not let up at all ever. Literally. Ever. By the end of the two hour event we are led to believe that Megalodon exists because a tracking device sinks really, really deep really, really fast.
Joke’s on me.
Now I’m going to talk about how dumb Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives is. In case you hadn’t deduced as much already.
A guy named Steve Alten has an awesome novel called Meg. A film adaptation has been in development hell since I can remember but I still hold out hope. Meg postulates that a small group of Megalodons found shelter from changing climates in the Mariana Trench, warmed by geothermal ducts on the ocean floor. When a deep sea expedition goes awry one Megalodon ends up dead and another ends up devouring its corpse while pursuing the expedition up to the surface, the sci-fi logic being that the blood and guts of the dead shark kept the other shark alive through the bitterly cold waters of the ocean deep until it could reach warm water again at the surface.
Is it realistic? I don’t know. And I don’t really care because the book is otherwise thought out and well-executed, in addition to being presented for what is it: entirely fictional.
How does The Monster Shark Lives go about explaining how a 60 foot predatory shark deals with the drastic temperature changes that come with descending 6,000 feet in a minute? It doesn’t. At all. Ever.
How does a massive shark that literally devours whales on the surface of the ocean go unnoticed for the whole of human existence? Why is it all of the sudden constantly popping up left and right for this gang of jabronis to glimpse?
The closest thing we get to an answer is, without exaggeration, “because it eats humpback whales and because super storm Sandy, so why not?”
It’s not just that the Discovery Channel, a company whose mission statement includes the word “enlighten,” produced two hours of extrapolation on a theory that is indisputably bullshit, it’s that they did so with literally no effort, as if to imply we the audience are something far beyond stupid.
Now I’m going to talk about how depressing Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives is.
One of the most infuriating aspects of The Monster Shark Lives is that while the entire program is fabricated nonsense from start to finish the Discovery Channel doesn’t see fit to officially declare as much until the bitter end of the program when three quick disclaimers flash by over the course of a second citing that “legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still debate over what they might be.”
It’s as if the Discovery channel thought it had us fooled. As if for two hours not only did we buy into the possibility that Megalodon still existed, but that we believed the evidence presented was in any way legitimate. It’s a cocktail of insult and arrogance just potent enough to drive me bat shit. Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives doesn’t feel like curious, jovial speculation, it feels like a tacky trick.
Further alienating any semblance of intellect in this year’s Shark Week kick off, the Megalodon is described at length as being a remorseless monster. The very description of sharks Shark Week used to actively try to dispel with its content.
At one point in the program the crew baits a Great White shark with a seal dummy and it breaches out of the water. It’s thrown into the flick like a cheap gag, a minion of the big boss to appear later.
When I got Air Jaws on VHS I rewound it and watched the sharks breach and obliterate seals in slow motion over and over again, fascinated, and I had Shark Week to thank for that. Unfortunately it appears Shark Week takes less stock in the fascination and curiosity of kids than in the ratings it can get by duping once loyal viewers.
Shark Week is the heir to a multi-billion dollar corporation and has just been tricked into running through a dream within a dream within a dream and I am its father.