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Sufferin’ Cephalopods!

Yesterday, I got a chance to watch not one, but two, movies featuring giant octopi:  Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and It Came From Beneath the Sea.  The former may be the newer movie (made in 2009, compared to 1955), but it was by far the worse of the pair.

Why even watch Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus? Well, I like giant monster movies and the Blue Ray was only five bucks, so how wrong could I go.  I guess the first clue was that the movie starred Deborah Gibson, the former teen pop star from the 1980s known then as Debbie Gibson.  Gibson may be a has-been as a singer (or maybe she’s still okay, I don’t follow her music), but as an actress, she’s practically a never-was.  She is not just a bad actress, she’s a BAD actress.  The only thing that helps her performance is that she’s surrounded by many other bad actors and actresses. 

The plot involves Gibson as a marine biologist who witnesses the title monsters being freed from a glacier, where they proceed to go their separate ways and wreak havoc in the sea lanes.  Mega Shark is so big, it can leap out of the ocean and grab a plane or the Golden Gate Bridge in its mouth.  Giant Octopus treats submarines as if they were bath toys.  Both travel super fast and cannot be stopped by naval destroyers.

Of course, in a movie like this, science and even plausibility can be thrown out the window, but that’s still no excuse for the many other flaws in this movie.  From the get-go, there are continuity problems, as we see Gibson’s close-up hand with dark nail polish, and then in the same scene, with no polish.  Almost every actor seems to be reading off of cue cards, with the rare overacting ham providing a distraction from all the stiff acting.  There are dozens of clichés, including the secretive government agents, many in suits and dark sunglasses.  Oh, and then there’s the awful directing….

All of which would be no problem at all if the main event is any good.  You don’t watch Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus for the writing, acting or directing.  You watch it for the monster-on-monster action.  Even this is a disappointment; by the time we get to the big fight, there’s barely fifteen minutes left in the movie, and the fight takes maybe three of those minutes, with action that is murky, hard to follow and kind of boring.  Obviously, everything is CGI, but still, we don’t see that much, as if the director is flinching away from the key scenes.  This is not so-bad-it’s good; it’s just cynical moviemaking at it’s worst:  Quality 2/10.  Fun 2/10.

In contrast, It Came From Beneath the Sea is almost a masterpiece.  Yeah, it’s a standard 1950’s sci-fi movie, but the effects almost seem better.  The acting and direction are not great but at least competent, and the effects done by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, are fun to watch.  The story deals with a giant octopus (which for budgetary reasons, would only have six tentacles) freed from the depths of the Pacific by nuclear testing.  It eventually makes its way to San Francisco where it creates problems. 

Interestingly, Mega Shark seemed to take at least a little from It Came From Beneath the Sea as both involve an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge.  In these two attacks, we see the difference between the two movies:  the newer movie makes the attack both laughable and extremely brief.  In contrast, the older film takes its time and makes the event seem almost real.  There are other similarities between the two movies:  both involve a trio of heroes:  a father figure scientist, a beautiful-and-single female marine biologist and a love interest for her.  Both groups will fight military bureaucracy.  Et cetera.  But as stated before, the differences are more important.  Mega Shark  is almost unwatchably bad.  It Came From Beneath the Sea is, comparatively,  a minor gem:  Quality 5/10, Fun 6/10.

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