Monday, March 06, 2006

HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY


Sharkboy Goes A-Courtin’

CLIFFIE’S NOTES ON Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy

PLOT SUMMARY: This recent presentation of the SciFi Channel takes the past master of the Mad Scientist role, Jeffrey Combs, and launches him into the world of Piscatorial Love -- not as a participant, but as a matchmaker.

Yes! This made-for-TV movie is essentially The Amphibian Man, brought into the new millennium with breakthroughs in stem-cell research and recombinant DNA. The scientist has saved his only son from a deadly disease by injecting him with Hammerhead Shark juice. That was the easy part. They now face the tougher question of how he’s ever going to get the kid a date, now that young Paul has developed a social problem: biting chunks out of his new romantic prospects. Aside from that, the kid’s looks have deteriorated somewhat, at least by Monkey People standards.

The scientist solves this niggling little difficulty by holding women prisoner, and shooting them up with some kind of compound to make them romantically attractive to the lad. It apparently also allows them to carry a part-Shark infant to term, which is the scientist’s next understandable goal. What father doesn’t want to see his only son produce some grandchildren? The science team is still working on perfecting this process when a party of visitors arrives. The group includes Paul’s ex-fiancee, who thinks Paul is long dead of kidney cancer, and her boss, the owner of a big corporation who once stole the scientist’s work. Is this going to screw things up for Paul and his dad? WATCH THE MOVIE AND SEE.

A FEW POINTS THAT MAKE THIS MOVIE COMPELLINGLY REALISTIC:

It’s easy to believe that a research scientist, robbed of the profits of his earlier work, can continue his studies on a secret, uncharted island equipped with a pricey-looking lab, a private army bristling with weapons, fleets of speedboats and helicopters, dancing girls in grass skirts, and of course a fully-stocked wet bar where you can get those drinks with the little umbrellas in them. Most research scientists have that kind of money buried in Mason jars in their back yards.

It’s easy to believe that a guy who never leaves his lab, and who habitually dresses in 3-piece tweed suits, prefers to keep the house and grounds in a perpetual state of "luau." Just in case the industrial magnate who stole his money drops by. Combs’ character proves that preparation is everything: the very thief shows up and Combs gets another crack at him.

It’s easy to believe that a scientist specializing in DNA splicing can easily obtain a pool of captive fashion models to experiment on, without arousing suspicion of any kind. Please note that he is supposed to be working somewhere in the Pacific, but all his test subjects appear to be corn-fed Midwestern gals.

It’s easy to believe that these fashion models are kept submissive by placing them in suspended animation tubes.

It’s easy to believe that when each Shark/landscum hybrid pregnancy fails, the science team just slings the stillborn into a plexiglass container without any kind of preservative – and it keeps perfectly! In the tropics!

I find it very easy to believe that when the scientist hacks open the midsection of a thrashing pregnant woman in restraints and then lets her bleed to death while he studies the malformed infant, that he can then turn around and explain with a straight face that she died of complications of his hormone treatments. I’m not being sarcastic about this one. They all think that way.

It’s very easy to believe that the villain was able to find and hire a discredited Eastern European scientist who was drummed out of her profession for Tampering In God’s Domain. It is especially easy to believe in her because she looks so much like Karen Black.

It’s quite easy to believe that the hero of the piece, a doughy, middle-aged IT professional, is effective at hand-to-hand combat and knows how to disable sophisticated security equipment using a hunting knife. Like all movie heroes, he is quite capable of accurately firing an automatic rifle -- underwater.

It’s a piece of cake to believe that an elderly conglomerate owner is capable of flying a military helicopter, but cannot handle a cellphone without breaking it.

Most compelling of all is the lab assistant, an Igor character who always walks doubled over as if he had just been kicked in the gut, and who sticks loyally to his job even after Sharkboy chomps off part of his hand one day. He just wraps it in gauze and soldiers on. All real lab assistants are like that. They never belong to trade unions or anything like that.

A FEW POINTS THAT MAKE THIS FILM JUST SLIGHTLY UNBELIEVABLE:

Can you believe that this scientist has shunted aside the typically human goal of curing cancer, deciding instead to adapt the human race to life under the sea? Come on, WHERE’S THE MONEY IN THAT? All that’s going to do is ruin real-estate values on dry land. And you wouldn’t be able to eat sushi without risking a personal-injury suit. Get real!

Can you believe that Sharkboy design? Have you ever seen anything so unseaworthy in your life? And, by the way, no wonder none of those gals want to go out with the guy. WE know how to make a Shark-human hybrid look GOOD. In fact, we know how to make them irresistable.

Can you believe that Sharkboy goes around biting people’s faces off throughout the movie, without even introducing himself or chatting them up first? What kind of recruiting technique is that?

Can you believe, for that matter, that once the fish DNA enters Paul’s bloodstream, he degenerates into a slavering monster with no desire to do anything but KILL, KILL, KILL? Well, that’s landscum technology for you. When WE turn a human into a Shark, they go all poetic and mystical. Some even get religion.

Can you believe for a second that Paul doesn’t recognize and approach his fiancee when he sees her again? And that SHE dismisses totally the idea that Sharkboy might still be, in some sense, the same Paul she knew? All she does is scream and run. I guess maybe they wouldn’t have worked out anyway, huh?

Can you believe that anyone, in or out of the movies, would seriously date a woman with hair like that? She looks like she fell in a Cuisinart, for Cod sake.

Can you believe in a landscum scientist SO sentimental that he performs an illegal experiment to save his son's life, yet SO objective that he can keep a row of his pickled, dead grandchildren on display in his office?

Can you simultaneously believe that the scientist is so UN-objective that he simply takes it on faith that deep inside, Sharkboy is still really his son? Weirdly, considering this assumption, he makes no attempt to communicate with the Hammerheaded lad, to see whether he has any cognition left, or is feeling OK about his life as a cancer-free but lonely Sea Monkey, or to see whether he would rather date blondes for a change! Surely getting feedback from the patient is SOP in medical research.

Last I checked, Hammerhead Sharks were ram ventilators, unable to breathe unless they are permanently swimming forward. But Paul allows himself to be kept immobile for indefinite periods in this gakky-looking bathtub full of stagnant green water. And how does he breathe when he’s charging around the island, killing the guests?

In the course of a two-hour movie, everyone keeps hollering "Watch out! There’s some water over there!" because they’re so afraid of what Paul might do. A shrewd titan of industry and his crack team of professionals never get the idea that the water is no more or less safe than dry land when you are dealing with an enraged Landshark.

AND THE BIG HONKIN’ CARP HELD ILLIMITABLE SWAY OVER ALL.

Let me explain what I mean. Along with the many other peculiarities of this underground scientific installation, the main lab is dominated by an enormous tank of Carp. These operatives observe all the goings-on in the sanctum sanctorum. And it goes without saying that during filming, they transmitted everything straight back to HQ.

All I’m going to say about THAT is that I can’t wait for the Sci-Fi Channel Totally Uncensored Bloopers Tape to come out.

…Back to my point. The filmmakers could afford to add a 200-gallon fishtank to a set meant to look like a science lab, but they couldn’t hire someone to keep track of the continuity? In the course of a single conversation the tank transforms magically from brimming with clear water to half-full of filthy murk…and back again…and then back AGAIN. It’s fantastic.

Overall, I see this film as a message of hope for us all. Even if they’re not very good at it, the humans apparently WANT to change into fish. SIT TIGHT, PEOPLE, WE’RE WAY AHEAD OF YOU.

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