Jaws is the best film ever made. Because of this, everyone and their cousins were inspired to make a shark movie. Some were either courageous enough or stupid enough to actually get their shark movies made. There are A LOT of shark movies. In spite of all my poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, I am going to watch them all. I don’t know what will be left of me afterwards.
The Flick: Dark Tide (2012)
The Chum: Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown, Mark Elderkin, Luke Tyler (actors), John Stockwell (director)
Species of Shark: Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
The Meat of the Movie: I can’t wait to read the uncensored tell-all about Halle Berry’s filmography. Not a book about her personal struggles and raising kids and all that uninteresting real world stuff, but a book that tries to dissect and discern the dartboard selection of scripts she’s attached herself to throughout her career. For an Oscar-winning actress to star in the convention-challenging Cloud Atlas and the narcoleptic Dark Tide in the same year is the kind of bizarre I can’t get enough of.
The film starts with some deceptively pretty underwater shots of a shark just doing it’s thing, swimming along, and Halle Berry’s voiceover spewing some heavy-handed stuff about, “Sharks are beautiful, but they can be bad for your health if you swim around in the water with them.” Dark Tide isn’t afraid to get deep, you guys. It doesn’t help that Halle Berry sounds like she’s narrating a children’s audio book.
We’re introduced to Halle and her crew of… what the hell is it these people do? I think they just swim with sharks. That’s their job description. There’s Halle and her man-meat Jeff (played by Olivier Martinez, who I guess became her man-meat off-camera as well), who films all of Halle’s shark dives. This guy is what happens when Josh Holloway decides to impersonate Jean Reno, but leaves all of his charm and talent at home. He also gives Steven Seagal some stiff competition at the Squinty Awards.
We also have the ship’s driver and “comedian”, Aryan Adam Wingard.
And this guy, Themba, who is so overjoyed to be eaten by a shark in a few minutes.
Themba doesn’t want to go diving for some mysterious reason (he must have some Ellen Brody psychic shark powers), but Halle convinces him with plot necessity. They attract two sharks (a male and a female) to the boat and get in the water. I’ll give the movie this: there’s some gorgeous footage of great whites in here, including real free-diving with these magnificent animals. But, all the awesome shark footage doesn’t matter when it’s dragging the movie’s pace into snail-on-the-back-of-a-tortoise territory.
So, Halle is getting filmed by Jeff while Themba is keeping an eye out, when the male shark decides that Themba tartare is what his tummy is a-cravin’. The shark also decides to transform into CGI mode, because that’s what all sharks do when they feed.
The shark drags Themba down into the briny depths, and I don’t feel one shred of sympathy. You swim with sharks, you run the risk of having “Died in the most badass way possible,” engraved on your tombstone. I also don’t care because I’ve known him for maybe five minutes.
Hey, it’s one year later! Thanks for letting me know that, on-screen text. Halle’s tour company is having a tough time making ends meet since they don’t do any shark-focused excursions. She hasn’t spoken to Jeff, who I think is her husband? I love having to suss out character relations, Dark Tide. Don’t make it easy for me. We also meet Themba’s widow, Zukie, who might as well be Halle’s mom for all the harping she does. Their scenes together are made even more unbearable by switching back-and-forth between English and a foreign language that I’m too ignorant and lazy to figure out. Halle doesn’t seem to be great at this second language, by the way.
I am stealing “Ten monkeys in a jelly jar” for another track title on my The Fear of the Shark album.
Halle is about to take a family out on a tour, and who should bamf out of nowhere but Jeff? He hops on and we get some not-so-subtle jabs from Halle. Jesus’ nuts, the movie isn’t even twenty minutes in and it feels like it’s been an hour.
When they get back to port, Jeff confronts Halle about her money problems and their tumultuous marriage (oh hey, they are married! I’m a good guesser), and how they were supposed to be making groundbreaking movies about sharks. Jeff has an offer that could save Halle’s business, but it’s going to take Aryan Adam Wingard, Zukie’s relentless mother hen-ing, and a Themba flashback montage set to the opening music from The Lion King to get Halle to see the light.
She meets up at some restaurant outside with Jeff and… 85 from Alien³? It’s totally 85 from Alien³! He’s some rich slice of dickcheese that wants to take his shy twink of a son out to dive with great whites. One of the first things he says to Halle is, “You have beautiful eyebrows, you know?” I now have a reason to care about this movie.
I haven’t mentioned all of the filmmaking ineptitude going on yet, simply because it’s all noticeable (lots and lots of dubbing, boring camera work, choppy editing etc.) but not particularly outstanding in any way. Until this scene, where in the middle of their discussion, an out-of-focus cup held by someone in the extreme foreground takes up nearly the entire frame, completely blocking Ororo Munroe’s noggin. Check it out:
From the director of Blue Crush and Into the Blue comes I Blew It a.k.a. Dark Tide.
So, Halle agrees to take 85 and 85 Jr. out to swim with sharks, but they can’t leave their cage. Jeff and Halle have some “playful banter” (I think that’s what the movie wants me to feel about their scenes together), and I start clipping my toenails in order to inject something worthwhile into this waste of time.
Cut to a bunch of dudes driving down to the shore of Seal Island at night. Who are these guys? Dark Tide doesn’t need you to know that! All you need to figure out is that they are doing some illegal abalone diving. As they all scramble out of the water to avoid getting caught, one of their group is left behind and is eaten by an unseen shark. Not only is the shark unseen because it’s never shown, but you wouldn’t be able to see it because the frame is almost completely black. Here’s a 100% unaltered snapshot of the attack:
And just to pour some salt on the viewer’s wound, these characters are never mentioned again or even given any kind of context to the overall story. They were just an excuse to throw in a shark attack scene, but then the filmmakers fouled that up by making the attack something you can’t even witness. Maybe they felt they really had to emphasize the “Dark” part of Dark Tide. Oh God, now I’m defending these bastards.
The next day, Halle is getting ready for her excursion. 85 is unimpressed by her quaint boat, causing him to make this face:
Halle tells them they won’t be using any scuba tanks, since sharks don’t like bubbles. She tells 85 that he’ll have to free-dive and hold his breath, causing him to make this face:
And the final bit of this important scene is when Halle tells 85 that he isn’t allowed to smoke on her boat. He informs everyone that not being allowed to smoke will make him cranky, which crescendos to completion with 85 going full Gollum with this face:
These faces are all that’s keeping me awake.
There are a bunch of scenes of interplay between everyone on board, but they are so uneventful and inconsequential that I refuse to summarize them here. This ship is no Orca (the famous boat or the Michael Anderson film) when it comes to character.
Once they’ve gotten out to sea and found a good place to attract some sharks, they do just that. A big male swims up and Halle says she knows it’s a male because of the claspers on his anal fins. She actually says, “That’s like two penises.” As if sharks needed another reason why they are awesome, they have twice our number of penises.
After a suiting up montage that seems like it belongs in a psychological horror film, everyone gets in the water. Again, there is some marvelous underwater footage of seals and stuff, but this sequence just goes on and on and on. That shark that was there just seconds ago? Guess he left to go be in a better movie. Zing.
Everyone gets back onto the boat, and they drop a seal decoy off the stern (that’s the back of the boat for all you landlubbers). They drive around for a while, and then someone cuts in footage from the “Air Jaws” documentary.
Another shark (maybe the one from before? I dunno) comes back near the boat, so they decide to get in the water again. Before something cool like that, we need to get some boring and awkward drama. Jeff is worried about Halle, even though he was the one that pushed her into doing this. Oh, and 85 and 85 Jr. get into it because 85 Jr. doesn’t want to get back in the water. We also find out that 85 thinks 85 Jr. is “half a poof”, and that the whole reason 85 is doing all of this is because he’s got The Big C. I guess this is supposed to be some kind of emotional reveal, but I was much more focused on getting rid of this hangnail that I’ve had for the last day or so.
Halle and Jeff get in the water, and 85 hangs out in the cage. A shark swims up and Halle catches a ride on its dorsal fin. I hate to keep repeating myself, but while this all looks cool, it lacks any kind of dramatic momentum. It doesn’t help that the music sounds like it was yoinked from a bargain bin CD in a New Age store. It increases the snooze level to Sleep Number 11.
85 gets fed up and gets out of the cage, just in time for the shark to morph into CGI mode, and we all know what that means… oh, nothing. The shark is about to munch on him, but Halle swims up and uses her shark repellent Bat-spray to send it away.
Some more “drama” occurs once they get back on the boat, with 85 revealing that Jeff promised him he would be able to get out of the cage and swim with sharks. This gets Halle’s berries in a twist, so she decides to take them all to Shark Alley, where the biggest sharks like to hang out. Along the way, they lose their steering ability. Holy crap, some actual excitem… oh, it’s almost immediately fixed. Wooooo.
With twenty minutes of movie left, they anchor and get back in the water again. As the light fades, the weather gets nasty and 85’s cage detaches from the boat just as the boat capsizes. Now everyone is stuck in the water with a bunch of great whites. At least the climax will be fun. Oh, no it won’t because yet again, the filmmakers take their title literally and make the entire finale into a shadowed mess.
Aryan Adam Wingard gets unceremoniously death-chewed while hanging onto the capsized boat. Thanks, Dark Tide, for making the second death in your film as boring as the rest of the picture. As 85 struggles to swim to where everyone is, a great white leaps out of the water to devour him. This would be the highlight of the film, if I could have seen it. This was the best screenshot I could get, and it’s post-leap:
Halle swims to the emergency raft and inflates it, everyone gets into it, the next day a helicopter shows up and everyone is saved. …Well, everyone except the two dead people that I guess Halle doesn’t feel responsible for, since the movie pretty much ends here. We get a bookend piece just like the opening where Halle narrates about loving sharks and how she’s back into the world of sharks. Glad it only took two people getting killed on your watch to make you feel good again, Halle.
As the credits roll over a grating piece of easy listening garbage, we get a screen all about how you can help sharks out.
I’ll tell you how you can help sharks out: don’t watch Dark Tide.
Best Meal: 85 getting 86’d by a breaching great white, but I deduct a truckload of points because it’s nigh impossible to see.
How the Shark Gets Sushi-ed: Score one for the sharks, because this is a sushi-free Fin Flick. This might be Dark Tide‘s only positive aspect.
The Mindless Eating Machine: Mostly real footage of great whites, sometimes given some digital assistance. There are also a handful of crappy CGI bits and a smattering of shark dummies here and there.
Shark Stupidity: Allowing themselves to be a part of this production. Also, not eating the entire cast in the first ten minutes.
Hilarity Factor: Few and far between. This movie takes itself so seriously that even unintentional comedy is rare.
Sink or Swim?: As a Fin Flick, this is the biggest Sinker yet. Although there’s a significant helping of shark scenes, the movie isn’t focused on that and suffers immensely for it, especially considering the level of access to real sharks. This isn’t a shark movie so much as it’s a weak Lifetime film with sharks in it. As a regular movie, it’s also a dud. All the attempts at drama fall flat, and that means that the entire movie becomes tedious very early on. It certainly doesn’t help that the entire climax of the film is practically unwatchable thanks to it being so dark. I can somewhat appreciate a misguided and failed attempt to not demonize the sharks, but that’s not what I want out of this kind of movie.
As far as Halle Berry films go, this is the worst I’ve seen. I’m sure someone is itching to counter my claim with Catwoman, but at least that film is audacious in its badness. Dark Tide has nothing ridiculous enough to salvage it from its overwhelming dullness. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather have to watch Jaws: The Revenge again than this cinematic coma.
Next Time: Fin Flicks begins to tackle that other shark quadrilogy, the Shark Attack series. Where my Casper Van Dien fans at?
previous Fin Flicks