A movie featuring a beastly shark should be thrilling, an edge-of-your-seat experience that has you shutting your eyes, horrified, as the the shark opens its massive jaws full of razor sharp teeth to attack anyone and anything. Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows, however, is not that. In no way is the audience gasping and cringing at the vicious attacks, so much as at the cheesiness of the film. Hyped as the biggest shark movie in a very long time, #TheShallows fails because of its unrealistic shark and subsequent attacks, its failure to achieve its purpose, poor character/relationship progression, and boring plot.
What could it have done better? Here are five better shark movies that the producers of The Shallows should have watched before making this movie, to learn how to make a shark movie with bite.
Today, Jaws (1975) is the most popular and well-known shark movie of all time. It was the highest-grossing film ever until Star Wars was released in 1977. This thrilling battle between men, society, and the great white shark has people of all ages scarred and left with a deep fear of sharks. Most middle-aged adults can testify of that today. How was Jaws, a movie with much lower quality, able to strike such a fear when The Shallows didn’t?
A perfect example of how Jaws was so horrific compared to The Shallows is its shark attack scenes. In #Jaws, one of the most thrilling yet disturbing scenes is when Quint is attacked, mauled, and taken down under the surface as lunch for the great white. The shark is obviously fake (since there was no access to the technology The Shallows had today), but the attack was awful and gruesome. Viewers had to witness Quint’s crushing bones and spilling blood. They heard his bloodcurdling scream as the shark chomped his body to pieces. It was enough to have grown adults covering their eyes and unable to sleep.
With the technology The Shallows had access to, audiences were expecting the greatest, most deadly, most gruesome shark attacks theaters have seen yet. However, they were disappointed when the world’s biggest shark just bit a man in half. And this is a literal, straight-line cutting exactly at his stomach kind of in half. There was very little sound of crushing bones or visuals of spilling blood included in the scene, just a man cut exactly in half on the shore — not exactly what audiences were hoping to see. The great white from The Shallows was a massive disappointment; the producers should have taken more notes from the impressive beast featured in Jaws.
2. 'Soul Surfer'
Soul Surfer is the true and inspiring story of Bethany Hamilton, and her recovery from a shark attack that took her left arm. #SoulSurfer is much greater compared to The Shallows, the main reason being character progression. Both stories begin early with a mortifying shark attack full of thrills for audiences. Where Soul Surfer excels is the progression of Bethany Hamilton after she was attacked. The audience gets to see her struggle and overcome the difficulties of life with only one arm, and along the way emphasizes the importance of creating positive relationships to ease the severity of the situation.
On the other hand, the writers of The Shallows gave nearly no progression for Nancy. A key part of the plot is that Nancy is a young adult trying to find her place in this world. She “finds herself” while sitting atop a rock and sharing her feelings with a seagull. As for her relationships (which were not strong before the attack), her journey ended and she suddenly developed a perfect bond with her father and sister, despite seeing no development between them in the film at all. Soul Surfer exceeds above The Shallows because Bethany has a much greater character development and relationship progression featured in the movie. That is a key part of a plot that The Shallows writers missed.
3. 'The Reef'
The Reef features Luke and a group of four friends traveling to Indonesia together when they crash and destroy their boat, and accidentally invade shark-infested waters. Once again we see a aspects from a better shark film that prove The Shallows missed something to make it good: having an actual realistic shark. In #TheReef, the killer shark wasn’t just an instant killer; it seemed to have a brain, it was professional at tracking and waiting for the perfect moment to attack the intruding swimmers. It followed the trespassers for awhile before it first attacked, as if its point of attacking was just to get the group to go away, and when they didn’t, the shark had to strike. This great white wasn’t just killing to kill, it had a purpose in protecting its territory. Also, the features of the shark were accurate. It was a reasonable size that was believable to the audiences, much better than the great white in The Shallows that did not come off at all realistic.
The size of the great white in The Shallows appeared to be bigger than at least three school buses. While watching, viewers are more critical of how the shark “can’t really be that big” than they are scared of how big the shark is. Not to mention the over-sized beast had one goal only: to kill. The shark was killing for sport, and that does not seem like something a real-life shark would do. Therefore, we see that The Shallows lacks in a realistic monster antagonist — the designers of The Shallows' shark could have done better.
4. 'Finding Nemo'
Finding Nemo may not be expected on a list of the best shark movies, but this film was ranked 9 spots higher on Ranker’s “List of Best Shark Films.” The movie isn’t even about sharks! What makes this kid's movie about fish a greater shark movie than The Shallows?
The answer is: #FindingNemo achieved the goals it set out for when the movie was released. The creators wanted families to watch it together and have a good laugh, along with realize how much they love each other and never want to be separated. The reaction from people is what Pixar wanted, and it was enough to make a sequel (Finding Dory).
The purpose of The Shallows was to be exciting, thrilling, and scary. However, audiences were not exactly thrilled or scared. Some audiences were even laughing (as they might in Finding Nemo) at a few of the scenes. The reaction from audiences was not what The Shallows wanted, while Finding Nemo had excellent execution. The producers and directors of The Shallows should have taken a closer look at what audiences want to see and what they were going to give them, to make sure the reaction to the film would align with those goals.
5. 'Deep Blue Sea'
The 1999 action film Deep Blue Sea (Dir Renny Harlin) is ranked the second best ever shark movie (just behind Jaws, according to Ranker). The plot takes the classic idea of a shark attack and makes it more interesting and exciting.
The reason Deep Blue Sea had greater success than The Shallows is the exciting twist that plays into its plot. Deep Blue Sea portrays a new, grueling shark that audiences have never seen before. They have no idea what this industrial monster is capable of.
The plot of The Shallows contains a really big great white shark (we’ve seen that) battling a blonde girl in a bikini in distress (also something that we’ve seen). A large portion of the film portrays Lively laying on a rock in the middle of the sea trying to contemplate her experiences and find a way off that rock. Occasionally we get to see the shark swim around her and maybe once or twice attack another person. Deep Blue Sea was fresh, new and exciting in its time, while The Shallows’ plot is just boring. There is a reason Deep Blue Sea was ranked so highly above it. What the writers and directors needed to do was implement something new and exciting into the plot, something audiences haven’t seen. Perhaps they could have had Lively use the jellyfish to actually attack the beast, or use her jewelry to attack its sensitive spots to give her an advantage. Anything to give the plot a little spice.
To conclude, the crew for The Shallows missed some key aspects of a good shark film in order to put this movie above the other shark thrillers. Regardless of the star casting, the producers, writers, designers and directors failed to live up to the pressure from past shark thrillers, and lead the film to fail to impress its audiences. They should definitely go back and watch each of these five films to see what they could have done better. The great white in The Shallows may have had a few victims, but it failed at catching audiences that expected much greater.
Want to see some of these sharks in action? Watch the video below for some underwater carnage:
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What is your favorite shark movie?