BY ROGER THOMAS
I was twelve when I was first scared by a shark movie. Almost anyone in their fifties remembers that Summer of 1975. That was the year that just hearing the right music reminded us of our communal experience. I think I saw “Jaws” three times that summer, but it may have been more.
The effects were not always good. Half the scenes had to be changed because the mechanical shark did not work. Yet somehow, a masterpiece happened.
Is it time for a national audience to have a scare once again? But alas, I doubt that is going to happen. First, many of the people who loved “Jaws” forty-two years ago, do not go to the movies anymore. Besides there are only a few filmmakers achieving anything close to the magic and hysteria that was “Jaws.”
In case you are wondering, “47 Meters Down” is not the new “Jaws.”
There are a few good moments in this latest shark flick. And even The sharks look grand. CGI can do things that a mechanical shark never could. So the film earns points for the visuals.
So what are the problems. First, the backstories of the two leading ladies are uninteresting and unrealistic. Lisa’s ex-boyfriend is going to reconcile with her after he knows that she went down in a shark-cage? That is what her sister Kate tries to convince her. These girls do not seem to exist in a real world. Brody the sheriff of Amity Island was scared of the water but lived on an Island. Hooper made fun of him for that. Now that’s a back story.
Second, who would choose the economic shark cage crew rather than the licensed professionals. I am not going down in shark cage but if I was, I would want to know that there were extra equipments for every possible mishap. These young women are not hesitant enough, so they go into the deep with faulty equipment and large sharks already circling the boat.
Most of the equipment is questionable, but when it comes to the underwater breathing gear, those items look expensive. Of course, the breathing gear has to be state of the art so that once the ladies are trapped on the bottom of the ocean, they will have enough oxygen to keep the film going for nearly ninety minutes.
Once the ladies became trapped at the bottom, they take all sorts of risk. Unfortunately most of it simply seems implausible.
Toward the end, there is a slight twist. I did not find it redeeming but it was a creative attempt. Overall, the film had some potential that never manifested. The characters are not created in a way to make the audience sympathize with them. The situations seem far too unbelievable.
I could forgive most of that if one thing had happened. I wanted to be scared. I was scared at twelve when Christy was pulled under the water and tried to grab that buoy. I was scared when the one- eyed corpse startled Hooper. I was scared when the shark came out of the water when Brody is scooping out the chum. That is when he says those classic words, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Granted I was young, but “Jaws” was scary.
As I watched “47 Meters Down” I noticed that no one in the audience seemed to be tense. We have come a long way in forty-two years since “Jaws” and it is harder to scare audiences today. But “47 Meters” certainly could have tried a little harder.
If you are looking for a well-made shark film, and you want something different from “Jaws,” check out last year’s “The Shallows.” It is not a great film, but it is a good one, far better than “47 Meters Down.”
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.