NoIf only the titular species of the new film “Great White” were more of a troll. One of the supporting humans(because let’s face it – the shark is the star) wants to spread the ashes of a loved one, and it is fun to imagine how this could be played for more terror and laughs. The shark could eat the urn, or even better: it could eat the ashes right out of the water, just for spite. In a perfect world, it would then turn to the camera and say, ‘I know…I’m terrible.’ Shark snark practically writes itself. It’s usually not a good sign when the mind starts to wander while watching a movie.
But wow, this is a hungry shark, and the few times the viewer gets a good look at the beast are unintentionally funny. “Great White” tries to take the serious and suspenseful road, but the shark shots are often too laughable to hold much weight. It takes the time to give two of the main characters a little backstory and something to invest in. It also suffers from a lack of closure: the film would have benefited from a follow-up scene with any survivors, especially since it goes through the trouble of a setup.
A couple who run a chartered sea plane company take on two last minute clients, which would seem like more of a headache than a great opportunity. Isn’t there a lot of planning and preparation involved? Insurance forms to complete? The trip eventually devolves to a “Jaws” meets “Open Water” scenario aboard a life raft. With this micro-genre, blood in the water is usually as visceral as it gets, and “Great White” is no exception. Why not a shot of the shark biting a leg off? The film is not rated, but it could probably avoid an ‘R’ if it was.
Well, shark special effects haven’t improved much since their heyday, and these themed movies are usually spaced out enough for people to forget that much of what can be done with the shark movie has already been done. That is why this writer is advocating for a film done from the perspective of a shark. How about more from-the-fin shots? What if the sharks had an inner monologue so they could explain their motivations, and better yet, crack wise? Yes, this is ridiculous in theory. But so is trying to get the audience to care about bland characters while the sharks circle the water. The viewer just wants to see who gets eaten.
Such is the case with “Great White.” It loses the goodwill of its character building with its hasty finish, and the big moments that are supposed to pay off are more silly than fun. The screenplay could have embraced that silliness instead of doubling down on seriousness; there was risk in either direction. And the actors trying to sell the drama feel slightly less fake than the sharks underneath their feet. Without the fresh blood of some new ideas, the shark movie is circling extinction.