Sharknado The 4th Awakens review

The Sharknado movies are actually everything I want out of cinema. I go to movies to see things that don’t exist in real life, but that creative people can imagine. I like to say that making sense is the death of creativity, because it restricts the possibilities of ideas. Now I adore the precision crafted work of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick too, but I sure am glad someone is making Sharknado movies.

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens picks up five years after Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, a bold choice considering the third film ended on a cliffhanger. There’s a reason they don’t pick up right where they left off, though, and The 4th Awakens is not just a Star Wars joke in name only. There are Star Wars references that should make fans as happy as I was when Ian Ziering did the James Bond gun barrel with a chainsaw. 

So, there hasn’t been a sharknado in five years thanks to some new technology invented by Aston Reynolds (Tommy Davidson). Life finds a way, however, so sharknados start forming out of other materials. I don’t want to spoil what other variations of “shark” and “nado” this film has to offer, but it’s awesome and clever how they’ve developed the weather phenomenon.

Sharknado: The 4h Awakens is still nonstop. Screenwriter Thunder Levin and director Anthony C. Ferrante just have so many ideas they’ve gotta fit ’em all in. And give them credit for not just doing “sharknados in Hawaii.” They do go to new locations in each film, but they’re adding meta science and technology to further the world of Sharknado. Some of the science in The 4th Awakens involves violating natural landmarks in ways neither Michael Bay nor Roland Emmerich would have the balls to try to pull off.

As this franchise develops, we have gotten pretty far from normal people reacting to absurd situations, inasmuch as the people reacting to sharknados were ever normal. It feels strange to lament the innocence of earlier entries in which a hero rides a shark down a tornado from the Empire State Building, but it does make me marvel at how far we’ve come. By the third and fourth time it happens, sharknados are the new normal and once you go into space, it’s full sci-fi, or pseudo sci-fi. The good news is part four becomes a full-on superhero movie and who doesn’t want to see a Sharknado version of a superhero movie? The heroes have trained and developed enough so that when the sharknados return, they’re even readier than before.

This franchise still has the gravitas to find sincere moments in between set pieces. The films seem to really care for the Shepard and Wexler families. Even when faced with sci-fi melodrama, the film wants Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) to stay together. I think we want it too, even though we’re really here for the sharknados.

It’s not a spoiler that April is in the movie. After Sharknado 3, Twitter has spoken and it seems #AprilLives won. The April of Sharknado 4 is the most active and heroic April we’ve seen. It is a pleasure to see Reid throw herself into badass mode, even if she kind of misses the inflection of a major catch phrase she repeats. She has a training montage that’s like an Ironman competition. That’s muscle Ironman, not Marvel Iron Man.

Fin is involved in some ambitious sequences too. A twister picks up a house while Fin fights sharks and rescues family members. Closeups of twisted legs trying to walk up an incline do the job of selling this sequence cinematically. Ferrante knows it’s not just about the visual effects of the flying house, it’s the human element.

There seems to be a little more green screen than usual this time. I’m not sure why it stood out, because there’s plenty of location work in famous sights too. The one-liners include a few more direct riffs from famous movies. Perhaps the superhero tone lent itself more to direct references. When the characters react to the truly unique situations, they deliver the obvious action puns with full commitment. When a film can manage a Wizard of Oz reference and some very inside Baywatch jokes, that is a film made for lovers of cinema, highbrow and lowbrow.

***

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens airs Sunday, July 31 at 8PM on Syfy.

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