You've seen this picture. It's been making the rounds online. It's the money shot from Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.
Yes, there's a movie called Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus. And I've watched it, all the way from start to finish. I actually bought the DVD. And I'm here to tell you: Wow, what a waste of time. Why the hell did I just do that?
Your generous KQED donation dollars at work, people!
Wait. I remember. I was trying to find something dumb and fun and locally relevant to suggest you watch with friends and alcohol over the coming long holiday weekend. And Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus might just fit that bill, as long as you don't skimp on the friends and the alcohol. Watching it alone and sober would be pretty depressing.
It stars a barely passable but pleasant enough Deborah Gibson (that's what we call her now) and a pompous, pony-tailed Lorenzo Lamas, among others. The others include a mega shark and a giant octopus. It's from a company known as The Asylum, which is also responsible for Transmorphers, The Day the Earth Stopped and Snakes on a Train. "Mockbusters," they've been called. That's a good one.
As for Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, well, it might be said to be in the tradition of King Kong vs. Godzilla, Alien vs. Predator, Monsters vs. Aliens (also of local interest) and even, on an abstract level, The Squid and the Whale.
And of course it also harkens back to It Came From Beneath the Sea, from 1955 -- a simpler time, when there were no mega sharks to speak of, but there were giant octopi, and they too would bring their wrath to bear on the Golden Gate Bridge. (Here's a clip, with charming French subtitles: "Le monstre attaque le Golden Gate.")
You might wonder: What does a giant octopus or a mega shark have to be wrathful about? In 1955, it was atomic testing. In 2009 it's global warming. Bottom line: it's us. "Maybe this is our comeuppance," as Deborah Gibson's character puts it.
That reminded me of the opening narration from It Came From Beneath the Sea: "The mind of man had thought of everything -- except that which was beyond his comprehension. BWWAH-HA HA HA HA!"
Actually, the maniacal laugh's not in there. But it's implied.
Other good lines from It Came From Beneath the Sea include "Doctor, what kind of a sea beast would be that large?" and "Red alert for Operation Sea Beast! Get traffic off the Golden Gate Bridge!"
Other good lines from Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus include "You know I'm right, Dick. There's something big out there. Something really big." and "Those guys have been frozen in ice for millions of years. Wouldn't you be a little horny?"
Right: back to the money shot. Although I might be the only person you know who actually bought the DVD of Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, I'm certainly not alone in remembering the history of movie havoc on the Golden Gate Bridge. (Did you know Alfred Hitchcock meant to end The Birds on a shot of the bridge covered with birds? That would have been something, but he couldn't afford it.)
In recent years, the havoc seems to have become more frequent. Early last month, in the film blog for London's Guardian newspaper, Henry Barnes asked, "Is it just because New York's skyline is off limits?"
"In comparison the Golden Gate Bridge is a politically safe setting for a director's worst case scenario," Barnes wrote. "It's far from New York (and close to Hollywood), instantly recognizable to an international audience and emotionally evocative to an American one. Unlike the Statue of Liberty, it's a genuine American construct, built during the Great Depression and therefore symbolic of the country's resilience -- a visual metaphor for American unity, there to be smashed whenever a director needs to fast-track an audience into alienation and panic." Read the full article.
That might be the most thoughtful thing anyone will ever write underneath a picture of the money shot from Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.
A week or so later, our fair city's own 7x7 magazine got in on the game, with its own blog post, "Dear Hollywood, Stop Destroying the Golden Gate Bridge," and a list of famous examples (look again for Monsters vs. Aliens). Then Empire ran a slide show called "The Golden Gate Bridge in the Movies."
SF Weekly did something like that too, a while back, with "The 10 Best Movies That Wreck San Francisco." But that was before Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.
As awful as it is, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus nonetheless upholds some perverse, self-destructive point of local pride. Huzzah! Plus, it does at least manage more narrative coherence than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. As for Transmorphers, I can't speak to that; I haven't yet seen it. Maybe next weekend?