47 METERS DOWN: We’re Gonna Need A Better Script
47 Meters Down is a total shark sandwich of a film, that will leave every audience member wishing they were watching Jaws instead.
There are few things that get me into a theater seat without question: Michael Fassbender, films about cults, films about cats, A Michael Fassbender film about cat cults (someone please make this), and sharks.
As a child, my room was decorated with posters of sharks – highlighting their vast array of species and their corresponding attributes. I had a few small shark jaws on proud display adjacent to books on the subject, and often placed an especially dense stuffed shark atop my pile of far less menacing stuffed animals (I was a weird kid, alright?). Needless to say, I have always been fascinated by this bewildering and distant creature.
In full acknowledgement of the depth to which my fascination goes, I was cautiously optimistic about the latest shark-centric film, 47 Meters Down from writer/director Johannes Roberts. So, did the film indulge my youthful curiosities?
It Goes 47 Meters Down In The DM
In 47 Meters Down, we follow Lisa (Mandy Moore), who is vacationing in Mexico to get over a recent breakup. She is joined by her sister, Kate (Claire Holt) as they eventually connect with two local men at a party who present the opportunity to go on a deep sea cage dive to see the sharks beneath. Despite Lisa’s fervent reluctance, Kate insists on them going in the rusty cage together with the prospect of a photo opportunity to show Lisa’s ex ‘what he’s missing’.
After they watch the men go through the process (thus assuring them of any rust-related qualms), the sisters suit up and submerge themselves inside the cage. It is a joyous time. How could Lisa have ever second guessed herself? They laugh and say things like “Oh my god, that’s, like, the biggest shark,” only shortly before they sense a shift in the cable which consequently breaks entirely, sending the caged women plummeting to the bottom which is, you guessed it, 47 meters down.
This plot has successfully cast intrigue among suspense and shark enthusiasts alike, however as soon as the cage hits the ocean floor, whatever little suspense there was, lifts. Sure, there are potential sharks at the ready, and the characters continually remind the audience just how quickly their air supply is diminishing, but very little actually occurs after that point apart from a continuation of unforgivably bad dialogue and the occasional shark close-up.
The film was originally slated for VOD release last August, and it shows. Much of it feels incomplete and ill-equipped to handle a theater screen, which is baffling considering the vastness of its setting (being the ocean and all). At certain points of self-inflicted optimism, I wondered if the diminutive scale of the scenery was adding to the overall sense of claustrophobia, but I eventually came to my senses.
Naturally, I loved Steven Spielberg‘s 1975 Jaws, but it wasn’t simply because it featured the creature of my fascination – it was the characters. I loved Chief Brody, Quint, and Hooper, whose dynamic and interesting personas intertwined with one another for reasons that were both varying and collective.
With the great and well-deserved success of the film, movie producers have long-since made desperate attempts at recreating the magic of the original, but none have ever matched it. It’s not the shark that makes Jaws great, it’s the characters. And let me tell you – the characters in 47 Meters Down are downright atrocious.
Do you remember those toys that spoke when you pulled the string on their back? They’d recite a phrase or two; cycling through the manufactured sound bytes of their creator. The characters in this film aren’t much different – repeating the same phrases over and over again. As if to betoken her state of panic, Mandy Moore’s Lisa repeats “I thought I’d never see you again,” to her sister three times over, making me actually hope she wouldn’t just to spare us all.
I do wish I could place all the blame on Roberts, but Moore‘s distinctly crisp diction and melodious tone throughout foreshadows a kind of Sondheim song that never comes (which may be the real disappointment here). I was half-preparing myself for a sung line like, “just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor.” The market for a deep-sea-horror-musical-chamber-piece has also not yet been tapped, but maybe audiences are ready for it.
47 Meters Down is a film void of character. It is a film that gets completely lost in the depths of its miniature ocean and ultimately becomes beholden to its shallow, Sisyphean script. If you still want to see it, I highly suggest saving your money and waiting to watch on VOD as originally intended, and while I am thankful that this movie was only 85 minutes long, 47 would have been better.
What do you think makes a great shark movie?
47 Meters down is in wide release in the US and is pending a release date in the UK and Australia.
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