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Not long ago, we watched the first trailer for The Shallows and had high hopes the movie was taking the genre in a different direction. It was slow and methodical, teasing a solitary battle of wits between a stranded, injured woman on a small elevated bit of coral a few hundred yards from shore where between her and that swims a very large great white shark. That trailer suggested a more psychological edge, having us believe it was a race of time between the incoming tide and her attempt at making a shot for safety. Now with the second trailer, which is absurdly spoiler rich, all those hopes are dashed.
While the filmmakers most assuredly want you to know that their star, the lovely Blake Lively, does indeed where a skimpy bikini a lot in their movie, the trailer is otherwise a disappointing mess of tired clichés and standard monster in the dark frights. While the beginning features more breathtaking cinematography from Flavio Martínez Fabiano, we learn that Lively plays a full time medical student and has found a secret beach that her mother told she and her sister about (although she apparently never knew the name of it). She then proceeds to take her board out in to the waters and is goaded by some surfer dudes (one wearing a GoPro that will certainly get some action) to join them. She declines and surfs on her. A bit later, she is promptly bitten.
She scrambles to a coral outcropping and from there is able to surveil the waters to the shore, seeing the two men she saw earlier coming out to sea for more surfing. She calls out that there is shark and with perfect timing, it attacks, breaching and taking out one dude with one bite. The second man swims frantically for her but nope, he gets it, too. This is all in the trailer. Now it’s just her against the beast and the last bit of the clip is her learning the sharks patterns and routines before she goes commando and straight up attacks it.
Certainly, monster movies have their place in cinema and a good scare can be lots of fun, but sharks are too easy. Their cinematic circle is complete: they’ve gone from terrifying to parody and everything in-between. Making a shark the antagonist as pictured here is just lazy at best and irresponsible at worst. Not only have they been done far too often, but by now, public opinion, more awareness, and strong conservation efforts have made great strides in educating the public about these highly misunderstood creatures. That doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun, of course, and prey on our baser instinctive fear of big toothy animals, but most of those fears are generated by the media.
Clearly the producers of The Shallows aren’t concerned with creating a more challenging (or logical) film. Sharks simply don’t attack people unprovoked. Encounters are merely bites of curiosity that nearly all victims survive. That said, the breaching moment is laugh-inducing for many reasons, mostly because it’s played like a boogie man in the closet jump scare but more so because it looks just like the Shark Gun shot in the classic video game Armed and Dangerous.
What’s most crushing is the lost potential. Yes, great white sharks are scary. The wonderful first trailer hinted at something better than what this second trailer reveals. Reduced to an action revenge story with knives and flare guns, this movie looks to have been a more terrifying experience if it was about the long wait in the water and the psychological effects of that situation. Time will tell, but right now, color us disappointed.
Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen