GREAT WHITE (2021)
Directed by Martin Wilson.
Written by Michael Boughen.
Starring Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Tim Kano, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Jason Wilder, Tatjana Marjanovic
When a couple hire a charter plane to take them to a secluded island off of Australia, the four of them find themselves trapped in a raft with a pair of hangry sharks circling them.
I have an absolute fear of sharks. For some reason, watching shark films evokes at least one jump back in my seat moment for me and a few uncontrollable urges for me to curl up my legs and scream. I don’t know why. Other than the fact that I saw JAWS at a very young age, I’ve never had any contact with sharks. I swam in the ocean as a kid. Most likely there were sharks around, but I never paid any mind to it. But for some reason, shark films, more than most, get to me. That said, having seen quite a few shark horror films, I know that this is a genre that is tricky to get right. Either you’re a JAWS ripoff, a cheesy/badly animated shark flick, or one of those rare films that actually strikes a chord with that primal fear we all have of being eaten alive by giant jaws from the deep.
GREAT WHITE is a decent enough shark film. It’s got an interesting, though common setup for this subgenre of horror; a group of people are stranded at sea and surrounded by sharks. While this is the premise of such shark horror greats as THE REEF or OPEN WATER, GREAT WHITE doesn’t really match the level of intensity those modern classic shark flicks achieve. I think the main reason is the cast really lacks any kind of character to latch on to. There is the arrogant businessman booking the trip, his quivering wife, the swarthy assistant/cook, the outdoorsy pilot, and his girlfriend who is the more sensible and business-minded of the two. Beyond that, very little by way of character is given to this cast of soon to be chum. Because you don’t get to know these characters much before the sharks attack, you don’t care. And if you don’t care about the characters, you have a problem with your move.
That said, the acting is decent in GREAT WHITE. They just don’t have a lot to do but act in a cliched and lazy manner due to an uninspired script. None of the motivation gives you anything to root for. It’s all just surface level details that is a surefire indication as to whether it is time for that character to die. Aside from a few jump scares, there is little anticipation or intensity to GREAT WHITE. It’s just annoying people set up to be eaten when it’s their turn in the cue.
It doesn’t help that the CG animation for the sharks themselves are pretty bad. When it’s just the fin slicing through the waves, it’s effective. But any time CG is used to have the shark leap out of the water and nearly chomp the cast in the raft, I was less frightened and more inquisitive as to how effects this bad are in what looks to be a decently produced film. There are a few extremely bad shots in GREAT WHITE and in this day and age, where decent renderings don’t really impact the budget all that much, it’s really inexcusable.
As much as they scare me, I look forward to every shark film. I love being scared and shark films usually do it for it. But because of some bad effects, lazy writing, and a lack of relatable characters, GREAT WHITE just didn’t work for me.