Well, after six years and six entries, it’s finally time to put this shark to bed. From its genesis as a social media phenomenon and unexpected ratings kingpin on Syfy, to the geeky, unendingly self-referential conclusion that premieres on cable tonight, the Sharknado series has completed a full circuit of obnoxiousness in a way that is all its own. You can run down the entertainment value of the last few installments all you want—and don’t worry, we’re about to do just that—but at the very least, Sharknado carved out a bizarre little niche for itself in the world of straight-to-video B movies that we won’t soon forget. We ended up reviewing every single entry, by the way.
This final installment, literally titled The Last Sharknado so as to leave no doubt, is marginally better in some senses than the few films that preceded it, if only because it was conceived and written with an air of finality in mind, rather than the throwaway cliffhanger of Sharknado 5: Global Swarming in particular. It actually ends up being impressive how the producers managed to bring back so many minor characters from the past five movies, tying a bow onto an increasingly ornate pile of crap. God help me, it feels good to see old John Heard again, still drunk on his precious, favorite barstool, just as he was in 2013 when the original aired—the equivalent of a spiritual palate cleanser after the withering boredom and non-stop commercialization of the last few Sharknado entries.
As the ending of Sharknado 5 and this film’s title both make abundantly clear, The Last Sharknado is a time travel movie, awash in more unnecessary Back to the Future cribbing than one could possibly catalog. One has to wonder if writer Thunder Levin actually thinks that it’s clever or “fun” for the audience to require his characters to move at exactly 88 mph in order to travel through time, or whether he’s pounding away at the keyboard in tears, hating himself for such less-than-lazy references, all while repeating to himself that he can do this and collect a paycheck one last time. Six entries into the series, you’d have to figure he’s well beyond the point of being embarrassed that his name is attached to a film with some of the worst-looking CGI muppet dinosaurs in cinema history.
The Jurassic World series would be so much better with 100% more googly eyes, wouldn’t it?
Which is to say: Yes, there are dinosaurs, as the film’s trailers already revealed. And yes, there are medieval wizards as well. And redcoats, and cowboys, and C-list celebrities, and sock-hoppin’ beach teens of the 1950s. And there are more than enough sharks to threaten them all of course, although curiously, The Last Sharknado at times feels like perhaps the least shark-centric of the entire series. The film is actually more concerned with its characters, whether they’re reappearing one-timers from three movies ago, or core personnel such as Fin (Ian Ziering), April (Tara Reid) and Nova (Cassie Scerbo), struggling to destroy the first sharknado and “set things right.” It’s amusing to watch their Philosophy 101-level attempts to wrestle with the responsibilities inherent in time travel paradoxes, all while Ziering assures the characters (and more directly, the audience) that “We’ll figure it out; we always do. This won’t be any different.” Truer words about a film have rarely been spoken by a character residing within it.
And in the end, it’s those strange, character-building asides that ultimately make The Last Sharknado just a fraction more watchable than the fourth and fifth films in the series—it feels more than ever like a project where Ferrante was given free rein to be as ludicrous as he cares to be, with zero f**cks given by anyone at the Asylum or Syfy, who in all likelihood are more concerned with future projects than the prospects of the final film in a series that had long since run out of steam. You want to use a bunch of already built castle and Old West sets, and let your cast play dress-up? Sure, have fun. Just try not to destroy anything that we need to shoot a real movie in the future, OK?
The whole thing comes to a head in a psychedelic cyclone of sharks and historical figures, swirling in a maelstrom and spouting catchphrases: a Tim and Eric sketch gone off the rails, just begging for the guffaws of a stoned college freshman who praises the comedy as “so random!” It’s clear during this sequence that we’ve gone well past the point of Peak Absurdity, as far as potential humor is concerned, and the big climax thus leaves the viewer cold—the antithesis of the more character-centric scenes in Earth’s dystopian, Tara Reid-controlled future, which are almost charming in their naivete. And before I forget, let it be noted: Reid disappears for entire scenes at a time in this film, itself a bit of a franchise tradition.
We certainly shouldn’t mourn the passing of the Sharknado franchise, but if there is a time for looking back on whatever absurd delights it may have at one point given us, this is it. For me, it will always be the press screener I received for Sharknado 2: The Second One, which came with a handwritten note from someone at the Asylum, apologizing for a viewing experience with “unfinished” visual effects. By which I mean, completely unfinished, wire-frame tornados in half of the scenes. This is what they sent out for critical review, less than two weeks before the film premiered on TV.
Sweet, innocent Sharknado. Summers just won’t be the same without you.
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Writers: Thunder Levin, Scotty Mullen
Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, and more D-list celebrities than you can swing a shark at.
Release Date: August 19, 2018 on Syfy
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident bad movie expert. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.