Cast: Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Greg McLean
Nutshell: A trip to view the Saltwater Crocodiles ends up as a fight for survival
Any crocodile, alligator, piranha, dinosaur and especially shark film is always welcome and the Scy-Fi channel has discovered in the last few years that they simply never go out of style or popularity. Lately we have had the Sharktopus series that has gripped the world over and over again with a new sequel appearing every moon. Likewise, we have had a zillion Dino-Shark Vs BoaGator kind of things to a point way beyond saturation. The last one I actually sat down to watch (and did sit through about 4 minutes before switching off was something called Five-Headed Shark. You have to be very stoned or very drunk or both to appreciate these marvels for their true worth and monster movie lovers are never once bitten twice shy…they always come back for more.
Jaws stands tall as the benchmark for any movie from the sea monster genre and though many have imitated it, nothing has come close to having a similar effect. It has been a fallout of Spielberg’s masterpiece that so many shark of croc movies have not even tried to be scary and gone for the jokes instead. There have been some highly enjoyable films along the way and oddly enough both appeared within day of each other in the summer of 1999, the summer of the Blair Witch phenomenon.
First up we had Deep Blue Sea which is slick and efficiently made and though it has a preposterous plot and scenario, the film moves along at such a brisk pace with some finely tuned “disaster movie” acting and highly skilled direction. If you can switch off your brain enough to enjoy a brainless popcorn shark movie that has some moments of tension, some startling gore and one or two stunning set pieces along with some impressive shark footage, CGI and otherwise you have a winner in Deep Blue Sea and it has rightly taken up its place as a very distant second to Jaws when it comes to ranking shark movies. Initially mocked for being too ridiculous, shark movie fans have come to realize that this film, however loopy, is packed with exactly the kind of stuff that makes us watch these movies to begin with. In other words, Deep Blue Sea is money and time well spent.
The other film with strong credentials is Lake Placid which is the perfect tongue in cheek monster movie. The films razor shark script and acting and some great work by Friday the 13th veteran Steve Miner elevates the movie above most of its ranks and if the humour isn’t satisfying enough then the croc attacks and footage should be enough to satisfy those cravings too. Lake Placid is a delight all the way and along with Deep Blue Sea rank as the finest of the genre over the last quarter of a century or more.
Recently an Australian production directed by Greg McLean, a man who had enjoyed immense success with his breakout hit Wolf Creek, entered the fray of monster movies and though his effort was well received by critics and might still have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it tanked disastrously at the Box Office earning back only a meagre fraction of its considerable costs.
The action is set in the stunningly barren and beautiful areas in the Northern Territory of Australia where a group of tourists have gathered for a boat trip down the winding tributaries to take in the spectacularly etched rocks and the stunning turquoise of the water. It’s a uniquely Australian setting and its very beautiful indeed but also full of its own natural perils and home to the most aggressive and dangerous of Australia’s crocodile species; the saltwater crocodile and alligator.
The trip is conducted by Radha Mitchell (from Pitch Black) who is able to drop her fake American accent and revert to a thick Aussie manner and does her job ably with the help on one assistant and knows her way around the parts as well as the habits of the crocs which as the tourists get to witness, are able to leap up surprisingly high out of the water. As they near the end of their trip and plan on turning back one of the tourists catches sight of a flare and they are then compelled to check to see if there may be some sort of emergency. When they reach the scene, there is a small boat that has been capsized and little else. Soon they find out exactly what happened to the boat as a massive jolt rams into their boat causing considerable damage. They have a very aggressive adversary to deal with who has “tagged” them which means that he will keep returning to torment them until he is done. The battle to survive is on and sure enough it isn’t long before the huge beast reappears, angry and evidently very, very hungry.
The film doesn’t go for the jokey approach nor the cheap OTT effects of the Scy-Fi movies but plays it straight for action, tension and scares. Greg McLean does a fine job and has crafted a film that holds its pace and keeps the viewer interested with some pretty good sequences that build tension to a crescendo. The acting is also pretty solid that the Gator never appears laughable. It’s a well-staged, acted and executed production and yet there is something in the sauce that seems missing seems like it could have been tastier. Fact is, the film is perfectly efficient in all departments and yet there is no knock out scene that you take back with you in the memory bank like there are in Jaws. For example, the scene in the first quarter of Jaws when two local fishermen go out at night on to the pier with some bait to try to catch the shark only has a tire in the water that moves towards them and john Williams’s epic score and Spielberg’s masterful direction to make it a scene that burns into the memory forever. Rogue has many perfectly good scenes but nothing to rival the sheer tension and drama of that moment, and there are numerous such moments in a film like Jaws.
And is if to prove a point, the biggest drawback perhaps with Rogue is that it is forever going to be compared to the superlative Jaws and cannot hold up to the comparison. On its own, it’s a perfectly entertaining and effective monster movie and indeed one of the best there is of its kind. Its shortcoming is that while it hovers consistently around “good” it never quite makes it to “great”. That said, Rogue is well worth a watch and practically unmissable for shark and monster movie fans.