Everyone’s favourite unnatural phenomenon returns with a laborious fourth outing, taking the unlikeliest of franchises into new and increasingly sci-fi terrain. The joy of Anthony Ferrante and Thunder Levin’s series has always been a certain level of infectious self-amusement, but Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (its cleverest gag arguably being that title pun) coasts by on what feels like outright apathy. Levin’s screenplay chucks one idea after another at its audience, and simply shrugs when nothing sticks. The sharks are back, but they’ve lost their bite.
Five years on from the events of Oh Hell No!, April Wexler has passed on and the Shepard family – complete with newly-added cleavage-friendly cousin Gemini (Masiela Lusha) – have settled into life in a Sharknado-free world. When the cutting edge technology keeping the ‘nados at bay begins to prove ineffective, however, Shark-stomping hero Fin (Ian Ziering) must save the day as the freak storms begin to evolve into an entirely new breed of extinction-level events.
It’s hard to begrudge the level of performance at work in The 4th Awakens, given what’s come before; Ziering, for example, has evolved into something of a swarthy Z-level movie star. Even so, there’s a decided air of going through the motions for all involved this time around. Of the new additions to the Sharknadoverse, only Lusha’s Gemini makes much of an impression – and, to be fair, that’s largely due to her soft-porn-level performance, comically impractical costume, and style of running reminiscent of Lisa Kudrow in Friends. Ziering proves the linchpin again, but as the bonkers quota of narrative turns in the film quickly escape him, even he proves incapable of providing much of an anchor.
The blame for this largely lies at the feet of the screenplay. Levin has evidently become a victim of his own success, so mired is he in world-building and the establishment of a shared universe (a prolonged sequence firmly establishes that Sharknado takes place in the same reality as Lavalantula; handy, as 2 Lava 2 Lantula also debuts this week). Thus, any and all of the romping fun of the previous ‘Nado flicks is gone with the wind. Taking the series as far as possible from its disaster-movie roots, and into sci-fi terrain, Levin resorts to forced pop culture references that turn the amusing groan quality of Sharknado into… well, just groans.
Ferrante brings his level best to the directorial side of things, but without witty writing and a level of on-screen self-awareness to season it all (and compensate for the ropey visual effects), The 4th Awakens just comes across as bland and ridiculous. Admittedly, it always was, but in an enjoyable way that it simply can’t maintain anymore. That we’ve been threatened with not just one but three more Sharknado movies beyond this suggests a distinct lack of awareness among those involved. At the very least, the time has come to recharge the creative batteries and return the series to disaster-movie terrain. The 4th Awakens, sure, but the audience will likely be asleep by the end of this woefully tiresome effort.
Sharknado: The 4th Awakens airs exclusively on Syfy in the US on Sunday, July 31st, and in the UK on Tuesday, August 2nd. Check out the trailer below.