Review: SyFy Channel's 'Sharknado 5: Global Swarming'

Last night, the SyFy channel premiered the latest instalment in their tornadoes-full-of-sharks B-movie franchise, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. If you missed it, don’t worry. This series of “films” is pretty much the only thing that SyFy is known for now, so I can assure you that it’s being rebroadcast several times a day for the next week. Personally, I am a huge fan of the Sharknado movies, as made evident last year, but even I was a little apprehensive going into this new entry. Something just seemed off about this year’s Sharknado. The previous four films have all felt like the trash-TV equivalent of blockbusters, with each sequel progressively getting bigger, louder, dumber, and more hyped up. Event B-Movie TV. But Global Swarming has been unveiled in a far less extravagant fashion. I remember seeing bus ads for the last two films, but haven’t seen so much as a poster for Part Five. I haven’t heard people talking about it. There wasn’t a big online campaign this year. Could it be that the Sharknado series has finally run out of steam? Has it (please forgive me) jumped the shark?

The film continues the increasingly bizarre story of the Shepard family. Hero Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) and his Sharknado hunting associate Nova are now archeologists of some kind, apparently. In a very unusual opening sequence, they go on an Indiana Jones style adventure beneath Stonehenge to uncover an ancient Sharknado artifact that summons Sharknadoes. Meanwhile April Shepard (Tara Reid) and son Gil (who I swear was aged up like eight years between movies) are having a James Bond adventure with all kinds of gadgets and such. The two plots connect when Fin’s ancient relic conjures a Sharknado that swallows up their son. Following the GPS tracker attached to his helmet, Fin, April, and Nova travel the world chasing the Sharknado that holds Gil with the help of Nova’s team of super-secret Sharknado destroyers.

The Sharknado films continue to build in terms of how over the top and insane they are. That’s part of what we all enjoy about them. But at a certain point, you just reach peak insanity and have nowhere else to climb. They’ve Sharknadoed every major US city. They’ve gone to outer space. Tara Reid’s character is like 50% cyborg at this point.  I fear Sharknado might have reached the peak already. Global Swarming is not only tame compared to the other films, but it’s also kind of sloppy in its floundering attempt to be the biggest one yet. All of the characters have become secret agents and are traveling around the world because the Sharknadoes can teleport now, and they’re being created by an ancient mystic artifact the team uncovered. It’s all just too much and not enough at the same time.

The thing is, I don’t know what they should be doing instead. Unlike the Fast and Furious franchise, the jump to making the main characters all super spies just didn’t land and doesn’t afford the characters any new dumb places to go. Additionally, the Sharknado movies are all so proudly big and stupid that there isn’t some kind of core idea or central premise at the heart of the franchise to return to now that they’ve lost their way. I want the franchise to continue and am still a very big fan, but I really don’t know how much more they can manage to get out of this “every sequel is bigger” plan the filmmakers have for the series.

My biggest problem with Global Swarming has to be its characters. The previous sequels have all faced the problem of inconsistent characters, and this latest instalment is no exception. I know I’m in the minority of people who are genuinely invested in these ridiculously silly movies, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that Swarming has a plot that doesn’t match the characters’ personalities and motivations from previous Sharknadoes. I understand that you’re not really supposed to care about the characters in these kind of movies, but when so much of the joke is rooted in straight-faced melodramatic conversations, it stops landing if it isn’t in keeping with the campy faux intensity of the past installments.

That’s not to say the whole films falls flat, however. There’s still some brilliant moments of inspired insanity throughout Global Swarming. “Why, Mr. Prime Minister! You’re alive!” is one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a while. Also, although they are groan worthy, the long walks they take to set up a celebrity cameo or pop culture reference continue to warm my heart.

Ultimately, I think the tired nature of Sharknado 5 might have to do with the tired state of our country right now. I hate to keep playing the Trump card, but we just don’t seem to be in the mood for this kind of thing right now. Even though they’re kidding about it, the America-centric action movie just doesn’t work anymore, no matter how ironic you’re trying to be. I just wanted to see mindless CG shark explosions, but “global swarming isn’t real” and “make America bait again” jokes just pull me right out and remind me that maybe now’s not the time to be this kind of silly.

Therefore, my current ranking of the Sharknado saga is 3,4,2,1, and then this one. Luckily, the ending cliffhanger seemed to show promise for a stronger concept next year, so perhaps there’s hope for the franchise coming back strong. Until then, I’m afraid the Sharknado might have, indeed, jumped itself.

2 out of 5