Sharknado's Secret Protagonist
For those of you who missed it, Sharknado was a C-level movie on the SyFy (groan) network a few months back. It’s mostly famous for twitter and the internet deciding to make it famous. They tweeted about it like it was cinema genius and got it gigantic recognition; so much so that there are now talks about making a sequel with an actual budget.
Now, I love bad movies. I’ve played drinking games to more wooden actors and half-done props than I can count. Thus, when Sharknado came to Netflix, I was all over that shit. Got some friends together, lined up the beers, and prepared to watch a film with no money for special effects trying to show sharks flying through California.
Once the film started, however, I noticed something strange. It was easy to miss, unless you paid attention to the characters actions rather than what people were saying. Basically, amidst the low-rent props and horrid story, the writers slipped in one of the baddest ass female characters I’ve seen in modern cinema and then pretended that she wasn’t there.
*Spoilers be below. But, seriously, this movie is probably better if you know what you’re getting into first.*
Basically the plot is that weird weather hits the ocean and moves a bunch of sharks to the coast, then hurricane shit occurs which floods the coast, and tornados grab the sharks and fling them through the air because fuck you science. Rugged-Protagonist Finn must leave his bar, along with Sidekick Baz and Sex-Trophy Nova, to go rescue his harpy ex-wife and daughter because the ex can’t be bothered to believe all this “news” bullshit about flooding and sharks.
So far we have a very generic, default cast set-up. Fin is supposed to triumph, Nova is eye-candy and will go to whoever proves to be the biggest hero, and the ex is a shrieking nag because lord knows no people ever separate for reasons other than sudden-onset assholery. However, once they hit the road, a whole new aspect opens up, but before we get to that I want to clear up something real quick…
When I described Nova as the Sex-Trophy above, it wasn’t meant to be pejorative to her as an actress. It’s the term many use for a character, male or female but usually female, that exists only to be sexy for the camera and then be won by the protagonist. Not because of things he does to woo her, mind you, but because he completes his mission and therefore deserves a hot girl as a reward. It’s an incredibly annoying default movie setting once you notice it, and I had every reason to believe Nova was precisely that. The first scene opens with her in a bikini, fending off a patrons advances.
It is hinted, and I use the word “hinted” very loosely here, that Nova has a history with sharks. Later, when the first wave of sharks come, she falls to the ground and screams as one is about to eat her. A drunken character who doesn’t live long enough for me to look up his name saves her by beating it with a bar stool. As a viewer, I assumed this was meant to cement her relationship with sharks for me. She has a history with them and now suffers from a debilitating phobia. That means she’ll be screaming a lot and require some rescuing, which falls well within the bounds of her character archetype. No biggie.
Yeah, see, here’s the thing: that scene is anomalous, because once they hit the SUV Nova changes gears. And her shark issue is not that she’s scared of them after all. You see…
Nova Gives No Fucks
This girl hates shark. I mean fucking hates them. Once they’re on the road, she acquires a shotgun, and from that point on she’s like a kid on Christmas morning, except the presents she asked for were live sharks she could slowly choke the breath from. There is no questioning with her, no conserving ammo. Nova goes from seeing a shark to lighting that son of a bitch up in exactly the amount of time it takes to pull a trigger.
In the first scene after they get free, when Nova has her gun. Fin, who is supposed to be the ass-kicking protagonist, has to physically stop her from playing shooting gallery with sharks near them because he’s scared it will draw attention. Nova is perfectly aware this could happen, and it is just as evident that she considers it a bonus. More sharks just means more shark corpses.
So why is this not the greatest movie ever made, about a blood-covered woman carving a swath of death through the shark population? Well, there is a fault in the set-up…
Nova Is Stuck Between Two Roles
I’m convinced this movie had two directors, or writers, or something, because Nova was clearly supposed to be two separate characters. For one thing: no one, not once in the movie, acknowledges how much shark ass Nova is kicking. Everyone cheers when Fin manages to shoot one in the water, meanwhile Nova is stabbing shark in the face and it goes uncommented on. It’s like they can’t perceive that the woman meant to be nothing more than giggles and bouncing could actually be a living avatar of shark massacre.
Now, amidst all the killing, Nova still has to keep to her Sex Trophy duties. She falls in love with Fin’s son, Matt, at first sight, because obviously, and gets all breathy and swoony at the idea of him going up in a helicopter to bomb the tornados (seriously, fuck you science). Then, instead of nagging or fretting, she starts assembling bombs and volunteers to ride along. Let me be clear here, they’re now in a military academy with dozens of people who have more training and experience than her, but she’s the one who becomes an amateur explosionolgist and demands to come along. It’s done under the guise of wanting to keep her newly-met man safe, but I think we all know the truth: Nova wants to see the last look on the face of every shark they murder by detonation. By now we’ve heard her backstory, which I think was sharks ate her whole family, but honestly I care about as much about it as I do about seeing the scene where Batman’s parents die. Yeah that’s great, let’s get back to the action, because this the climax, people are going to die.
If You’re Going To Go, Go Hard
Nothing sums up the weird dichotomy of Nova’s dual roles like her apparent death scene. In the course of bombing the titular sharknados, something goes wrong with the last bomb, blah blah blah, helicopter get knocked around and Nova goes tumbling out.
This is where you expect her to lock eyes with the new-love interest, flailing futilely as she descends. After all, despite the bevvy of opportunities for her to go out in battle, the writers have decided she has to die like a punk. Well, that might be what they wanted, but Nova was having precisely none of that shit.
As soon as she hits freefall, Nova does two things: pull out a knife and lock eyes with the nearest shark to her. The two warriors meet in mid-air; the shark opening its mouth wide to devour her, and Nova angling that blade upward to shred its internal organs as she goes down.
Holy fucking shit that is hardcore. When certain death looms, Nova’s last thought is to make sure she meets the reaper covered in blood and holding a shark’s still-beating heart. If you die by knife-fighting a shark in mid-air while surrounded by explosions, you don’t go to any modern heaven. Odin kicks those sissy religions out of the way and personally welcome you to Valhalla, because that is goddamned warrior’s death if I’ve ever heard one.
In the end she’s saved by Fin when he chainsaws the shark open as it falls to earth (did you forget we’re watching an awful movie?) and she emerges unharmed. She embraces Matt and all is well… or so it seems. My pet theory is that Nova has just been playing a part all this time, pretending to be helpless so no one would stop her one-girl mission of shark genocide. And now she’s got a man in the military, which means access to the good weapons.
If Sharknado 2 isn’t the sharks desperately banding together in an effort to survive Nova’s wrath, then they’ve missed the goldenest opportunity in recent cinema history.
And now, my weekly Youtube moment. This week's is my favorite scene from the first season of a show that consistently cracked me up: Blue Mountain State.
*Warning: some naughty language in this video*