Self Improvement

DinoShark vs. Up In The Air

I watched two movies this weekend, which is a lot for me to see in their entirety. I see lots of fragments of movies, every day, but don’t necessarily get all the way through. DinoShark was able to keep me in my seat. Let me be clear: it is not a classic, and it suffered from a number of flaws, but the CGI shark was interesting, and when he leapt twenty feet in the air to snag a surfer who himself was flying off the top of a wave, well, I thought we had something going.

The biggest flaw was to not continue this trend. Perhaps DinoShark could have leapt out of the water onto passing boats in order to consume the humans on board. Granted, that would have been a very different story, but a shark coming out of the water to go over the top of a boat is just, well, over the top.

Given it’s $2M budget, it was rather amazing. The effects were pretty good (considering) and the cinematography was appealing. The dialogue could have used a bit of snap and punch, but the story was cohesive. What it lacked more than anything was an overarching tension to draw the main character into the battle with the shark. The conflicts were almost ancillary, and he had options to avoid messing with the shark. I wasn’t convinced he HAD to go fight that battle.

There was a noticeable use of stock footage–scenes of the water, scenes of the harbor, and scenes of the city–which brings me to a minor flaw. Those stock scenes were just there, used as filler, and filler is how they appeared. Up In The Air did the exact same thing, using stock footage of airports, hotels, and airplanes both coming and going (not to mention clouds) but in that movie, that stock footage did not seem to be filler because there was accompanying narrative–by George Clooney of all people–and it was a moment of transition used to set up the next conflict. I was grateful for that stock footage, as it gave me a moments respite to consider what had just happened, and to wonder what might happen next.

Up In The Air had an (estimated) budget of $30M. Quite a lot of difference. Where that difference was most pronounced was in the structure of the story. Every scene in that movie was there to build tension. Resolving one conflict only seemed to lead to yet another, more intense conflict. I really, really wanted to know what happened. (I also wanted to know why the “towel rod in the bathroom was a good idea,” and it makes for a fascinating fantasy that I probably ought not share.) The ending was completely and wholly satisfying. Not at all what I expected–it surprised me in an unexpected way–I might add. It was just flat out well done. I will watch it again, and probably again.

It’s not fair to compare these two movies when the only thing I could use to link them was the use of stock footage. They are completely different animals. I could try to be funny and say that they both used dinosaurs–one a shark, the other George Clooney–but that would be cheap.

I won’t recommend you watch either one through to the end. It is up to each movie to do that for its own audience in the first ten to fifteen minutes. Dinoshark had me when in snagged the surfer out of midair off of a wave; Up In The Air had me with the smooth and delicious words Mr. Clooney spoke. You’ll have to decide for yourself, as you do everyday with everything.