The term ‘Sci-Fi Channel movie’ conjures up images of bad special effects, cheesy dialogue, hammy acting, and a ridiculous premise. Those reasons are exactly why I gravitate towards them- they might be silly, but they are imaginative, energetic, and play out a story that one will never find in theaters. There is no better example of this than the rise of the Sharknado franchise.
Produced by The Asylum, the Syfy (formerly Sci-Fi) Channel movie aired on July 13, 2013, to shockingly huge numbers. Sharknado’s ad campaign continually played up the inherent ridiculous of the plot and many tuned in to laugh with the film. It was such a massive success that every summer since there has been a new sequel. Now, there’s The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, which as the title suggests is the last movie in this franchise, and is about time travel.
Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering), sharknado destroyer extraordinaire, winds up in the prehistoric ages after the world ending cataclysm of the fifth movie. After being chased by some dinosaurs, he is saved by Nova (Cassie Scerbo), a friend of his who was thought to be dead. They then run into Skye (Vivica A. Fox), who was believed to be electrocuted in the second movie and is Fin’s former flame before he got married to April (Tara Reid); Bryan (Judah Friedlander), Fin’s best friend, also believed to have died via sharknado attacks; and finally, a non-cybernetic, entirely alive April, despite her having died twice (once as a cyborg).
They soon learn that Fin’s son, Gil (played by Dolph Lundgren, Chris Owen, and Billy Barrett depending on how old the character is) grabbed them all just before dying and whisked them off to the age of dinosaurs to stop the first-ever sharknado from happening. They are successful, using a Pteranodon to swallow meteorites and spit them back out like bullets at the swirling vortex.
They get flung through time, this time landing in the Middle Ages, during a battle between Morgana (Alaska Thunderf*ck) and Merlin (Neil deGrasse Tyson). Now here, they must stop a sharknado, fight for their lives against Morgana’s evil hordes, and escape to the next time period. Rinse and repeat, all the while hoping their limited control over the time capacitor will eventually return them home.
“…grabbed them all just before dying and whisked them off to the age of dinosaurs to stop the first-ever sharknado from happening.”
A knowledge of all the other movies is recommended to enjoy every bit of The Last Sharknado. It is not necessarily required, but it helps make specific plot points more meaningful. But, Scotty Mullen’s screenplay (he took over writing duties from Thunder Levin after the fourth movie) does an excellent job of explaining the relationships and each person’s goals.
More importantly, Mullen and the crazed team over at The Asylum can still concoct extreme scenarios and infuse them with energy and heart, as is shown repeatedly throughout The Last Sharknado. The other time frames not expressly laid out in the plot synopsis are the Revolutionary War, the Old West, the 1950’s at a beach blanket party, and the 20035 (not a typo), which is the most ingenious world in the movie.
After inputting the correct year, Fin and Skye, the only two companions still around, find themselves in the ruins of a city being patrolled by mechanical flying sharks. After fending off one, the pair finds themselves surrounded by an army of Aprils. The cybernetic head of April feels as if Fin has betrayed her and has spent the last several millennia perfecting time travel. She then beckons Fin and Skye to her to gain his DNA to improve her clone, robot army. Only for Fin to discover that original April is being kept alive because “…you can’t clone robots.”
If you aren’t smiling at how outrageously convoluted all of that is, then you won’t be having much fun with any of the Sharknado movies. But if you are a fan of this franchise or similarly absurd offerings from Wild Eye Releasing or RJP, then there is a lot to enjoy about the movie.
The filmmakers have not forgotten that even amongst all the silliness, the series is about family. The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time is about a man that loves his family so much he is willing to rewrite history for them. This leads directly to one of the only issues in the movie. At a young age, Nova lost her grandfather, a boat captain, after the boat hit a reef and she and he wound up in a life raft. Sharks attack, leaving Nova scarred and her grandpa dead. This is set up in the first movie and comes into increasingly larger play as more about Nova is uncovered throughout the films.
However, for a significant part of the movie, Nova is trying to warn him via letters handed down from generation to generation, or other such means, and Fin is telling her not to mess with the timeline. However, as is rightly pointed out by her, everything they are doing is screwing up history. Via complications, the leads wind up on the boat with a young Nova and her grandpa. In the same scene Fin is trying to talk Nova out of doing this, but then the ship hits the reef anyway then he tells Nova to “Come on, I am not going to let your grandpa die this time.” What? This makes no sense. It is especially annoying because there is an opportunity to highlight Fin’s change of heart well ahead of this scene playing out, so it does not come out of thin air.
“…the cast does a solid job at delivering both the silly and the weighty moments…”
Anthony C. Ferrante returns as director, having helmed all six Sharknado movies. He has proven to be stylish and kinetic as a director. In 2007 Ferrante directed Syfy’s Headless Horseman which is full of spooky imagery and intense atmosphere. The thing he brings to The Last Sharknado is absolute conviction. There is a fine line between winking at the audience bad, good but absurd, so bad its good, and the plain old variety of bad known as awful. Each movie, this one especially, walks that delicate line very well, never quite becoming a parody of itself, but never taken itself too seriously, while still allowing the viewer to be invested in the drama.
Speaking of, the ending of The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time is precisely what I wanted as a longtime fan of this series. There is no sequel baiting, all plot threads are wrapped up, fan favorites from the series are present, and Fin delivers a sweet monologue about what his friends and family mean to him. It is the best possible way to end the series and serves as some of the best acting Ziering has done in the series.
Everyone in the cast does a solid job at delivering both the silly and the weighty moments with aplomb. This outing proves to be Tara Reid’s finest hour as April, especially as the psychotic robot clone army. After surrounding Fin and Skye, all the robots say “We love you Fin” and is it creepy as heck. Reid’s delivery of the intimidating speech about why she created the army and her plans for she and Fin is forceful and she has the making of a fantastic villain.
Scerbo also gets a moment to shine, when she interacts with a 4-year-old version of herself and her still alive grandpa. She is excited but restrained as not to reveal who she is. It is a hard thing to pull off, but she does so ably.
The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time is the second best in the series, and therefore the franchise ends on a high note. However, for non-fans, it will not convert you. For those folks that don’t mind cringe-inducing dialogue, silly jokes, and a ridiculous premise, all tinged with real heart and a sense of fun, this movie delivers.
The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (2018) Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante. Written by Scotty Mullen. Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Dolph Lundgren, Vivica A. Fox, Chris Owen, Cassie Scerbo, Judah Friedlander, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tori Spelling.
9 Gummi Bears (out of 10)