It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
By every strand of available human logic, Sharknado 2: The Second One should be terrible. This sequel was born out of an irrepressible hype machine, which in turn fueled a maelstrom of social media chaos, which in turn fueled equally fierce love and hate, both ironic and sincere. Where countless made-for-SyFy movies before it had disappeared into the ether of cable television schlock, Sharknado exploded into a hashtag feeding frenzy that threatened to swallow the Internet whole, like the shark that absorbed Ian Ziering and his chainsaw.
To top it all off, the Sharknado hype was completely justified. It was a B-movie that not only knew it was a B-movie but loved that about itself. It delivered enough cheek about its low expectations while heightening its absurdity to perfectly ridiculous levels. As I said this time last year (we were so young then), all Sharknado needed to fulfill the ludicrous promise of its bombastic name was a tornado of sharks. Everything else—from John Heard taking out sharks with a barstool to a girl named “Nova” bombing a tornado from a helicopter—was just a bonus.
So as a sequel to a low-budget cult movie, Sharknado 2: The Second One had an incredibly hard job. It couldn’t pretend like the first wasn’t a pop culture phenomenon, but it also couldn’t be too self-aware—as Birdemic 2 learned the hard way. Sharknado 2 had to acknowledge that it got a larger budget, but keep the edges rough enough so it didn’t look like an actual movie. It had to wink at us, but still stay true to its straight-up stupid roots. It would have to walk a tightrope, which seemed like an impossible thing to ask of a movie that bludgeoned Los Angeles to death with a tornado of hammerheads. The more I heard about this sequel, in fact, the more I resigned myself to disappointment. I looked upon its thousands of celebrity cameo announcements and despaired. It seemed inevitable that the movie I loved for its unapologetic nonsense would absorb the hype, backlash, and semi-ironic backlash to the backlash to emerge as a bloodless symbol of all that truly sucks about sequels.
But then Sharknado 2 sent Tara Reid dangling for her life out the side of a plane, shooting haphazardly and screaming bloody murder at the sharks whipping past until one realized it could just end this thing by biting her hand clean off, and I knew resistance was futile.
Yes, it’s a blatant attempt to top the aforementioned moment of the original Sharknado, where 90’s second-stringer Ian Ziering chainsaws his way out of a shark that just happens to be the same one that swallowed his love-interest turned daughter-in-law not five minutes before. In fact, there’s a pervasive feeling throughout that this sequel is trying with all its might to top that moment, and despite many scenes with outcomes just as absurd, none can beat the pure pleasure of that moment. But damn if Sharknado 2 doesn’t have more fun trying.
The key is that everyone involved plays it perfectly straight. Ian Ziering’s Fin (Fin!) is the same implausible hardened surfer hero as before, albeit this time with a bonus shark tooth necklace that he presumably wears as a reminder of that harrowing time he spent a day setting retirement home pools on fire and making out with his ex-wife through shark guts. Said ex-wife Tara Reid does get more to do here; her character has a new classy wardrobe and a hit book called How To Survive A Sharknado, despite not contributing even at all to surviving said sharknado. The movie then recruits plenty of new faces that all take their sharknado experiences just as seriously, whether that face belongs to beloved Airplane! star Robert Hays or Sugar Ray’s own Mark McGrath. Matt Lauer and Al Roker keep us updated on the sharknado’s progress with grave concern. Judah Friedlander geeks out over former Mets player Richard Kind, and Mayor Robert Klein assures Ian Ziering that he’s a New Yorker now. Most impressive is Vivica A. Fox, who plays Ian Ziering’s ex with a level of intensity that rivals Vivica A. Fox in Kill Bill. None of these cameos have an ounce of irony in them, which is a refreshing change of pace for such blatant stunt casting.
And then there are the sharks.
Sharknado 2, bless its heart, isn’t content with unleashing the same bout of hell on New York City that Los Angeles got in the first installment. This time, our heroes face sharks with an unprecedented level of intelligence and furor. They face sewer sharks, subway sharks, electrified sharks, and flaming sharks. Tara Reid even tells Ian Ziering through what I think are terrified eyes that the shark responsible for her lost hand “knew” it was her—which would indeed be impressive, seeing as both she and shark were flying at thousands of miles an hour at the time. (Tara Reid is also responsible for one of the best laugh-out-loud moments of the entire movie when she narrowly avoids a shark skidding down a flight of stairs and lets out a whimpering, “Eeeeuuuuugggaaaahhhhhhh.”)
Since this is Sharknado 2, there are also two sharknados that threaten to collide and create what Al Roker dubs “a storm of biblical proportions.” Ian Ziering parkours his way between both sharks and his unresolved feelings for—I mean, about—his former best friend Mark McGrath. All the while, Ian Ziering’s sister and Mark McGrath’s wife (Kari Wuhrer) dodges both sharks and the Statue of Liberty’s rogue head. Continuity and logic jumps are still consistent, as one could expect from a franchise that explained away sharknados with, “because global warming.” For one, Ian Ziering and company are always trying to help people escape the imminent ‘nado, but tend to do so by convincing them to leave their closets and fortified restaurants to run about the streets of Manhattan, where a shark inevitably decapitates them. Ian Ziering and company at some point should consider the possibility that they’re the problem. Experiencing a sharknado might be like getting struck by lightning, where it just makes you more likely to get hit again.
Sure, the final twist involving both Ian Ziering’s trusty steed shark and Tara Reid’s missing hand might be a bridge too far even for Sharknado. Still, it highlights the fact that this sequel doesn’t rest on its predecessor’s success. It pushes its own outlandish boundaries and incorporates the previous movie’s hype without it choking the action at hand. And as our heroes Ian Ziering and Tara Reid make out once again through attempts at tears and faces full of shark guts, there’s no denying that Sharknado 2 does everything it was supposed to do. Looking for logic in Sharknado 2 is like looking for depth in a Britney Spears song; depth was just never the point. So all we can hope for with something like Sharknado 2 is that it might have the good grace to have Ian Ziering surf on a great white through a monster tornado only to land square on a skyscraper spire, or to replace Tara Reid’s lost hand with a buzzsaw (the better to slice sharks in half with, my dear). There’s no reason why any of these words should make sense together, but hey. This is Sharknado. Very little about it will ever make sense, and that’s exactly the way it should be.
- Currently investigating the possibility that the Sharknado franchise takes place in an alternate universe where social media doesn’t exist. The plane landing through a hailstorm of sharks alone would have inspired millions of sunset Instagrams.
- R.I.P. Vivica A. Fox’s Skye. You were too beautiful for this crazy, sharknado’ed world.
- It must be said that “GET THAT CAMERA OUT OF MY FACE!” is unconvincing coming from Ian Ziering.
- I know I said I don’t care about logic in this movie, but I draw the line at Ian Ziering saying he can’t check on his brother-in-law and nephew at the Mets game because he doesn’t have a ticket.
- Mark McGrath’s family was aggressively delightful, as in it was aggressive how much the movie wanted us to find them delightful. You can hug and take selfies all you want, guys, but you should know that Gossip Girl’s Brooklyn Humphreys tried this tactic already and it was a bust.
- I do enjoy how the New Yorkers studiously avoid looking at sharks just feet away from them until it was too late, like the sharks are the homeless or something.
- The biggest laugh aside from Tara Reid’s whimper was when Matt Lauer was giving an update and the wind smacked an octopus against the window, just because it could.
- “Holy shark!” – Academy Award nominee Judd Hirsch.
- “Why are you coming down?” “Flaming sharks.” Obviously.