I watched the first Sharknado in a theater, drunk and surrounded by friends. It was impossible not to love, with every moment of laughter shared and amplified by a sold-out crowd of likeminded fanatics.
For the next one — the aptly titled Sharknado 2: The Second One — I couldn't wait for the theater experience. I had to watch it on its premiere night. The only problem: I was coming home late from an event. By the time I got situated on the couch, everyone on Twitter had finished their volley of one-liners and my girlfriend was fast asleep. We were also completely out of beer. Still, I had to watch it before going to bed. I put down my laptop and clutched a Diet Coke.
Why can't I enjoy this? Is my brain too alert? Sharknado 2 is just a bigger version of the first, but take out booze and social media, and it's a much harder experience to stomach.
It's not that I was surprised by the terrible acting or utter lack of coherent plot. That isn't the point, of course. But to summarize really quickly: a sharknado hits New York while Fin and April (Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, the only two holdovers from the first film) are visiting friends. Something something something; chaos ensues.
The film is completely self-aware. But where Sharknado only accepted its B-movie status; Sharknado 2 embraces it full on. The cameos are so numerous as to outnumber deaths by shark. I'm sure I missed a few, but just imagine a world where Andy Dick is a cop, Billy Ray Cyrus is a doctor, and Kurt Angle is a fire chief. A world where Al Roker has to make some scientific sense of a water funnel full of sharks. Can a B-movie sequel be too bloated?
When the sharks did attack, and the New York population fought back, it was a thing of beauty. From the beginning, every minute, practically on the minute, ups the ante: a Kelly Osbourne cameo (0:30), a book written by Tara Reid (1:30), LIGHTNING FLASHES REVEALING A SILHOUETTE OF A SHARK IN THE CLOUDS (2:30). Time until sharks: about five or six minutes, following a Twilight Zone homage.
The actions scenes where the humans find unique ways to defend themselves are amazing, in any context. But far too often I got antsy and frustrated when the action was curtailed by slow moments of drama and cheesy soliloquies. If it were live, I'd have found solace in hashtags, but I was alone and disconnected, time-shifted from the real laughs that already happened elsewhere.
Was that Billy Ray Cyrus who fixed Tara Reid's achy breaky arm? #Sharknado2TheSecondOne— Mark Caswell, Jr. (@MarkCaswellJr) July 31, 2014
Somewhere around the time Biz Markie shows up as an old friend of Fin's and a pizza shop owner, I learned to let go. But the damage was done, and my opinion was irrevocably forming: This isn't good. I'm sorry. It isn't good.
Sharknado represents a moment where the internet-savvy portion of our culture reached its Singularity. It exists and is successful because we as a connected species thought the idea was so bizarre and brazen that we'd unite in our love for what everyone admitted outright is a stupid, stupid thing.
And frankly, it only works when we give into the meta world that we all made up for it. A world that only exists when we share the experience as a group, in theaters or online. And hopefully a little drunk.
So will I watch Sharknado 3? Absolutely. Under the right conditions. But I learned my lesson.