I am really starting to like this Mark Atkins guy. He directed the prequel called Planet of the Sharks and it wasn’t bad. It’s not necessary to view that one to understand this one, but a back to back viewing of Planet and Empire might make for an entertaining afternoon. The Asylum sharksploitation films are always a little bit slicker than your average bear. This one is no different. Also two words: kamikaze shark.
The film opens with the typical village a’floatin’ about the waterworld. We are probably about 15 years after Planet, and the earth is still a big fat flooded mess. A boat approaches with skeletons hanging about and at the helm, a tall skinny dude in a trenchcoat named Scrim. He demands tribute from the village in exchange for fresh water. The townsfolk have no more tribute to give so he takes some peeps hostage. Then comes the fun part. He has these VR gloves that control the sharks. He makes some feisty moves like a DJ on Sisters of Mercy night at the local goth dance club, and badda boom, the sharks eat a bunch of people. He is doing the bidding of evil warlord, Ian Fien, played by John Savage. Yah, that John Savage of The Deer Hunter and Hair. He’s a pretty accomplished actor who now finds himself in a sharksploitation film. To me, that is always an upgrade.
One of the hostages, Willow, has an amulet that controls the sharks that was given to her by her dead father. She just has no clue how to use it. Her friends gather a ragtag group of felons to stage a rescue attempt and overthrow Ian Fien. They try several methods such as hijacking the warlord’s kinetic machine that will replace slave labor to run the fresh water plant. That doesn’t quite work out. Willow tries to use her amulet to force the sharks to attack the bad guys. That also fails and now Ian Fien knows she knows how to potentially control sharks and puts a brain scam helmet on her to record her transmissions.
I know this sounds very complex but the bottom line comes down to a battle between the baddie and the blonde over who can telepathically make sharks eat the other one. After Ian Fien destroys her amulet, the movie becomes very Jedi and “The power resided in you all along!”-esque. The anti-climactic finale is predictable at best but hey, this ain’t The Deer Hunter. You want high brow drama, you won’t be watching shark movies.
I mentioned a kamikaze shark and by golly, I meant it. The best scene involves a Goblin shark and an explosive vest. Kudos for using a unique shark species while simultaneously doing something completely ridiculous. These are the moments I yearn for, folks.
If only to see John Savage wield VR gloves like he is waving in a 747 while grimacing like Ted Nugent in a Damn Yankees video, watch this movie. Both Empire and Planet are really entertaining and showcase the budget that The Asylum can spend on CGI sharks. The movies could definitely use more gore and a little more imagination but honestly, couldn’t they all? These have become a couple of my genre faves.
Director: Mark Atkins
Where to watch: Amazon Prime