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Movie Sharks: Into the Mouths of Madness

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The Shallows offers another glimpse into the mind of a bloodthirsty movie shark...

What’s this shark’s problem?

At the outset of The Shallows, Blake Lively’s Nancy Adams has no reason to believe she’s about to suffer through a gruelling shark ordeal. As the title suggests, her doomed day of surfing takes place in shallow waters. Joined by a pair of locals who appear to be familiar with this idyllic Mexican beach, Nancy has no way of knowing that danger is hiding just beneath the surface — until an impressively acrobatic shark takes a bite out of her leg. Nancy manages to stop the bleeding, but she soon finds herself stranded on a precarious rock formation. Even with high tide rapidly approaching, she has plenty of time to ponder one nagging question: What’s this shark’s problem?

While the bloodthirsty beasts in just about every shark movie share a few common traits (a single-minded focus on eating humans, an introspective disposition), their thought processes are left tantalizingly mysterious. From what little we know about the shark in The Shallows, it’s safe to conclude that this creature has (a) a tendency to showboat and (b) a grudge against surfers. Of course, that’s all conjecture. Try as we might, there’s no way to draw firm conclusions about the inner workings of a shark — but it never hurts to speculate. With that in mind, here’s a brief glimpse into the thinking of seven iconic and/or notorious movie sharks.

Jaws

The villain in Jaws seems to be on a one-shark crusade against Amity Island’s summer tourist trade. Gleefully targeting unsuspecting young swimmers, this creature comes into its own while doing battle with a much more experienced adversary: master shark hunter Quint. Rather than seek out easy pickings elsewhere, this shark’s pride causes him to risk death in order to take down the Orca and crush his nemesis in plain view of his helpless sidekicks.

Jaws 3-D

While the shark in Jaws 2 never veers far from the temperament of its predecessor, Jaws 3-D introduces a more family-oriented sea savage. After a young shark becomes a casualty of SeaWorld Orlando, its mother goes on a maternal rampage. This shark’s mission is cut short by a well-placed grenade, but not before she feeds her appetite for revenge.

Jaws: The Revenge

As the title suggests, the fourth Jaws movie again implies that sharks are vengeful creatures with impeccable memories — for events they didn’t even witness. When the original Jaws’ Ellen learns that a shark has eaten her son, she concludes that this is revenge for her late husband’s shark-hunting past. In fact, she believes this shark intends to consume her whole family.

Deep Blue Sea

“Brilliance” is not the first word that comes to mind when recalling Deep Blue Sea, but that’s exactly the trait that distinguishes this film’s genetically engineered sharks. Thanks to their newly expanded brains, these savage geniuses develop the know-how to use human bodies as battering rams. They also demonstrate impressive comic timing, eating Samuel L. Jackson’s Russell Franklin at the height of an inspirational pep talk.

Shark Tale

For once, we don’t have to guess what a movie shark is thinking, as the creatures in this animated film are able to freely speak their minds. This includes Lenny, a shark of rare conscience who refuses to assist in the gangster activities of his family. Even more boldly, he takes a dietary stand virtually unprecedented among sharks, pledging to live as a vegetarian.

Dinoshark

While it’s hard to believe the title Jurassic Shark was overlooked (another movie put it to good use two years later), this story of a shark with implanted dinosaur DNA makes up for that oversight with all kinds of far-fetched shark psychology. Among other intriguing revelations, we learn that dinosharks have an impractical attraction to topless women.

Sharktopus

If there’s one thing the U.S. Navy desperately needs, it’s a shark-octopus hybrid. Believe it or not, this ludicrous creature is an unacknowledged lift from 1984’s Devil Fish (aka Monster Shark). More than anything, this absurd beast is hungry for freedom — and tourists. Proving that even a sharktopus is capable of holding a grudge, this creature also intentionally munches its maker, Dr. Nathan Sands.

Jonathan Doyle writes about movies for Comedy, CTV, and Space.