The Boat So Nice They Sank it Twice
Before you freak out, know that Titanic 2 is not a sequel to James Cameron's world-dominating 1997 blockbuster. That would be pretty cool though, wouldn't it? Imagine an expedition to the sunken ship in which scientists discover the zombified crew of the Titanic; a half-eaten-away Jack Dawson could fall in what passes for love among the undead with the sexy but vulnerable head diver--who would, of course, be Rose Dewitt Bukater's great-great-great-granddaughter. Zack Snyder could direct, with KNB working their Walking Dead magic on the practical makeup effects.
Think Resident Evil with bubbles.
That'll never happen. But at least we have this spectacularly ambitious, amazingly awful SyFy movie to cherish. Shane Van Dyke plays millionaire playboy Hayden Walsh, a blonde airhead whose greatest triumph is to be the successful launch of Titanic 2. Unlike the original doomed vessel, his ship is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and plenty of lifeboats. It's slick and unsinkable--never mind the clearly visible rust stains on the outside of the hull.
Hayden boards Titanic 2 minutes before departure with an entourage of FHM models. He runs into ex-girlfriend Amy (Marie Westbrook), who works as one of two (!) nurses on the ship, and their terse, awkward exchanges are so convincing that I was shocked to see them get back together when disaster strikes.
Sorry, should I have tagged those last items as spoilers? Yes, it's not long before Titanic 2 finds itself at the mercy of not one iceberg but a field of icebergs propelled by an 840-miles-per-hour mega-tsunami. Monitoring the storm from a helicopter are Coast Guard captain James Maine (Bruce Davison)--who happens to be Amy's father--and NOAA scientist Kim Patterson (Brooke Burns). They race against time to reach the doomed ship and keep Hayden and the sweaty captain (D.C. Douglas) from doing anything stupid.
It's a testament to Davison's fine acting abilities that Titanic 2 is intermittently gripping. None of the ship stuff works, but the scenes aboard the helicopter are quite good--mostly because Davison is great at playing the Concerned Father while coaching his daughter and her idiot ex over the radio. His face is sufficiently scrunched and sad, and I wonder how much of that is a combination of sense-memory and Method acting versus a day-by-day realization that he's starring in Titanic 2.
But, hey, no one's coming to this movie for the acting, right? It's all about the cool special effects and awesome body count! Let me iterate that this movie debuted on the SyFy Channel, the same bastion of quality CG effects that brought us Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Mansquito. There aren't any poorly compisited mutants in Titanic 2, but there are plenty of grade-school-project shots of the ship speeding through the ocean like cut-paper animation; not to mention the cracks forming on the face of the arctic ice shelves--which hilariously look like someone took a Sharpie marker and an animation camera to a still picture of an iceberg.
There are also a handful of scenes that are so dark that I couldn't tell what the hell was going on. I watched this movie on both a laptop and a high-resolution monitor, and no amount of tilting the screen and squinting could help define most of the underwater and trapped-in-the-bowels-of-the-ship shots. Perhaps this was a deliberate choice on Van Dyke's part (did I mention he also directed and wrote this gem?), because the ship's interiors don't stand up to a lot of visual scrutiny. Take, for example, the control panels on the high-tech escape vessels, which are clearly made of PVC pipe and papier-mâché.
I could spend hours picking apart all the wonderful little details that make Titanic 2 such a joy to watch. But I'm not one to deprive my readers of magic. So here are a few teaser-ific highlights:
- Amy's friend and fellow nurse, Kelly (Michelle Glavan) reads a book called The Original Titanic
- After the first iceberg assault, the crew herd the passengers onto elevators to get them to safety
- One passenger is a Mick Foley look alike who randomly beats up people during the panic
- Van Dyke gets a lot of mileage out of victims-tripping-on-stairs shots
- Amy uses a credit card and some tape to apply pressure to Kelly's gaping chest wound
- A submarine captain--parts of whose face disappear into the green-screen background--utters the catch-phrase-worthy, "Let's get this cigar smokin'!"
I get the feeling that Van Dyke and his entire cast and crew honestly believed they were making a solid motion picture. Similar to The Haunting of Winchester House, this film plays as if everyone involved (except for Davison) was making their first movie; the enthusiasm and incompetence overwhelm every frame like the most treasured Ed Wood classic. Titanic 2 fails on almost every measurable level, but the sincerity of the people behind it helps to make the movie a wholly satisfying entertainment experience. It's the best piece of shit I've seen in quite awhile.