I’ve been a longtime watcher of of the SyFy network – back to when it was Sci-Fi (please go back and shoot the MBA marketing execs who came up with the idea to change – if they are still around).
It’s good that the network, over the last two years, seems to have rediscovered its science fiction roots and moved away from the Gen X/Millennial teen vampire/werewolf/freakazoid material it had become stuck in. “Dark Matter,” “The Expanse,” “Killjoys” and “Hunters” are all quite enjoyable.
One thing it hasn’t moved away from is its idiotic made-for-the-network movies. I’m not talking about cheap Hollywood fare or even straight-to-disc B movies but rather the movies that the network commissions.
Nothing illustrates this better than the month-long obsession with “shark” movies — not “Jaws” mind you but a series of execrably bad made-for-SyFy films. It culminates with the latest “Sharknado” movie. These started as parodies and have morphed into parodies of parodies of parodies.
The SyFy movies, shark-themed or not, are uniformly bad. It’s as if they were written to be bad. Again, I’m not talking about movies where the film-makers try their best but due to lack of money, talent, skill, etc. the movies are simply cheap, that has been the science fiction modus operandi for decades, and many of us grew up and cherish it.
Rather these movies seem to try to be bad. Perhaps it’s my imagination but there looks to be a conscious attempt by the actors to deliver their lines with a sneer or extra dollop of haminess. Decent actors become chumps and the mediocre don’t even register.
The scripts are badly written, rife with cliches piled upon cliches. Yes, these types of movies are limited in their plots but that doesn’t preclude putting a little thought or originality into the movie. However, there’s nary an original thought in them. The villain is almost never the giant or microscopic bug, the alien or the bad guys but inevitably a hypergreedy yet soulless corporation or the CIA/Pentagon (never the other parts of Big Government like the EPA or CDC). Often there is very little “science” attempted.
The dialog feels like it was written by a 14-year-old raised on comic books, cartoons and sitcoms.
The characters and their dynamics are not much more original. The hero is almost always a single/divorced down-on-his-luck male in his mid-30s or 40s who was drummed out of the military or some job, taking a fall that they didn’t deserve. Three quarters of the time they are forced to team up with the ex-wife/ex-girlfriend. God forbid if there are kids involved. The whole movie can then revolve around rescuing the kids from whatever Perils of Pauline predicaments they stumble into.
The politics are invariably liberal – “climate change” being often deployed to explain whatever is happening. Businesses are always suspect and likely to have caused whatever the malevolence that is happening. Big government is good, other than the CIA and Pentagon. Overweening bureaucrats from the EPA or CDC are always helpful. More regulation by pointy-headed people with degrees from MIT or Cal Tech is always a recipe for solving the problem.
Republicans and conservatives are invariably bad — usually some caricature. “Free spirit” hippie types and other outsiders are always noble. Their wacky behavior or theories might have been laughed at in the past but they’ll get the last laugh.
Strangely, in an era where special effects have gotten ridiculously cheap, and very good, the effects in SyFy movies are shockingly uneven. A nicely realized creature might be screened in inconsistent scale or poorly rendered foregrounds/backgrounds.
And it goes on. You have to try to consistently make movies that bad.
One last note on SyFy — please spare us the liberal propaganda PSAs. For instance, I don’t think most energy used in cleaning clothes is used to heat the water. The water is not heated by the washer and I can attest from practice that always using cold water does not work just the same.