Despite its stale, one-note joke, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming proves the franchise's inane silliness can still be counted on for some cheap laughs.
The fact that there's nothing new to say about Sharknado 5: Global Swarming says a lot about Syfy's long-running, tongue-in-cheek franchise. At this point, most people watching (much less those tasked with writing about it) have been worn down and gradually come to expect, if not fully anticipate its existence, which probably works in the made-for-TV movie's favor. Whether or not there is anything left in the tank when it comes to discussing the fifth installment – especially on a night when there is a new episode of Game of Thrones, a new season of Ray Donovan, as well as the ongoing wonder of Twin Peaks' return to television – remains to be seen.
If such a thing actually exists, one of the more pressing questions about Global Swarming is whether or not making a fifth entry into the Sharknado franchise is doing a disservice to Syfy. The Sharknado films are a remnant of the network's history that the powers that be might want to forget, as the recent network "reboot" promised a greater emphasis on genre entertainment of a higher quality, focusing on shows like 12 Monkeys, Wynonna Earp, Killjoys, The Expanse, The Magicians and so on, and less reliance on oceanic predator/weather phenomenon mashups. At a certain point, the arrival of another faux meteorological event in the form of a Sharknado seems to be working at cross purposes in terms of the network's efforts to reposition itself and its original content in this era of Peak TV.
Then again, as live viewing becomes less and less important to viewers – particularly viewers who might get an ironic kick out of watching Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, and a gaggle of C-level celebrity cameos doing battle with shabbily rendered sharks and weather effects – having an event that's sure to trend on social media gives Syfy the kind of advantage most networks don't see too often nowadays. Sharknado is all about tweets and, as far as social media attention goes, fear of missing out. That turns the TV movie into a rare social media supernova that burns brightly for brief moment before the inevitable darkness of viewing regret sets in.
This time around, though, Sharknado has something more to offer viewers. As the subtitle suggests, Syfy's taking the fishy cyclone international, offering a bevy of guest stars and recognizable locations ready to be truly distinguished with an appearance in a Sharknado movie. And the result may be one of the silliest adventures in the Sharknado franchise yet, as Gil, the son of Ziering's Fin, is sucked into a Sharknado and trapped there as it wreaks havoc across the globe.
It's sort of amazing watching something as ridiculous as Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, having no idea what the hell is going on and for it not matter one bit. To its credit, the movie – like all the Sharnknado movies – is meant to be half-watched, half-tweeted about. The prospect of viewing Sharknado without simultaneously tweeting (or snapchatting, or whatever) about it would actually diminish the viewing experience. Social media acts as a barrier of sorts, keeping the viewer from being completely alone with the movie, as that might have serious side effects. As a result, Sharknado is assembled in a series of potentially shareable moments connected by the thinnest narrative tissue possible.
Global Swarming is as much of a cameo factory as any of the other installments in this inexplicable franchise. This time, however, it offers up the likes of Geraldo Rivera as a steampunk dirigible pilot, Olivia Newton-John and her daughter Chloe Lattanzi as a pair of scientists who rebuild Reid's robotic April Wexler, and Fabio as the Pope (sadly not as a spoof on The Young Pope, since that would likely be a step too far for this movie), who bestows Fin with a Sharknado-fighting weapon that barely functions as a plot device, let alone rationalizes the existence of Pope Fabio. In keeping with established tradition, the joke of these cameos goes further with more celebrities playing themselves, including Kathy Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Bret Michaels, Tony Hawk, and more.
Like all the other Sharknado movies, Global Swarming walks well over the line of self-parody into outright awfulness, and after five of these, I guess that's sort of the point? Nothing makes sense because it doesn't have to, which gives the story the freedom to do whatever the hell it wants. But operating without restrictions also turns Sharknado into something as formless and nonsensical as its titular storm. There's some enjoyment to be had in watching the nonsense unfold and to join the parade of voices expressing incredulity over Chris Kattan's English accent, Dolph Lundgren being Fin's time-traveling son, or the fact that the movie doesn't really end it just sort or runs out of time and promises (or threatens) there will be more.
In the end, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming is kind of the perfect movie for 2017. Nothing remotely makes sense, and nobody seems too bothered by it.
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming definitely happened on Syfy.