Sure, sure. Sympathize with the girls if you want. I’m more interested in the shark.
The overgrown fishstick we meet here is obviously being punished by the ocean’s great shark king, or possibly Aquaman, for some horrific past deed. Did it rob an underwater bank? Eat more than its fair share of chum? The film cleverly hides the truth from us, allowing us instead to speculate. We only know the end result: Banished from the 24 to 75-degree coastal water great whites generally prefer, this shark—we’ll just call her Betsy—is stuck in the 80-something-degree water of the Yucatan and presumably sweating like crazy.
But bath-temperature seawater is not punishment enough for our poor shark. Nooooo. Aquaman forces Betsy to swim in the perpetually dark confines of sunken Mayan ruins—locked in a maze of Mexican caves and at least partly filled, presumably, with fresh water.
Generally, great whites like salt water ever so much better than fresh water, given that fresh water tends to kill them. But Betsy’s low-sodium environs seem to agree with her. Indeed, she’s adopted well to the ruins’ aquarium-tight confines and low-light décor—so well that her eyeballs have evolved to the point of being milky balls of worthlessness.
And with that, ironically, the picture of Betsy’s plight becomes ever so much clearer. Betsy wasn’t guilty of offending Aquaman. No, it was her great-great-great-great-however-long-great-white-sharks-live grandfather who besmirched Betsy’s fishy family tree. The whole clan was banished to these sunken Mayan ruins and has developed its own unique great white civilization over the centuries—coping with too-warm, too-fresh, pitch-black waters and wiling away the days as splinter cells of great white sharks might: swimming.
Oh, perhaps they also sing and hold philosophy discussions and play shark games with one another that we earthbound creatures can’t comprehend—a shark form of Whist, perhaps—because how would we know they don’t? But certainly swimming would still be a big part of their everyday to-do list. And that, you’d think, would get a little boring.
Is it any wonder that Betsy and her cartilaginous cohorts were excited to receive some unexpected visitors? Should we be surprised that they—like dogs left inside for too long—grew a bit overly enthusiastic at the sight of company? Can we really blame the sharks—starved as they were for attention and affection—for embracing these strange, fragile bipedal creatures with the only part of their bodies remotely capable of embrace? Their mouths?
Sure, it’s a bit of tough luck for the women involved. But don’t blame the sharks. Blame Aquaman.
It’s hard to know if the sharks learn any lessons in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, but the humans sure do. (Assuming some survive.)
Four women go down to the inky, ruin-encrusted, shark-infested depths, but the movie mainly wants us to focus on two of them: Mia and Sasha. They’re stepsisters settling into a blended family, and when the film opens, they’re none too happy with each other’s company. They don’t hate each other, exactly, but Mia is unpopular at school, and Sasha worries that her awkward new relative will pull her own status down to the briny depths. But as the film goes on, the teens grow to appreciate and even love one another, risking their limbs and lives to safeguard each other. They become sisters in more than name.
Humans also learn to not sneak off to flooded subterranean ruins; not to explore said ruins without a modicum of forethought (and perhaps a spare air tank); not to knock over ruinous pillars; not to panic if a ruinous pillar should be knocked over; and not to get eaten by sharks. Admittedly, these lessons come a bit too late for some. On the plus side, moviegoers will now have a much better idea of how to handle the appearance of blind, freshwater, ruin-inhabiting great white sharks should they encounter them.
The subterranean Mayan ruins were meant to represent (for the ancient Mayan builders) the underworld known as Xibalba—a gloomy place inhabited by a variety of death gods and their servants. We see an altar and are told that human sacrifices took place there. (The ruins weren’t flooded when the Mayans were living there.)
We hear a couple of references to evolution.
The four females at the center of this watery film wear, as you might expect, bathing suits. They’re fairly revealing bikinis, flaunting everything you might expect a bikini to flaunt. And while the womens’ torsos are sometimes covered up by vests and breathing apparatuses, we still see lots of legs waving about in the water. We hear a reference to a secret male-female rendezvous. Two women make joking comments about their respective rear ends.
One word: sharks.
We see them do what sharks do. Repeatedly. The creatures zip through and sometimes leap out of the water to grab their quarry, and blood billows through the water like hemoglobic smoke. Several people die, as we might expect: The filmmakers throw extras into the plot like chum, apparently just for this purpose. We don’t see as many floating, disembodied limbs as we might expect, though. Indeed, I hardly remember any. We do see the partly-eaten face of an unfortunate victim. (The dining shark in question, given that his mouth is roughly six times that of the picked-at head, must’ve been a particularly dainty eater.)
The wounds on the living are more gruesome. We see a horrific shark bite around one woman’s midsection. Another has several bloody, ragged puncture bites on her leg (along with plenty of bleeding scratches on her arm, as well).
Someone drowns. A couple of people fall from a pretty significant height into a body of water. A huge, tornado-like underwater current pulls at—and nearly kills—divers. Mayan ruins are filled with ancient bones and skulls. A shark meets its end via flare gun. Another is attacked and stabbed repeatedly with, oddly, a shark tooth. Someone’s pushed into a pool. Bloody chum gets dumped into the water to attract, um, sharks.
Even though most of the movie takes place underwater, our characters were surprisingly chatty. One s-word may have been uttered during a moment of extreme stress. We also hear “a–” and “h—” a couple of times, along with the word “crap.” God’s name is misused about 10 times.
Mia and Sasha’s parents may drink a bit of wine with dinner.
As mentioned, Sasha is not a particularly supportive sister at first, treating Mia as a corn on the bottom of her foot that she’d like to get removed. But they begin to bond over a bit of disobedience.
Their parents send them to spend a day on a glass-bottom boat (that specializes in great white shark viewing, naturally). But when Sasha’s friends show up and Mia spies a couple of bullies on the same boat, the two decide to take off for a secret cenote instead.
One of the friends (Alexa) tells her pals that it’s the entrance to the underground Mayan city—the same city that Mia and Sasha’s archaeologist father is investigating. In fact, he plans to take some scientists down for a tour in the next week or so. So the girls borrow the gear meant for the scientists and explore the ruins themselves, even though Mia and Sasha’s father forbade it earlier.
In the chaos that ensues, most of the teens help each other out—but one commits a selfish act that leads to tragedy. We see some bullies act like bullies.
“Mia, you are so much stronger than you think you are,” Mia’s stepmother tells her. So she is, and that’s great. But this movie is so much dumber than its makers want you to think it is. And that’s not so great.
I think sharks would enjoy 47 Meters Down: Uncaged more than humans might (assuming, of course, you could somehow get them to sit upright in the theater). They’d not be bothered or titillated by the movie’s substantial skin exposure. For them, the film’s blood and death would simply remind them of dinner. And while the movie doesn’t have much profanity (relatively speaking) they’d be incapable of understanding it anyway. And who knows? Perhaps they’d grasp the subtle complexities of the plot in a way Christian movie reviewers are incapable of. (They’re actually pretty smart, according to scientists. Sharks, that is.)
But for us bipedal, earthbound moviegoers, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a purpose-free, 90-minute time suck. If I were you, this is a movie I might swim on by, chum.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.