4 Myths About The Ocean Movies Want Us To Believe
Welcome to Hollywood Myths, Cracked — our new series where we look at some of the blatant lies the Movie Illuminati keeps spreading through their films about cute little clownfish and murderous giant dino sharks. Others may be fooled by such fishy distractions, but not us! We can smell a barnacle on a boat a mile away and spot an ocean myth as good as a shark can spot a pair of milky feet sticks flapping over the edge of a surfboard.
So, let's dive in and debunk some movie myths about the great, wide ocean because movies sure aren't going to. For instance …
No, Sharks Don’t Jump Out Of The Water And Bite People Like That
As seen here:
Here at 2:25:
And, of course, spectacularly, here:
Yes, great white sharks off the South African coast are known to breach and catch fish, seals, and sometimes birds in the process, but humans? We're way too big for them to exert all that energy. Movies have never really been much for accuracy when it comes to sharks. Jaws famously made everyone afraid of summer beaches when shark attacks are, in fact, incredibly few and far apart. Films like The Reef and The Shallows portray sharks like the Psycho Stalkers of the ocean when it's extremely uncommon for them to remain in one location at a time or even follow a single target.
Besides, after many years of tasting us every now and then, they do not seem to have developed a liking for human meat. And speaking of The Shallows' inaccuracies, that shark would have been so stuffed from eating that dead whale — they can totally overeat, just like us — that it wouldn't have bothered with the less-fatty humans in the water. Heck, it probably would've been in a food coma and just floated away toward the deep sea, leaving Blake Lively to have a fun little surf and have a good cry about her mother.
Lastly, sharks won't ever survive in caves — caves are low-energy spaces, meaning there won't be nearly enough food for an apex predator like a great white as we saw in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged — and they also won't evolve (and so quickly) to develop any blind, white eyes.
We do have some deep water sharks on this planet of ours, but instead of those blind, freaky-looking white eyes, their eyes have evolved to be much bigger than your average shark, so they can catch as much light as possible down in darker waters.
These ocean beasts will always be as incredible as they are scary. Also, we'll just always enjoy seeing corny and ridiculous shark stuff like this, no matter how inaccurate:
So Many Characters Have Gotten The Bends (And Some Most Definitely Died)
Hey, remember how our three characters made it out at the end of Leviathan just for Ernie Hudson to then not escape from that mutated human-alien fish thing? Don't worry, we'll totally show you.
Sea movies are gnarly. You may be forgiven, however, for being slightly confused at that first part where our almost-survivors make for the ocean surface in those giant astronaut suits with a black screen flashing "Decompression" ever so often. See, here's a quick lesson on diving: When swimming down into the deep blue, divers inhale pressurized air in those gas tanks on their backs. The gasses — and specifically, in this case, nitrogen — dissolve into a diver's bloodstream where it's pretty harmless, as long as the weight of the water keeps the nitrogen nice and compressed. If not, and if a diver comes up to the surface too fast before the nitrogen has properly diffused out of their blood, the gas will form tiny bubbles with the volatility of a shaken soda can.
The deeper someone dives, and the quicker they ascend, the more shaken those bubbles in that can become (the can, of course, being our dumb fragile bodies). So yeah, that's not great and not what anyone wants. That is what is known as "the bends" — a terrible decompression sickness that you could literally die from.
Now, the people in Leviathan are deep-sea miners, and deep-sea mining happens anywhere between one and four miles below the ocean surface. That is a pretty long way, folks, and that means a really long way back up. In 47 Meters Down, the shark-cage diving movie where things go horribly wrong, and that cage falls to the bottom of the ocean, the diving instructor constantly tells the two cage divers that, in order to prevent the bends and not die, they need to swim up a little, and then wait for almost five minutes for the nitrogen to leave their blood before swimming up a bit again and repeating the exercise in 'How Not To Die From The Bends.' Imagine, please, having to do that for four freaking miles while some man-eating thing like this is chasing you:
Even if they somehow manage to do all of that, the movie really throws its good intentions out the window when they simply lose the suits right at the end. Because that, folks, is how you die. Hilariously, the one film that got it right and showed (pretty accurately) what would happen when a person ascends from such great depths is a little 1989 sci-fi B-movie called DeathStar Six:
The water pressure in the deep ocean is pretty darn impressive, and it explains those astronaut suits we see in movies like Leviathan and Underwater. It's because of the insane pressure down in the blue that this very correct (and also very unfortunate) scene of a defected helmet happened in Underwater, a movie that takes place in the Marianas Trench seven miles below the surface:
Because of the intense pressure the deeper down you go, a diver's descent is as important as the coming back up part. As an experienced diver told Discover Magazine: "One of the first things you learn is how to combat this pressure upon descent using equalization techniques. This is particularly important for the ears because if you reach a mere several meters down and fail to equalize any of that pressure pushing in, you can be dealing with a serious amount of pain, ruptured eardrums, and even irreversible hearing loss. So the only real way to avoid discomfort is to descend slowly and equalize as you go, and by slowly, I mean half a meter at a time."
Which is the exact opposite of what happens here:
Yeah, according to the experts, those two would be totally screwed. Their eardrums would be completely shot, which means they would also have some real struggles swimming around in search of rescue. Not even to mention the fact that they would run out of air way faster than the movie depicts because the deeper down a diver goes, the higher the volume of oxygen they consume. But, you know, accuracy is for actual science movies, we guess.
There Just Can't Be Huge And Dangerous Sea Monsters Deep Down In The Ocean
Remember when we mentioned how caves are low-energy spaces and would therefore be a terrible habitat for a great white shark to get enough food supply? The deep ocean is pretty much the same, you guys. Movies like The Meg and Underwater all center their tall tales around some dormant giant sea creature down in the Marianas Trench that finally gets unleashed onto the great wide ocean and also humanity. We just have to be the center of everything, don't we?
Anyway, like a marine biologist told The Ringer about the possibility of huge sea creatures lurking down in the deep: "There's just not enough energy down there for them. The bigger you are, you need a lot of calories. And there's just not that much productivity in a deep-sea environment to be able to support big organisms. Also, the bigger you are, you feed farther down on the food chain. Think of whales. Whales are the biggest thing in the ocean, but they feed on little tiny plankton, krill, and things like that. And they need to be feeding on these little tiny things because you need a lot of it to support their massive size."
Those giant sea monsters would need a steady and also pretty massive supply of deep-sea miners to live off, and it would probably still not be enough to sustain them, what with our bony behinds. The rule is simple: You can't be gigantic and also be at the top of the food chain. Not even close.
Of course, "giant man-eating sea monsters can't survive in the deep" isn't necessarily the good news you might think it is. It simply means the dangerous apex species would roam closer to the surface, nearer to us.
Even then, though, these "mythological giant sea serpent monsters" often spotted in the wild by your average YouTuber Joe with a subpar camera are probably nothing more than a whale's giant penis.
Speaking of things that can't fit in the Marianas Trench …
No One Seems To Know Anything About The Megalodon
Conspiracy theorists-types and also just thrill-seekers, we guess, have convinced themselves that there may still be a Megalodon or two out there in the deep blue sea. Of course, it really didn't help when Discovery Channel aired a fake documentary questioning the Megalodon's extinction back in 2013 because, despite their brief disclaimer that the doccie was a work of fiction, many people took it as truth. People just seem to really want to believe in giant sea monsters.
Again, that was all fiction, and the "experts" were nothing more than paid actors, but don't you tell that to TruthSeekDeezNuts_12 and friends. Said Jeff Kurr, a director for Discovery Channel: "I would say that there's a 0% chance that there's a Meg out there, only because we would have encountered one, we would have seen it … You hear a lot of stories out there circulating around, but it's like UFOs … And there's just so many boats out there and people with cameras."
Right you are, Jeff. We only know about the previous existence of Megalodons because of fossil records that put them on the evolution timeline between 2.6 million and 15 million years ago. We have those fossil records because we have their teeth. Sharks are notorious for shedding teeth like we humans shed hair. Ergo, if there were still Megalodons out there, we'd have way more fresh Meg teeth floating around or getting stuck in half-eaten whales.
The Marianas Trench would also be way too small to harbor a Megalodon. Fossils of these gargantuan sharks (which The Meg says grow up to 90 feet, but evidence suggests that to be more in the 50-60 feet range) are found in much more shallow and warmer waters. So, you know, the exact opposite habitat of the Marianas.
Sure, it's The Meg, a movie that went as big as its supposed subject and showed a Megalodon chomp a whale like a breadstick and annihilate a diving cage that we are specifically told is "unbreakable." None of that would be possible with a jaw like the one these giant sharks actually had, but you know Hollywood. The bigger, the better — and they can always just pay some scientist to consult without adding any of it to their movie.
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Thumbnail: Universal Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures