Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark

(2007)

Feature debut from Taika Waititi (Oscar nominated short film Two Cars One Night), starring Jemaine Clement from Flight Of The Conchords.

Follows the romance of two grown up uber-nerds. Lily (Loren Horsley) is a fast-food cashier and Jarrod (Clement) works in an electronics store. As they strike up an awkward relationship, Jarrod becomes side tracked by his training – in preparation of taking on his former high-school bully (David Fane).

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Flicks Review

The feature debut from New Zealand’s great-film-hope Taika Waititi (the shorts Two Cars One Night and Tama Tu), Eagle Vs Shark is a genuinely funny (sometimes smirk inducing and sometimes hilarious), uber-geek romance.

Jermaine Clement (Flight Of The Conchords) plays Jarrod - one of the biggest knobs ever committed to film. For some reason the equally nerdy, but hopelessly romantic & determined Lily (Loren Horsley, who really shines and is the film’s biggest revelation) has got the hots for him. They strike up a romance of sorts, over computer games, awkward conversations, dress up parties and a road trip to Jarrod’s hometown – where he begins training up for a fight with his high school bully (the always great David Fane).

One of the film’s best attributes, and the one likely to divide audiences, is the Jarrod character. Waititi really pushes it; Jarrod’s not just a dick but a real dick. Thrashing wildly about for respect, Jarrod has delusions of grandeur and a big problem with his confidence in equal amounts. He’s harsh, rude, immature, obnoxious, selfish and pathetic. He’s awesome.

It’s obvious the joy Waititi gets in creating the film’s world. It’s very Wellington and very small costal town NZ - but all with a slant. Noticeably there’s no sponsorhip here, which makes for nice touches like the fictional fast food chain (Meaty Boys) and a Maori fighter in a Mortal Kombat styled game. There are also cutesy, but fantastic looking, stop frame animation excursions.

NZ drama is rooted in isolation and a certain detachment; silent, interior-types who struggle to communicate with one another. Similarly, Waititi has found humour – perhaps quintessentially NZ – in awkwardness, loneliness and character insecurities. In this way Eagle Vs Shark, is a giant step forward for NZ comedy and unlike any other.

Unfortunately, it also feels curiously derivative. There are strong similarities with recent ‘new wave’ American comedies. The geek-dom resemblance to Napoleon Dynamite has been mentioned enough already, but probably more accurate is that both films take much from Wes Anderson’s earnest, deadpan characters and cartoon-strip like framing. These are the film’s most overt influences, and it isn’t a bad thing necessarily - everything is borrowed – it’s just very obvious here. But it makes for an interesting skew on this NZ experience, and Waititi succeeds to some desgree in making it his own.

The film loses its way towards the end in trying, I think, too hard to push an emotional resonance. Moments surrounding the climax of the romance and Jarrod’s problems with his family, were overly serious. The earnestness and sweetness is cranked up, and it comes off a tad corny: “life is hard but in between the hard bits there are some lovely bits”. It was a fun enough ride without the message. In the same manner, the ‘quirk’ factor is amped up throughout and at times feels self-conscious.

Because it’s a joy, it’s funny and has a strong independent spirit, I reckon it will be the first local film to be embraced by young NZers. Just having a film like Eagle Vs Shark made – that is, a NZ film that’s very much a product of this generation – is very exciting. Perhaps more exciting though, is to see what Waititi does next.

Reviewed by Paul Scantlebury.


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 20 ratings, 20 reviews
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BY Phil9526 nobody

I found this to be a deeply depressing movie. Jermaine Clement's character was not a geek but suffered from Asbergers Syndrome. (Check it online - he has every symptom - monotonous delivery; expressionless face; completely egocentric; unable to read others body language; socially awkward; obsessive; habitually talks "at" rather than "to" people). These are unhappy morose people who are generally unpleasant to be around. To call this movie a comedy is incomprehensible to me. (Maybe I'm too... More mature?)Hide


Speaking as person who lives in NZ, has never been interested in watching FotConchords and had never even heard of this movies release before it was given to me as a birthday present i have to say i am proud to be a New Zealander after viewing. Yes - its similarities to Napolean Dynamite can be frustrating at times but with such great acting Clement and Horsley present on screen should it matter? I thoroughly enjoyed everything from the obvious New Zealand beauty landscape to the fresh,... More relaxing tunes of The Phoenix Foundation. Definitely a Taika Waititi fan now - Thanks :)Hide


It's high time that a 'contemporary' comedy film come from NZ. We've been so behind the times with comedy that E v S is a first in decades. And yes, it's no different from many other quirky films, but Napoleon Dynamite is not the first either, as there are plenty of quirky comedy Indie films that came before. The fact of the matter is that this is a first for US in NZ - finally we're catching up with the times. Whether we like the humour or not, the director still took risks and pushed the... More boundaries of dorkism and geekism - and that's a good thing because us kiwis play it too safe and too bland.

You also have to remember, it's a Maori dealing with comedy and humour for once instead of depicting wailing funeral scenes - and that's got to be a good thing to show the versitilty and other aspects of being Maori. I was really glad not to see a tangi or anyone getting bashed - instead it's a good old laugh and a total piss take, it's supposed to be over the top and silly.

Although I prefer my movies with heavier substance, there is always a place for these kinds of movies too.

By the way Anonymous, that's terrible about your dad, why don't you get in touch with the makers? Ring the NZFC to get a hold of them.Hide


ok this simple movie typically nz was made in my dads backyard at 38 owhiti st, titahi bay porirua. they did not even give my dad anything to use the property cheap wanks. and i watched them make it and i just thought if this is what it takes to make a film then i could win a bloody oscar for my making a film.


an engaging movie occupationally misplaced girl falls for immature geek and loves him enuf to let him grow up


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The Press Reviews

  • Sweet-natured, modest in its intentions, and almost defiantly whimsical... Full Review

  • 1/2 It's a gem of geek love in Aotearoa with some virtuoso performances of awkwardness from its two leads, Loren Horsley and Jemaine Clement. This could well be New Zealand's first arthouse rom-com... Full Review

  • Presumably, these characters are meant to be appealing in their ordinariness, but just seem inane. The Farrelly Brothers can get away with it because their writing is smart, even if their characters aren't. For Waititi, who developed the screenplay at the Sundance Lab, wisdom consists of lines like, "life is full of hard bits but in between there are lovely bits"... Full Review

  • It’s just not that funny... If watching adults behaving like stunted emotional fcukwits, while spotting bits of Wellington, for an hour and a half is your idea of fun, you should go... Full Review

  • Although the film is undermined far more as a Michel Gondry cribbage than a Napolean Dynamite proxy, it at once underlines itself culturally with a soft-spoken modesty, and belies its own shyness as a confident, assured piece of moviemaking... anyone seeking an antidote to the buffoonery (and indeed, Auckland-ness) of Sione’s Wedding, its appeal will be immense... Full Review

  • 1/2 Eagle versus Shark will either hit the bulls eye for some, or miss the dartboard completely for others... Full Review

  • Some light laughs ensue and loner protagonists possess an offbeat appeal, but the 30ish characters, Kiwi accents and profoundly twee nature place a large question mark over its commercial prospects with the “Napoleon” demographic... Full Review

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