It’s hard to imagine that Rob Stewart could top his award-winning debut film, Sharkwater. After all, it won over 35 awards at film festivals around the world and changed how many people view sharks. It was the motivation for numerous countries to place bans on shark fins and inspired an army of young people to take up the cause.
Even so, Sharkwater Extinction takes audiences on an even more thrilling and inspirational ride than the first movie. We go on an adventure with Rob as he investigates the reason why up to 150 million sharks are disappearing each year, resulting in a 90 percent decrease in the past 30 years of the world’s shark population.
It’s easy to feel an emotional connection to Rob, whose calm demeanor and optimism for the future never waver. Amazingly, when he goes out on a boat trip with Mark the Shark – an Australian shark hunter who takes people out on the ocean to catch sharks and pose with them for a fee, Rob quietly talks to Mark about what he’s doing. The only time we hear even a tiny bit of Rob’s anguish at what’s happening is when Mark admits the sharks don’t usually survive being hooked, pulled onto a boat and photographed. Rob asks, “And that’s okay with you?”
Meanwhile, Madison Stewart (no relation), known as Australia’s Shark Girl, is on hand to unhook the shark from the lines once he’s been caught and brought on board the ship. After the shark is freed, she’s visibly shaken, saying she doesn’t understand why someone would want to catch and basically kill a shark, for no reason other than to say they’ve done it.
Rob’s ability to detach from his emotions when faced with a shark killer, or thousands of dead sharks seized from poachers, with fins lying on docks or in warehouses, is astonishing. As his cinematographer Andy Brandy Casagrande IV explains, “Rob was able to transform and put himself seemingly in another state of mind in order to maximize the mission -- the effectiveness of what he was trying to accomplish. In this case, he was trying to get inside the head of the world’s greatest shark murderer and try to understand why he would do that… He had a bigger picture.”
Even more than Rob’s first film, Sharkwater Extinction inspires us to want to be part of the effort to save sharks and other ocean creatures. Rob explains in the film that this is the most important thing we need to consider at the moment, because without sharks, the ecology of the ocean will not be sustainable. Without the ocean, humans will die.
Also, as he discovers, shark is being fed not only to pets in well-known brands of pet food, and placed in brand name cosmetics, but it’s being fed to humans under different names, such as “flake” and “rock salmon.” Rob also reveals that the mercury levels in sharks are incredibly dangerous if ingested by humans.
The action in the movie is non-stop. Although Rob faced danger several times in the first film -- including running from shark poachers and battling flesh-eating disease in a hospital -- this one is even more action-packed -- and heart-breaking. Rob and his team basically go undercover and at times, on the run from the dangerous people who make money from illegally killing sharks.
In one part of the film, as Rob’s wandering with a camera on docks where fishermen are unloading sharks, he’s described as “bold as brass” by another man standing on the dock. He definitely seems fearless as he talks to anyone and everyone about what they’re doing with sharks, why they’re catching sharks and where they’re taking them. He films most of this as well -- even when he’s warned to shut the camera off, he puts it down, but keeps it rolling so we can hear what’s going on and still catch a glimpse here and there.
Many who watched Sharkwater were inspired to join Rob in his fight to save sharks. An anthem for a new generation, this will undoubtedly inspire a new crop of activists and leave the audience with an even greater respect for the heroic mission Rob Stewart was on.
5 stars out of 5. ~Alexandra Heilbron for showtimes.com
Sharkwater Extinction opens in Canada on October 19, 2018.
Click here to watch interviews with members of Team Sharkwater, who worked with Rob Stewart on Sharkwater Extinction.