Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writers: Dean Georgaris (screenplay by), Jon Hoeber (screenplay by)
Stars: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson
Right, I’ve got a couple of small admissions to make here before I start delving into my review of The Meg. Firstly, I’m not a big Jason Statham fan. He’s been doing practically the same stuff for nearly twenty years now and it usually bores me to tears. I don’t hate the guy or anything, but he doesn’t draw me to the mundane like a Dwayne Johnson might. Secondly, I’m a closet fan of the shark horror sub-genre. It’s for the latter reason that I’ve seen this film twice in the cinema following it’s release.
In all honesty, you’ll probably already know the general plot if you’ve ever seen anything resembling a shark film before. That’s not a negative either, it’s just a fact. I’ve seen people using this as a giant stick to beat The Meg with, but I’m genuinely perplexed as to what it is they were expecting. It’s going to be set in a large body of water, with humans in constant peril of being eaten alive. Unless the shark is the hero then what else can possibly happen in these films? That’s how Stephen put it on Box Office Chat this week and he’s right.
There’s a brief rescue mission takes place at the beginning, with Jonas (Jason Statham), a rescue diver, attempting to rescue scientists from a nuclear submarine. Things go a little pear shaped in the midst of said rescue and he has to bail with two still left inside after seeing the shape of a massive creature, bashing in the side of the vessel. This has ramifications for poor Jonas, of course, especially when the submarine explodes moments later and he’s accused of suffering from pressure-induced psychosis.
The film then jumps five years and changes perspective to a state of the art, underwater facility called Mana One. There’s a whole host of scientists and experts stationed there, with the intention of studying what may be a deeper section of the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on Earth. There’s Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), the man financing the operation; Dr. Zhang (Winston Zhao); Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor); Suyin (Li BingBing) and few others that may or may not get a mention. Needless to say, they send a small submersible craft down for a look, not long after Morris arrives at the facility.
And what they discover is both wondrous and rather terrifying in equal measures. There is indeed a further depth below a thermal, gaseous layer and the crew, led by Tori (Jessica McNamee), Jonas’ ex, find a host of exotic sea creatures beneath, including a 75ft, prehistoric shark with anger management issues and an insatiable desire to feed on human flesh. It attacks them immediately, leaving them stricken alone in the dark, and setting up a grand entrance for Jonas of the present day to come in to save the day. Zhang and ‘Mac’ (Cliff Curtis) are sent to persuade him and despite an apparent drinking problem, he’s in damn fine spirits.
It’s after the easy enough rescue of the majority of crew in the small craft that things truly kick off however. The Megalodon manages to burst through a thermal eruption into the colder waters above and sets off on a path of utter carnage. This pits the action hero that is Jason Statham, arguably this generations Sly Stallone against the prehistoric Jaws. I’ll spare a word for word plot synopsis, because nobody wants to read that, but needless to say, the other seventy odd minutes of running time is full to the brim with toe curling, moments of panic, action and lots of near misses.
There’s a few moments where the Meg doesn’t miss and they may be my most enjoyable bits of the film. The barging of half a dozen beach goers off a large wooden platform and the eating of a smug, gonk of a man in one of those stupid inflatable balls, being the highlights. I can’t lie though, despite it being a fierce and menacing presence of an antagonist, I never at any point felt the main protagonists, Jonas and Suyin were in real danger. I said it previously, these films all play out the same. The shark will always bite the dust. It’s just how enjoyable they make the experience in between that decides whether the film is a flop or not.
I think Jon Turteltaub managed to make it a very enjoyable ride. It was visually spectacular, the actions sequences were pretty cool in the main. I’ve spoke about this film before on a couple of our shows and consistently highlighted the ending with the two submersible vehicles as a standout moment for me. They were almost like underwater Star Wars space scenes, the way they zipped around at speed. The multiple helicopter crash scene, the take down of the Meg itself and even the aforementioned beach scene were all moments that made this film an enjoyable ride, despite the inevitability of the ending. They tried their hand at a double bluff twist, incidentally, but it fell flat on its face.
Performance wise, I’m not going to lie, there’s not much to go by. It’s very much the Jason Statham show. He’s been cast in this role for a reason. He excels at this leading man, action stuff, whilst adding a touch of humour at times. He was perfect for the role of Jonas. Li BingBing was probably second in terms of screen time and outwith the odd cringeworthy, broken English moment, she did fine. There was little chemistry between her and Statham despite the forced attempts at romance. Her daughter in the film played by the young Shuya Sophie Cai was surprisingly entertaining with her extroverted, gallus personality. The periphery players did fine without excelling.
This film isn’t going to be winning anything come awards season. It’s an entertaining, summer blockbuster. The kind you go in to see with the biggest damn bag of popcorn available. It’s escapism, full to the brim with cheese, and thankfully, it knows it too. It never takes itself serious and that’s key here. There’s been many a shark movie tried too hard to be serious and that can’t be done now. Jaws has a monopoly on that particular breed. This is lighter in tone, makes jokes at its own expense, and listen, it ain’t that bad. It’s more than watchable and it’s a decent addition to a sub-genre that hasn’t exactly set the bar high.