Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Shuya Sophia Kai
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: August 10, 2018
The Meg was fine. It’s not awful in anyway. But it’s also not spectacular in any way. That is the real issue with the latest summer blockbuster shark movie. Any shark movie is going to inevitably compared to Jaws and that is not fair. Jaws was perfect, a classic of unparalleled status. Most of the immediate post-Jaws shark movies were rip-offs. Some have towed the line and were homages. Since Shark Week and the advent of cable TV, specifically the SYFY channel, shark movies essentially take two forms: thrillers that aim to provoke reactions of fear a la The Shallows (2016) and The Reef (2010), and the much more common go for absurdity and silliness like Deep Blue Sea (1999) or the any of the thousands of “shark movies” on cable such as the Sharknado franchise and Sharktopus. The Meg falls in the one place you don’t want to be… the middle.
The Meg is not silly enough to be a SYFY original movie, but doesn’t have the tension or fear factor to be taken too seriously. What we’re left is a typical end of summer blockbuster that serves as a nice distraction from the world for nearly 2 hours, but one you’ll likely forget by the next morning. What’s most disappointing is that originally Eli Roth was set to direct and now even star Jason Statham has come out saying he wished it was Rated R and more gory than funny. The PG-13 rating really adds to the painful mediocrity of The Meg.
Jason Statham is Jonas Taylor, a deep sea diver who is now a permanent alcoholic after losing two friends on a rescue mission. He was called crazy for reporting a large unknown creature as the cause. And wouldn’t you just know it, his ex-wife is now stuck at the bottom of Mariana Trench working with a scientific exploration crew of Mana One, off the Chinese coast. The mission is funded by an annoying eccentric billionaire played by Rainn Wilson. The crew is a who’s who of cliche characters and stereotypes, with no one standing out other than young Meiying played by adorable and funny Shuya Sophia Kai. They aren’t bad characters, but just trivial. They’re like the teens in a Friday the 13th film, identifiable for one characteristic and there to be attacked and killed.
The film is directed by Jon Turteltaub, who made the extremely fun and exciting National Treasure films. If he steered this in that direction, it would’ve been for the better of all involved. We all loved it when Nicolas Cage said with sincerity that they needed to steal the Declaration of Independence. This movie needed that. Statham is good, but he fails to deliver any memorable one-liners and the movie’s script is as paint-by-numbers as possible.
The Meg in question looks fine, but is not in the least scary. Worst of all, they pay zero attention to the amazing scientific discovery of a thought-extinct prehistoric shark. They go from “research it” to “kill it” in a painstakingly short period of time. There’s a throwaway line about how no one in mainland China believes there’s a giant shark on the loose, yet these are scientists from a research station off the coast funded by a billionaire… they have no credentials to offer to the non-believing coast guard? And again, I’m sorry, but it pains me how gung-ho they are to kill the most important scientific discovery of maybe all time. Imagine if John Hammond invited everyone to Jurassic Park and the science-based group decided to go on safari and kill all the dinosaurs! It would be as ridiculous as bringing dinosaurs to a castle and selling them on the black market for far less than market value to cartoony international bad guy… wait… what was the plot of Jurassic World 2?
If this makes you think I hated The Meg, I apologize. I did not hate it or even dislike it. It was just fine. And when dealing with shark movies, particularly ones intended as summer blockbusters, I just wanted to The Meg to pick a direction: either scary and intense or silly and whimsical. Either be The Shallows with a monster shark or be the National Treasure of shark movies. Instead it chose the middle and thus gets 2.5 stars out of 5.
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