The Meg

The Meg Review: Statham vs. Mega Shark

The Meg

Movie Rating:

1.5

Is it possible that a movie like The Meg isn’t dumb enough to be fun? Is it better to aim lower, to throw in tornadoes or genetically modified beasts or other ridiculousness to amplify the stupidity and thus, hypothetically, also amplify one’s enjoyment of dreck? Whatever it needed to be, this giant monster flick never quite comes into its own. The movie flails around trying to appease audiences but never gets the hook firmly planted.

This is no direct fault of the film’s star and lead wisecracker, one Mr. Jason Statham. Let’s accept it as read that heroic and well-appointed heroes benefit immensely from such a regal name as Jason (Momoa, Bourne, that guy that hung out at that lake and liked hockey masks), and go further and say that Statham remains one of the few actors in the world who can convincingly go mano-a-sharko in the open ocean.

The storyline involves a bunch of guys on a research mission funded by an insouciant billionaire (Rainn Wilson) who have made their own Sealab 2021 off the Asian coast. Diving to the depths of the Philippine trench, they uncover a lost world masked by a thermocline, below which a myriad of creatures survive in a microclimate.

Among these is a long thought extinct megalodon (which, it should be pointed out, my word processor wished to autocorrect to “megacolon,” and that would make for a very different movie). Anyone who has watched Shark Week knows about this big beastie, a megashark that ran some 80 feet long and is essentially the greatest of great white sharks that ever was. For movie purposes, it practically writes itself: People liked Jaws, so what if we made an even bigger version shark?

Well, this is far more Jaws: The Revenge than anything approximating Spielberg’s perfection. Cheap scares and risible dialogue feel throughout as if the Google translation was never quite up to the task. Pithy statements about science, sacrifice and comaraderie are peppered between the pedestrian action sequences, and they’re all as uninspiring as they are implausible.

Yet somehow the movie almost seems restrained, as if the filmmakers stopped short of full-crazy and just went for generic mayhem instead. Maybe the slaughter of 200 people on a densely populated beach might have been a neat if sadistic twist? Or how about if the shark started singing showtunes while coming in for another attack? I don’t get the big bucks to come up with such script ideas, but those who were paid seem to have done little more than spend a few hours brainstorming silly shark stuff and then had assistants type it all up and call it a day.

Director Jon Turteltaub has an appropriately aquatic sounding name to pull of this madness, and his résumé that includes such highbrow arthouse fare as Cool Runnings and National Treasure gives some sense of what to expect. Still, since the film never goes to the true depths of stupidity, it typically feels more boring than bombastic, a sad little soap opera where the shark seemingly just keeps interrupting turgid dialogue.

While refusing to nitpick all the inane lunacy, I will take exception to one moment when Statham is out to swim after one shark. He’s not wearing fins, which is just ridiculous, and later in the scene pulls out a mask from what I assume was his posterior. This is a principal metaphor for the whole film. It feels very much like it’s pulling everything out of its ass, having been given a subject (big shark!), a concise title (The Meg!) and a few gazillion dollars to make something out of them. It’s as aimless as the research going on at the sealab that Wilson’s character seemed to give little damn about before arriving. In the end, I’m not sure that anyone on either side of the camera cares whether it really amounts to much.

Li Bingbing does provide a bit of both maternal and scientific prowess, even if her decision making is often strangely flawed, but young Shuya Sophia Cai really steals the show. Her sardonic wit and playful manner is at least in keeping with the rest of the general childishness on display.

The Meg is big and splashy like its big and splashy title character. For some, turning off their brains for a few moments and watching mindless B-movie sharkness will be enough. For this reviewer, the film was far too middling to be either a surprise classic (looking at you, Deep Blue Sea) or a truly reprehensible slice of drivel like the Sharknado series. Stuck awkwardly in between, The Meg makes an eminently forgettable trip to the deep.

14 comments

  1. Kopkiwi

    The fact you think Deep Blue Sea is a “surprise classic” has me thinking this movie is actually half decent. A classic? lol, yeah nah.

    • Jason Gorber
      Author

      …let’s be clear, DBS is a film that gets “dumb shark movie” right (the movie is dumb while the sharks are smart!), and certainly looked like it was going to be as mediocre as MEG.

      On the other hand, JAWS fails at being a B-movie and instead emerged as an A+++ masterpiece miles away from the film they set out to make and the studio had greenlit.

  2. Al

    Seems like most of the reviews differ quite strongly. That fact combined with the fact that you think Deep Blue Sea is a classic tell me that this film is probably quite a bit of fun.

  3. Thulsadoom

    The scary thing is… Having not long watched the trailer, The Meg still looks like the most interesting and enjoyable film due out at the moment. The trailer actually made me grin at how fun it looked. But look at the competition….

    Venom looks like a stupid movie that thinks it’s smart.
    Aquaman looks like another in the string of “Surely Jason Momoa is a bankable star” logic from studio execs, who just don’t realise that, apart from female Game Of Thrones fans, he’s just not that popular or lead-character material. Did none of the execs watch him ‘act’ in Stargate Atlantis, and see that every scene he was in became instantly more boring than anything else on an otherwise good show?
    The Predator has all the right pedigree, especially with Shane Black at the helm, but somehow still looks like it’s trying too hard.
    Godzilla… well, it’s Godzilla. People are still trying to make serious Godzilla movies… really?
    Alita: Battle Angel looks like another Ghost In The Shell – style over substance.

    I’m finding it difficult to get enthusiastic about any new movies these days. The Marvel movies are all the same, but getting worse (increasingly more jokes, less plot, cramming in too many characters, so no single one ever gets interesting). DC movies, well, we all know how that’s going, apart from Wonder Woman… Star Wars has somehow self-destructed into a car crash that makes us yearn for the quality of the prequels… Then we get endless remakes or waited-too-long sequels…

    I’m mildly interested to get Mission: Impossible – Fallout when it’s released on Blu Ray. Other than that? We’ll be getting Infinity War, but I’m honestly not expecting much…

    So that leaves The Meg! Oh, what have we come to…. 😛 But you know what it also has going for it? Statham isn’t a super hero with super powers!!

  4. Bolo

    I thought Alexandre Aja’s ‘Piranha’ remake was a lot of fun. I was hoping this would be a similar outing. The reviews and Statham’s publicly expressed disappointment with the film seem to indicate that they just didn’t embrace their own concept. Actually, it sounds like they sorta did during production, but then cut a lot of that stuff to get a PG13 rating.

    • Chaz Dumbaugh

      This, the director came out and said himself that they had planned for this to be a much more violent and R rated film. But the studios, yet again, said no way and they didnt even film most of that stuff…..so we wont even get an unrated cut on Bluray when it comes out, so in turn having carnage and embracing the cheese that this movie is and should be, didnt happen. I decided after reading that that I wouldnt give money to this movie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *