Written by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
There are plenty of movies where our expectations are quite low from the onset. This isn’t meant as an insult to the hard work that the cast and crew put into making a movie but rather it’s a response to the subject matter at hand. For example, when I heard of Pacific Rim, I knew that I simply wanted to see giant monsters fight giant robots. Give me that and I’m happy. The Friday the 13th remake? Have Jason kill a bunch of stupid teenagers who dared venture into his neck of the woods. That’s why it’s hard to criticize The Meg when you take a step back and realize it’s a movie about a gigantic shark that runs amok and eats a bunch of people. If the film provides that, doesn’t it then give us exactly what it offers? To that I say, both yes and no.
In the film, Jonas Taylor (Statham) plays a deep sea rescuer who is shunned after a mission goes wrong and people die. However, he swears up and down that the reason for his semi-failure – he saved 11 people but couldn’t rescue the last two – is because something caused the wreckage at the bottom of the ocean to collapse in on itself. Years later, he’s called back when a research crew breaks through a semi-frozen layer of water near the bottom of the ocean, one that may actually be a natural barrier hiding untold natural treasures and scientific anomalies, and encounters a megalodon that nearly dismantles their sub. From there, all hell breaks loose as the shark escapes the depths.
While the trailer may make it seem like the titular creature terrorizes the shores and beaches of tourist-heavy communities, that part really only encompasses the last 15 or so minutes of the film. Instead, the majority of the movie takes place on the Mana One, a scientific research base off the coast of China that mixes an oil rig with an underwater laboratory/science center. Basically think “The Hive” from Resident Evil and you’ve got it.
The center is owned by Morris (Rainn Wilson), a billionaire who has barely any idea of what’s going on, regardless of his $1.5 billion investment into the project. Instead, he has passed responsibilities over to Mac (Curtis), who leads a team of researchers that includes Suyin (Bingbing), Jaxx (Rose), DJ (Kennedy), and a handful of others. What follows is a segment that feels like Deep Blue Sea followed by a portion of the film that is pretty much Jaws once Hooper, Brody, and Quint chase after Bruce, and then an obvious not-ending that gives way to a fourth act.
An American/Chinese co-production, there are elements of The Meg that are made to appease one culture but not the other, resulting in a film that has some strange tonal changes that feel laughably out of place. It tries to mix humor and sincere emotion but it’s as effective as stirring oil and water with a toothpick. In a movie packed with one-liners and brush-off jokes, emotional scenes not only lose their impact, they become a joke themselves. All that being said, The Meg is also fully aware of what kind of movie it is and it has no qualms about giving viewers exactly what they want. It just simply takes a while to get there.
It takes a fair bit but once the megalodon escapes its icy depths, the body count starts rising and the limbs start floating. Trope events come fast and plenty, such as people getting knocked off a boat when “the meg” is nearby, the whole “Swim and don’t look back!” scene, and near-miss bites that will undoubtedly convince many people to avoid swimming ocean for at least a few years. Cute homages to Jaws, such as the spiritual reincarnation of Pippin, maintain the film’s constant winking.
The ferocity of the megalodon cannot be denied and its rows upon rows (upon rows upon rows) of teeth are a terrifying marvel to behold. The scale of its size and the ferocity of its attacks really do make this a great addition to the aquatic horror subgenre. That being said, the film’s PG-13 rating feels like it holds the film back from reaching its full potential. Several scenes feel like they are itching to hit a 10 but ultimately are happy with a 7 or an 8. When the megalodon finally reaches the Sanya Bay, the setup makes us think that we’re going to see a level of carnage similar to that of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha remake. Instead, we get a tamer sequence that doesn’t even feature a moment where the meg opens its gigantic maw and swallows a dozen or so people in one fell swoop. We do see someone in one of those big water walking balls get popped, so there is that.
The Meg is perfectly acceptable and is undoubtedly fun. You’re not gonna get much in the way of story here and the plot holes are rather substantial but, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, does it really matter? I guess the only person that can ultimately decide that is you.