The Meg, 2018.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub.
Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Robert Taylor, Sophia Shuya Cai, Masi Oka, and Cliff Curtis
After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.
One half of The Meg is self-aware as to the ludicrous concept behind it all and the over-the-top action sequences born from that, while the other half is the kind of movie (directed by National Treasure helmer Jon Turteltaub, and scripted by a host of names adapting the novel by Steve Alten) that seems to think there is merit in throwing in superfluous emotional weight. Deep-sea diving rescuer Jonas (Jason Statham, now boozing it up somewhere in Thailand after losing his career on an unsuccessful mission that also resulted in the possibility of him being insane from claims of witnessing a prehistoric kind of gigantic shark) is brought back into the game; one of the crew in danger is his ex-wife. The battle against the titular Megalodon shark is personal and grounded in revenge/salvation. Jonas is also falling in love with someone else.
These are all tropes elaborated on just a little too much in The Meg, more often than not throwing off the film’s pacing, but fear not as the WrestleMania-sized tantalizing prospect of Jason Statham taking on a massive shark delivers in gloriously stupid fun. It also helps that while, obviously, Meg is CGI, Jason Statham continues going old school similar to Tom Cruise (albeit to far less extreme lengths) pulling off some of his own oceanic stunts. So many modern blockbusters and actors would have just full-on green-screened the whole damn thing, so it’s easy to appreciate watching actors interact with real bodies of water among other things. Jason Statham has actually gone on record stating that the heavy reliance on special effects is one of the major reasons he has chosen to stay away from superhero movies, and to be honest, it’s something audiences should be thankful for. We could use more movies, especially blockbusters that carry a no-fucks-given in terms of nonsensical storytelling and heroic bravado similar to experiences found in the 80s and 90s, like this in the modern era of filmmaking.
Speaking of that plot, it is as preposterous as you would assume coming into The Meg. Somewhere off the coast of China, marine biologists are conducting research on uncharted depths of the ocean. Stay with me here, but somehow science has not gone low enough to explore a particular area, and in doing so the team not only awakens the giant aquatic beast but also inadvertently adjusts temperature levels underwater so that the bloodthirsty creature can follow everyone back to shore. With that said, The Meg operates on a simple three-act structure upping the ante with each deadly encounter; first the goal is just to rescue the stranded explorers, then it’s a showdown dead center in the open waters, both naturally leading to a climactic conclusion on a packed beach filled with oddities ranging from an ongoing wedding and an overweight teenager who won’t let a deadly shark come in the way of him and his ice cream.
The biggest problem with The Meg is that for the duration of the running time, there is a sensation of wanting the story to reach the point where the shark is wreaking havoc on the public, elevating danger levels. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of the supporting characters here are all fun to watch (Rainn Wilson is here in charge of the operation and provides much comedic relief, Ruby Rose is more than just a pretty face as usual, Page Kennedy is hyperactive and unable to swim, and there’s a little girl that says the darndest things trying to set up Jason Statham with her mommy), but every single time the action kicks things up a notch, for some reason all momentum is stopped dead so we can watch more overdramatic and unnecessary character interactions. Somewhere on the Internet, someone will make a cut of The Meg that’s about 60 minutes long and an adrenaline rush consisting of just the good parts. Furthermore, that’s the version I would definitely watch again.
Also, while the tone is mostly all over the place but nothing adult oriented, it is somewhat frustrating witnessing some nasty impalements and wounds that yield nothing more than a trickle of blood. There are a couple of gnarly (especially on an IMAX screen) death sequences involving Meg’s chompers that deserve a much more gory ending. Not surprisingly, anything violent to do with actual animals can be pretty gruesome as the boneheaded MPAA only cracks down on bodily harm from humans. Go figure. Anyway, it’s not a dealbreaker at all, but come on, giant sharks eating people should come with an R rating.
Setting my insatiable thirst for blood aside, The Meg is a crowd pleaser whenever it isn’t focusing on ex-wives and strained relationships that have nothing to do with the plot or cheesy monologues about saving the ones you love. It may take a while before deciding if the price of admission was worth it, but it’s hard not to give in to the spectacle with Jason Statham is taking one last stand staring down Meg. “I’m going to make you bleed you bastard”; it’s the kind of ham-fisted one-liner only an action star of his caliber could deliver successfully pumping audiences up with excitement for the finale. If only the rest of the blockbuster could match that intensity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com