Meg 2: The Trench (2023)
Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

Genre: Action and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: August 4th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ben Wheatley Actors: Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Sophia Cai, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Melissanthi Mahut, Sienna Guillory

 


 

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million years ago (the Cretaceous Period), mediocre computer-animated tadpole-like dinosaurs feast on a carcass washed ashore, before getting chased into the ocean by a ravenous T-Rex. But then, pouncing on the king of carnivores, up from out of a shallow beachy area – which couldn’t possibly contain or conceal a giant behemoth – is a massive prehistoric shark that chomps down on the beast as if it were a toothy chicken. Clearly, there’s a greater predator near land – or at least one that can essentially come ashore for a bite before returning to the depths.

In present day in the Philippine Sea, eco-warrior Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) investigates a Watson Nautical container ship rumored to be dumping radioactive waste into the sea. After getting caught, then conducting his usual kung-fu combat escape, he leaps into the waters some 200 miles from shore, to be picked up in a helicopter by his longtime trusty pal Mac (Cliff Curtis) and associate Rigas (Melissanthi Mahut). “I back you up in bar fights.” Later, alongside his 14-year old daughter Meiying (Sophia Cai), Jonas visits the Oceanic Institute in China, where renowned diver Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu) tests out a mechanical exo suit, which will surely come in handy when swimming with Haiqi, the only captive megalodon in existence. It’ll also be useful when a team of scientists and daredevils explore a never-before-visited trench (25,000 feet down), far below a thermocline, near the Mana One marine research center, which undoubtedly contains new wonders and considerable dangers. “Do you think there are more creatures to be found down there?”

If audiences don’t remember Jonas and his fellow meg-fighters from the previous picture (of which a surprising number return), it hardly matters. The extra cast here is essentially just fresh fodder for hair-raising shark attacks – except that so many of them are jolly chaps (and conspicuously attractive biologists) that it’s probable that few of them actually succumb to thirsting fishes (though Kiran Sonia Sawar, Felix Mayr, and Whoopie Van Raam seem particularly expendable). And Taylor and Zhang frequently suffer from a case of total invincibility. Fortunately, a few brief moments of claustrophobic, submersible thrills and sea-floor strolls in dive suits arise (a handful of sets are complementarily fun), harking back to concepts from “The Abyss,” even when the main elasmobranch feasting is sparse. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

With so much more going on besides meg lunching, this somewhat unlikely sequel will stretch an audience’s patience. As anticipated, not only is the cast rather large, but there’s also human villainy to consume screen time, as well as attacks by monstrosities outside the cartilaginous fish category. Sadly, many of these moments aren’t terribly creative or convincing; underwater shots often resemble outer-space environments, while the CG swimmers themselves move far too agilely and quickly for their size and mass – not that realism is high on the priority list for this production. “I don’t see what the problem is.”

Big-budget, theatrical killer animal movies are rare, though this particular subgenre has been cheapened by the likes of “Sharknado” and its brethren of shoddy spoofs. So it doesn’t help when the story here is so convoluted and silly, and when the wise-cracking main characters fail to take any of the situations seriously (some of the dialogue is so goofy that it’s accidentally hysterical). Apparently, it’s just not enough to have a group of earnestly fearful humans contend with a voracious man-eater. And toward the protracted finale (a colossally stupid departure from the slightly more focused beginning), the film starts to resemble not only “Deep Blue Sea” (the end credits even feature a meg-based rap!), “Piranha,” and “Jurassic Park,” but also the ludicrousness of “Sharktopus” and its misadventures with Whalewolf and Pteracuda. “This some dumbass shit. Mark my words.”

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10