The Meg (2018)
The Meg (2018)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: August 10th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon Turteltaub Actors: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Sophia Cai, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Jessica McNamee, Masi Oka

 


 

A

fter the tragic results of a rescue mission in the Philippine Trench, deep sea dive specialist Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) retires from his position and heads to Thailand to drown feelings of culpability with booze. Despite vowing never to return to the field, he is drawn back into a dangerous rescue operation five years later when his ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee), becomes trapped more than 10,000 meters underwater in the Mariana Trench. Arriving at the Mana One Research Station off the coast of China, Jonas uses a deep sea submersible to navigate into the depths to retrieve the stranded scientists. But the undertaking turns even more harrowing when a massive megalodon shark is discovered to be prowling the area, intent on making a meal of the unprepared humans. When the gargantuan fish escapes the confines of the trench, Jonas and the members of Mana One, including Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing), James Mackreides (Cliff Curtis), Jaxx Herd (Ruby Rose), Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), DJ (Page Kennedy), and Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), determine to hunt down the shark and destroy it before it can wreak havoc on the heavily populated beaches nearby.

“The Meg” reveals Jason Statham in the lead role with a rather dull introduction. He unhurriedly removes his diving mask, only to be bathed in red lights that obscure his face almost to the point that he’s not immediately recognizable. It’s a strangely uninspired, unenthusiastic display, which sums up many of the subsequent events; for a blockbuster monster movie, “The Meg” sticks to a shockingly generic script.

Even when the hull of a downed nuclear sub is crushed during this cold open, the editing is so hectic and fragmented that it’s difficult to follow movements; Jonas’ rescue efforts aren’t obvious, nor are the exact people being retrieved from the wreck or moved to the surveying vessel. The rapid cutting, here and later on, is employed to make sequences more frantic and intense, but it largely contributes to a sense of limited resources, as if genuine stunts, suspenseful ideas, or believable filming locations were scarce. When the camera finally slows down to take in the environments, the picture becomes far more amusing. It’s during these slower moments that “The Meg” takes full advantage of its fearsome antagonist; lengthy stretches of calm or quiet before ear-drum-shattering attacks prove to be a dependable source of scares (one of the best involves a technician posing with his head in a dead shark’s mouth for that perfect social media photo). Additionally, the hesitant materializing of the shark in murky depths always builds dread better than jerky camera movements.

“Did you have these whales here on cue?” Everyone is alternately a comedian and a hero. When characters who shouldn’t be cracking jokes aren’t busy cracking jokes, they’re concerned with sacrificing themselves, quite overtly, to save the lives of supporting cast members – or utter strangers. It’s heroic, but in that familiar, fake way that substitutes for character development. And it grows even more groan-inducing when the ostentatious martyrdom repeats itself across several sequences. Fortunately, there’s some comedic cowardice to offset the selflessness, but it’s always instigated by the wrong people; no one remains serious for enough time to elevate the deadly situations into a realm of convincing thrills. Perhaps the greatest conflict is blame, or survivor’s guilt, which is routinely remedied by a jokey remark. This also means that when the film wishes to make brief commentary on shark poaching, it’ll undoubtedly be dismissed.

The megalodon itself is nicely designed, managing not to change sizes too frequently as it lunges over boats, swims underneath vacationers in inflatable tubes, or slices its dorsal fin through waves. The creature – and the film as a whole – is too dependent on CG, though several underwater shots look fantastic. The film also boasts a wide range of shark-attack scenarios, from submersibles to shark tanks to observation stations to tourist boats to rafts to free diving in the middle of the Pacific. Also for good measure are instances of light romance, Statham shirtless, a cute kid saying cute things, praise heaped upon fellow experts, emotional reunions, and opportunities for family members to make one another proud. Plus, shark-hunting complications tend to involve accidental explosions and loved ones falling into the water, repeatedly. If it weren’t for the presence of a humongous, man-eating fish, “The Meg” could have been a generic drama about bad decisions, loss, denial, and acceptance. So many occasions arise for uncommon adventure, but the script continues to return to run-of-the-mill trivialities and encounters, copying notions from other underwater thrillers like “The Abyss” and “Deep Blue Sea.” Despite the rarity of theatrical shark movies, “The Meg” consistently underwhelms – even down to its basest slasher film qualities, such as the restrained amount of beachgoer destruction and the high number of survivors at the conclusion.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10