Shark movies have been some of the most consistently entertaining sub-genres in movie history, from genuinely great classics like Jaws to wonderful schlock like Shark Attack 3 or Deep Blue Sea. The Meg is the latest movie to put man against beast, this time with Jason Statham battling a gigantic, prehistoric Megalodon.
Loosely based on, and combining elements from, the pulpy horror novels The Meg and The Trench by Steve Alten, the movie The Meg find Statham as deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor. During a rescue, two of Jonas’ crew are trapped in the damaged submarine they are rescuing the crew of when something gigantic slams into the hull and Jonas is forced to abandon them, destroying his career and leaving him a washed-up drunk in Thailand. He gets a shot at redemption when a similar situation happens to a crew working for the highly advanced underwater research facility Mana One is trapped at the bottom of the Marianas Trench in an area below a section of hydrogen sulfide gas called the thermocline. Jonas and the rest of the Mana One team realize they are dealing with the existence of a Megalodon, a gigantic shark that was thought extinct. We all knew what we were getting into when we go to a movie like The Meg but the movie strangely gets off to a pretty slow start, hinting at The Meg but not showing it until probably close to 45 minutes to an hour in. There’s a ton of slow exposition, character build up and set up in the beginning and it kind of diminishes your expectations of insane fun out of the gate. Once The Meg is unleashed though, there are some pretty great, ridiculous action set pieces to be had, including one where Statham is forced into the water with no protection to try and tag The Meg’s dorsal fin or The Meg attacking the densely populated beach of Sanya Bay, China. The thing is though, things could have been way more over the top. If you compare The Meg’s beach attack to something like Piranha 3D, it’s no contest and pre-release reveals by Statham seem to hint at a much more violent R rated version of The Meg that was shut down by the studio to get a more widely acceptable PG-13 version. Box office wise, it seems to have paid off but it definitely robs The Meg of a more unique personality or more visceral and insane thrills.
Acting wise, everyone is pretty much either a standard trope character or just playing their standard personality, especially the likes of Statham and Ruby Rose. Rainn Wilson and Cliff Curtis are both fun as the research facility’s dim-witted billionaire donor and Statham’s loyal sidekick respectively. Although it’s pandering to the Chinese audience, co-star Li Bingbing is also fine and has some decent back and forth with Statham as the requisite love interest but, surprisingly, Shuya Sophia Cai as her daughter Meiying actually kind of steals her thunder, as her scenes with Statham are adorable and hilarious.
Based on the premise and the involvement of Statham, I think most people have some high hopes for a ridiculous creature feature with The Meg. It’s a solid, fun, dumb blockbuster but you can see the hints of the truly over the top and ridiculous version peeking from below the surface. Maybe there will be some sort of unrated version on DVD/Blu-Ray that will truly fulfill its promise but as is, it’s a decent middle of the road entry in the shark genre.