When you say it out loud, The Meg sounds ridiculously dumb. The film is about a megalodon, a prehistoric shark that makes the Great White look like a goldfish coming back to haunt modern waters. The only thing in its way is Jason Statham and a group of marine biologists and engineers. And to be fair, the movie actually is pretty dumb. But it’s not as bad as I think we all thought it was going to be. Despite some horrendous writing, the movie actually turns out to a really fun/dumb movie and will be a treat for those who grew up on the monster and disaster films of the 90s.
That, in turn, comes out to be one of the film’s biggest weaknesses. While the tone of the film is definitely fun and adventurous, the director (Jon Turteltaub) never reaches for the true scares. Megalodon is a creature no person in history has ever seen as it went extinct millions of years ago, so the fear of such a creature stalking its prey in the open water should be palpable. Instead, the film opts to play it safer and go for the thrills and the adventure. Which isn’t a bad thing, I just think it was a missed opportunity.
In all honesty, I went into The Meg expecting camp, one-liners and terrible action. The film isn’t really that though. Jason Statham plays Jonas, a marine deep-sea rescue diver who has called it quits after having to make a tough call at the start of the film. He’s called back into action by his buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis-a standout here) when a submarine is stranded on the seafloor and he’s given the chance at salvation. The sub is part of a marine biology task force, who are investigating the true depths of the ocean as it’s theorized that there’s a tench that goes deeper than the recorded depts of the Mariana’s Trench. The one thing I enjoyed about the movie is that even if the science is wrong, and I have no way of knowing if it is or isn’t, the characters all felt like they knew what they were doing and that their science was plausible. Ruby Rose’s character, for instance, explains the density of a type of plastic in relation to the bite force of the Megalodon and none of it feels artificial or implausible. It’s a small thing for a movie like this, but it is appreciated in a movie that’s THIS RIDICULOUS.
The movie feels like it was pulled straight out of the 90s monster/disaster movie camp. It has one-liners, bad dialogue, one-dimensional supporting characters and a big scary monster out to do a lot of harm. The great thing though is that it largely works and is ultimately really fun. The film is slower than you might think too and that’s due to the surprising revelation that film actually develops the characters and makes you care about them. Does it do it well? Eh, that’s debatable but I commend the movie for at least trying to be something more. I thought the movie was going to be shark attack after shark attack, but the film takes around 30-40minutes before showing the meg completely. Statham’s character is charming and heroic and thankfully likeable. Likewise, the child in the film (Shuya Sophia Cai) is also great, which is a rarity in these kinds of films. She was smart, never annoying and had some great comedic moments. Oh and the movie actually boasts one of the funniest moments in cinema in 2018. True story.
On the other end of the spectrum is Rainn Wilson’s character, who plays the billionaire funding the research team. He comes across as obnoxious, moronic and self-centred. Worst though is that he’s one of the comedic relief characters. When things are getting serious and he asks if the research facility has wifi so he can check his phone, prepare to groan. Likewise, some of the writing leans so heavy into exposition that it actually hurt. No one says something like, “that’s Lori-you’re ex-wife”-ever. But that’s how the filmmakers let us know who is who.
The shark itself is massive (70 feet) and causes quite the storm for the heroes. We get some great shots, especially the aerial ones with a small object for scale next to the shark, but I never felt the danger or the terror. The violence also felt very toned down. There was hardly any blood and most of the carnage was hidden from the splashing. The deaths never felt earned or impactful in this one. It’s a shame that the film has a $150 million budget and has to be PG-13, as I think the terror needed to be felt to really get a kick out of the movie.
Ultimately The Meg is a silly, fun 90s inspired movie that should please fans of those kinds of movies. It’s Deep Blue Sea meets anything by Roland Emmerich. It’s nothing amazing, but it does the job well and I came out entertained, albeit not fully satisfied.
Before you go, why not check out some of our other works, including this piece on why Grindelwald could be a better villain than Voldemort and a theory on what the Star Wars canon is getting up to.