Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Running Time: 113 mins
The Meg is an American/Chinese film about a deep-sea research crew who, while venturing further into the depths of the ocean than ever before, come across a Megalodon, an enormous prehistoric shark intent on killing everything in its path, with only a few people that can save thousands of lives from its giant jaws.
You know the score with these shark movies, and so does The Meg. As a film that’s clearly aware of its own ridiculousness, The Meg is an entertaining watch throughout, although it does pull from each and every imaginable cliché of one of cinema’s most basic genres, making it painfully predictable at times, and desperately dull whenever there isn’t a giant shark on the rampage.
Let’s start off with the main point of the movie: lowest common denominator entertainment. If you want a way to spend two hours smiling and laughing at something that’s completely ludicrous, then The Meg is the film for you. With better production quality than Sharknado, but without the requirement of any concentration like Jaws, it sits in a nice middleground that treads very familiar waters in a way that’s pleasingly comfortable and easy-going, giving you two hours of simple, unadorned fun.
And the key to enjoying the film in that regard is to fully embrace its silliness, something that I was glad to see the movie managed to do fairly well throughout. It’s not quite happy to see itself as a completely throwaway so-bad-it’s-good flick (which I’ll get onto in a moment), but the general theme of the movie, the fact that only Jason Statham can defeat an enormous prehistoric shark, is what makes it such silly fun to watch, and seeing the crew marvel at Statham’s superhuman abilities to outswim and outsmart an animal that has evolved for thousands of years is all part of the brilliant idiocy of the affair.
With all that said, I have to say that The Meg still isn’t a completely satisfying watch. Enjoyably idiotic it may be, and that is my main takeaway, however I felt that there was still room for improvement on both its silly side, as well as its more competent filmmaking side.
For starters, the film’s story is awful. Truly awful. All shark movies have a very basic premise, but this takes that to another level. It’s man vs shark, and it’s a ridiculous mouse-and-cat chase across the South China Sea, with very little else of interest. That would be fine to laugh and smile at, if it weren’t for the film’s consistently awful attempts at characterisation, with the lead crew being composed of all the most generic blockbuster personalities imaginable, and absolutely no depth for you to care about anything that happens to them (of course with the exception of the endlessly exceptional Statham).
So, during the film’s slower opening act, as well as its various breaks from insane shark action, things are really, really boring. Its comedy is poor throughout, and any attempt at drama or even romance is laughable to say the least, really bringing the whole affair down at times.
Another frustration I had was the fact that, although the film sits in a nice middleground that makes it better than Sharknado, I wished it leant more to one side or the other. For me, less dull characterisation would have been great for an even sillier shark extravaganza, while I would have also liked to see the film echo The Shallows and create some actual tension and fear, all the while retaining its self-aware qualities that make it entertaining – rather than just looking at a tracker screen and repeating “It’s getting closer” over and over again.
In the end, The Meg is exactly what you’d expect of it. Absolutely ludicrous, made up of every cliché in the book, and featuring next to no intelligent or interesting screenwriting. For me, it’s an enjoyable watch that could have been something a little more, but if you want two hours of silly entertainment watching Jason Statham battle a shark, then this is the perfect film for you, which is why I’m giving it a 6.1 overall.