When was the last time you have seen a really good shark movie? The predatory fish got a boost as a monster with the epic 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws, which is, arguably, the best creature movie there is. Unfortunately, even the Jaws sequels and the other shark movies that come out at least one every year were mostly two hours of crap with bad effects and awful acting. And now arrives The Meg, that has Jason Statham trying to survive the jaws of a prehistoric giant shark. Now, what could possibly go wrong here?
Jason Taylor (Jason Statham) used to be a rescue diver before a botched underwater rescue mission leaves him with a survivor's guilt and a tattered reputation. He also gets the first hint of a giant monster living under the sea then, though he couldn't make out what it is and no one believes him then. Five years later, he is brought out of retirement by his friend, Mac (Cliff Curtis) who works at underwater exploration project, headed by Dr Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and funded by a vain billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson). Jason's ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) has been trapped in a cavern at the oceanic depths with two more members and Jason has to save them from an unseen monster. While his presence on the ship brings him at odds with Zhang's daughter Suiying (Li Bingbing), the ship's oceanographer, they realise they have to work together when they find out that they have just brought a giant prehistoric shark to the surface level.
Now when you talk about a movie that has THE Jason Statham fighting a giant 75-feet shark, the last word you want to associate with the film is 'dull'. Unfortunately, The Meg is a dull affair in most of the portions, except for the last 20-25 minutes or so. It's not that the film, directed by Jon Turteltaub, shies away from showing us the mega-shark properly, unlike the 2014 Godzilla film. Not only are there more than one giant shark, there is also a cameo of a giant squid in between. And yet, The Meg fails to keep us interested in the proceedings.
With a movie based on a giant killer shark, you can go two ways with it. Either make it a visceral suspenseful film with some gory deaths a la Jaws, or go full cheesy B-movie action like Deep Blue Sea. Where The Meg falters is trying to walk that fine line between these two styles of film-making - trying to stay grounded in a movie that isn't supposed to do so- and stumbles in the process.
As a film, The Meg liberally borrows a lot of tropes from these two movies, and even Piranha 3D and Jurassic World. The narrative is nothing boast about, as it has every single element from such B-blockbuster type movies - a 'superheroic' expert with a tragic past, a shoehorned romance with a female lead with whom he is at odds at first, a child who really shouldn't be there in such a dangerous place, several crew-members who are basically shark food and a selfish owner who suffers the same fate as any selfish owner would in these movies. There is also a dog running away from the monster at one point in time. Yeah, there is also an ex-wife character whose sole purpose in the film is to justify Statham's involvement in the mission and then disappears for most of the runtime. But then you really don't expect a ground-breaking narrative from a film like The Meg; you expect vicious deaths and loads of shark action.
Well, like I said before, there is plenty of shark sightings in the film. The creature effects are really good, and there is a visually arresting scene near the start of the movie, when an explorer sub discovers a hidden underwater paradise filled with less-known species. The third act lives up to the premise of the film when the shark attacks the protagonists' hunting boat first and then goes on to kill beach-goers in a local Chinese beach (Another trope I am tired of watching; inserting China wherever not needed).
But save for these scenes, The Meg doesn't generate the kind of fun we expect from a film like this. Jason Statham, in an interview, revealed the fact that when he was narrated the script, he was promised gory deaths worthy of R-rating. However, when he saw the final product, he was disappointed with the watered down version and a PG-13 rating. Kinda agree with Jason here, as The Meg desperately need more bloody and surprising deaths (something like Samuel L Jackson in Deep Blue Sea), even at the cost of alienating the children from the shows.
The Meg at least boasts of some really talented stars in the cast, even if it doesn't justify their existence much. Jason Statham does not get to go full-blown Stat until the climax, but the actor's charisma makes his presence worthwhile. Li Bingbing is a good actor stuck in a character we have seen in so many films. The movie could have done a lot of Rainn Wilson's character - a shrewd egomaniac who can turn heroic when the situation demands. Instead, they leave him to have the same fate as many of his predecessors. A usually scene-stealing Ruby Rose doesn't get much scenery to chew here.
- Jason Statham
- A couple of shark action scenes in the third act
- The creature effects are good
- The runtime is decent
- Doesn't live up to the potential of its premise
- A dull narrative
- Some of the talented cast is wasted
- Too derivative narrative
The Meg has its B-fun moments, for sure and it doesn't overstay its welcome. But considering it is a film about Statham going against a giant shark, The Meg ruins the promising boxing match with a dull narrative and not enough cheesy action. A one-time watch at the most!