August 9, 2018 The Meg (Movie Review)
It is curious that we have not had a big budget movie about the famed and feared megalodon until 2018. The largest shark to ever live has been the subject of several universally panned TV films over the years, finally, Warner Bros. offer what we have been waiting for in The Meg. Based on a 1997 novel by Steve Alten, The Meg is a monster movie brimming with tropes but knows how to emphasize its strengths and delivers an instantly classic movie monster.
In theaters Friday, August 10, 2018, The Meg is directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure 2004, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 2010) and stars Jason Statham (The Transporter film series, The Expendables film series) as protagonist Jonas Taylor. A rescue diver who was forced to abandon some of the victims of an underwater attack some time before the story takes place, he now lives a solitary and drunken life in Thailand. A sort of reverse Captain Ahab, he wants nothing to do with diving ever again and fears the unseen monster he encountered. At the same time, a rich venture capitalist named Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson: Juno 2007, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009) has funded a state of the art underwater research facility bent on exploring deep into the Marianas trench, the deepest part of the ocean.
The institute is run by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao: Road to Dawn 2007, 1911 2011) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing: Resident Evil: Retribution 2012, The forbidden Kingdom 2008). They are joined by the usual lot of assistants – techs and eccentrics who are a lovable work family and have a strong passion for their project. After diving to a new record depth deep into the abyss, a small explorer sub is attacked by the Meg and left crippled at the bottom. The pilot also happens to be Taylor’s ex-wife, and that is the hook Zhang and old friend James “Mac” Mackreides (Cliff Curtis: Fear the Walking Dead series, Training Day 2001) use to get him on board for the rescue.
Through unforeseen circumstances, the Meg is able to travel through the barrier that had confined it to the trench and into the pacific ocean, and the race is on to stop the ancient monster from wreaking havoc on the completely unprepared modern world.
It is easy to think of The Meg as a story that skimps on serious character development, but it is not a story that needs it. What we get are essentially one dimensional characters who, refreshingly, eschew their personal differences and come together to combat a very serious threat. There are several subplots, such as the past between Taylor and his ex-wife, that would have bogged the film down at the expense of its selling point – man vs. giant shark. The script wisely resolves them quickly and even leaves some of them unresolved to focus on what it needs to.
Meg herself is magnificent. If this is a realistic depiction of what the megalodon was, it was probably the most terrifying thing to ever exist. The mere sight of it would be enough to induce a heart attack. Easily at least 60 feet long and several dozen tons, it has intelligence and ferocity to match its size, and even by end of the film, the shock of its mass does not wear thin. The actions scenes require a pretty substantial suspension of disbelief, but they are fraught with tension, and the battlefield being the open ocean makes them that much scarier. Meg is a master ambush predator and can come from nowhere and be gone just as quick despite her size.
The tone of The Meg is not in the same serious vein as the progenitor of shark movies, 1975’s Jaws, which had more character drama and atmospheric build. This is much more of a straight popcorn Action flick, but one whose gimmick is strong enough to carry what some may call a thin overall plot. The performances are all solid, with Statham proving again that he is possibly the most reliable Action star of our time. Additionally, the supporting cast manages to make themselves memorable even though they have limited agency in the story.
The Meg is a film that walks the precarious line of not taking its ridiculous story too seriously but not letting it fall into ironic mockery either. Many of the story elements and character backgrounds could have been explored more, but that is exactly what would have dragged it down. Its weaknesses are acceptable flaws for the greater good of delivering a pulse-pounding monster movie that only has a few notes but hits them all very well. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives The Meg 3.5 out of 5 stars.