Keep an ear out for this exchange in pubs over the next few months: ” Did you see that Jason Statham Giant Shark Movie? Yeah, it was alright I guess”. That’s how THE MEG is going to be remembered because let’s be honest, it’s not a catchy title, nor is it a movie that lingers. It’s been a long time coming (adaptation attempts have been floundering for about 20 years) and for what it is the finished product is sporadically fun.
Rescue diver extraordinaire Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is reluctantly called in to retrieve a research team who have become trapped exploring the Marianas Trench, releasing a prehistoric monstrosity in the process. Reaching the surface is only half the battle, and before long a 20 metre set of jaws is heading towards the heavily populated Chinese coastline, fast.
Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor completely straight-faced, God bless him. He finally gets to play a role that requires extensive swimming and him putting his (actual Olympic-level) diving skills to good use. Shame he doesn’t get to use his martial arts experience on the shark. I think he’s called Jonas because apparently naming him Jonah in a film like this would have been too on-the-nose (though this does come from the book). He does what he does well, but he and everyone else in the cast is acted off the screen by the young Sophia Cai.
While the first half is pretty unremarkable, the second is fun because it gets really silly. Once we get out of the undersea lab and the action heads towards a (very) populated Chinese coastal resort you’ll have to fight back a smile at the trashy entertainment on offer. I’m down for any movie with Jason Statham being dragged behind a boat as a human lure for a giant shark.
The plot, such as it is, isn’t up to much. I’ve no idea what Rainn Wilson’s sleazy billionaire’s business is, or what the science team are actually aiming to do with their aquatic sci-fi lab. At least the boffins in DEEP BLUE SEA were trying to cure Alzheimer’s disease! I’m not going to say an uninvolving story and paper-thin character is fatal to a film like this, but it does help to place it firmly in the junk food film category.
A late-stage emotional outpouring between father (Winston Chao) and daughter (Li Bingbing) lacks impact because their relationship doesn’t seem all that dysfunctional. In fact, they’re open and supportive of each other throughout the film and neither seem to have real flaws. If I were a cynical viewer I’d say it’s because they’re the two most prominent Chinese characters and you don’t want to annoy your co-financiers. It’s possibly the most annoying thing about large co-productions like this, that Chinese stars and the country they represent always have to be spotless heroes.
I completely agree with people who have suggested that The Meg isn’t quite bad enough. That’s not to say it should be bad on a technical level, in terms of film language, but it could have really leaned into its silliness more frequently. The effects and the action are fine, but I found myself perplexed by a relative lack of one-liners. Though I had a lot of fun with portions of the movie, I’m not sure there’s a lot I’m going to remember for the foreseeable. Say what you like about other bad shark movies, at least JAWS 2 offs the shark in a really entertaining way and Deep Blue Sea has the shark turn on an oven containing LL Cool J. Jason Statham being dragged behind a boat just can’t compete. SSP