Review: The Meg
A shark movie is only as good as its purpose. Is it a scathing critique of capitalist interests? Is it a ridiculously entertaining nihilistic crowd pleaser? Is it about Blake Lively and her best seagull friend stuck on a rock, ending in utter emotional catharsis? The Meg doesn't really have any major moments that stand alongside the holy trinity of shark movies (Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows), but it joins the ranks of quality genre fare regardless. The Meg has aspirations of serving us a delicious dessert as we wind down the summer season. It’s not exactly a five star meal but you’ll walk away satisfied enough.
Years after former rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) was discredited for saying "something" attacked his rescue crew, he is called back into action when a research team gets trapped beneath the Mariana Trench. Deep down, the audience and Jonas know, "It's a Megoladon."
For a movie of this size, the action is pretty restrained for the first portion of its runtime. It moves efficiently through its setup to get us to the real goods. The Meg knows exactly what we're here for. Similar to Jaws and Godzilla (2014), the movie and director Jon Turtletaub, make us wait patiently for the full reveal of the prehistoric leviathan. Once we see it in its full monstrous glory, the chase is on. The movie takes momentary breaks to recuperate but just know, once that baby hits the screen, you're basically in a game of cat and mouse between man and monster. Bathroom breaks are for the weak.
If anything, the major issue with The Meg is that it doesn't get ridiculous enough. There's a scientific facility with futuristic designs and an extensive crew dedicated to exploring the Mariana Trench. The facility acts as more of a viewing window for the audience, as if to let us know we're in for a breezier shark-fest as the horrors remain outside the walls of the complex. It's an odd feeling when the action moves continuously around the facility instead of letting us watch it be an active central location in the conflict.
The facility is home to a sizable portion of supporting cast members, many of whom are essentially dead on arrival. Character actors like Rainn Wilson and Ruby Rose play up their caricatures to charming effect but you're all here to watch Jason Statham fight a damn giant shark. Don't worry, you get your money's worth, but you'll leave with the feeling it needed to just get a little crazier. At least the time in the facility is well spent with Shuya Sophia Cai, potentially the cutest thing you'll see in a 2018 movie outside of Paddington 2. She gets to tell Jason Statham he's crazy and match wits with him in adorable fashion. Come for the Meg, stay for a hilariously charming child performance.
The action eventually moves to a beach off the coast of China and while I'm all for mass slaughter-fests in a movie like this, the decision feels almost too detached from the rest of the movie. There are some fun riffs on the Jaws formula with a dog and little boy asking his mother to go back in the water, but where Amity Island was the central holding area of Spielberg's open water monster flick, here it's a separate setting entirely. Now that doesn't mean it isn't exactly where the action and ridiculousness peak, (it totally is) but it just needed that extra direct draw between the cast and the monster. Then again, one kill during that finale looked amazing in 3D so I got what I came for.
The Meg isn't the Citizen Kane of dumb shark movies by any means – that title remains with Deep Blue Sea – but it keeps itself grounded enough with a cast all too game to head into the biggest shark movie in years. At one point Rainn Wilson's character shouts "Hell yeah!" as Jason Statham dives into the water to rescue someone from the jaws of death. You'd be hard-pressed not to want to cheer alongside him.
The Meg doesn't raise the bar for beloved shark movies, but it's a quality reminder of the potential entertainment brought to us by our friends out in the deep blue sea. See it large and see it with a crowd. But if they make a sequel (obviously titled The MegS) don’t hold back, Turtletaub.