Oh Meg, what a limp fish you turned out to be (insert sad face emoji).
Whilst I was never under the impression that The Meg was going to be a quality piece of cinema in any manner, I wasn’t expecting it to be as tame as it ultimately wound up being. Here’s a film that should’ve been full-blown terrible, one that should’ve succumbed to its own ridiculous premise (Jason Statham vs a prehistoric shark? That’s some gold cinema cheese right there!) and swam with it until it jumped itself. Don’t get me wrong, The Meg is ridiculous, and it’s obvious that it’s enjoying itself as it plays along with the beats we expect (at least I hope it’s obvious to itself), but the urges the B-grade cinema crowd would crave are sadly not catered to as sufficiently.
Prior to the film’s release, director Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure, Cool Runnings) revealed a large smattering of gore was nixed from the final product in a bid to appeal to a wider audience (hence the rather tame M classification), and though copious amounts of blood and savagery don’t necessarily equate to a better movie, The Meg feels like the type of feature that would’ve benefited from a tighter restriction. I don’t need Piranha 3D-type levels of brutality (though, let’s be honest, that would’ve been welcome) but when you come to see a giant shark make lunch out of a slew of cardboard cut-out characters, I don’t want to have their supposed personalities “explored” instead.
As for what we do get, The Meg attempts to make sense out of its lightweight story with a group of scientists working in an underwater facility hoping to break through the Marianas trench in a bid to explore the possibilities of further oceanic ground. As we all know that a giant prehistoric shark (a megalodon to be precise) will swim through the temporary portal the scientists have created, we wait far too long for the titular creature to make its move, instead being subjected to Turtletaub’s insistence on unnecessary exposition regarding the array of archetypes that fill each frame; redemption-seeking flawed hero (Statham), “comedic” African-American (Page Kennedy), and no-nonsense tough girl (Ruby Rose) just some of the descriptions portrayed accordingly.
When our titular monster’s oversized frame does decide to make an appearance, it results in sequences that vary in success. Whenever one of our many ludicrous characters fall into open water we sit in anticipation as to when they’ll be devoured, and though Turtletaub quite often frames scenes alluding to a jump-scare, more often than not we witness a lot of character-to-character yelling whilst a fin glides swiftly towards them; a scene where Statham and co. believe they have captured the shark earns points for its built tension though as the lifeless corpse hangs above the head of one of the scientists who thinks snapping a photo close to the shark’s open mouth won’t end as fatally as it ultimately does.
In regards to how The Meg stacks against recent shark-centric thrillers The Shallows and 47 Metres Down, it’s evidently hoping that bigger will equal better. More money has indeed been spent on The Meg, but perhaps that’s also part of the problem as the aforementioned titles honed in on their modest budgets and successfully evoked tension, quite often keeping the creatures elusive. Here, the shark is almost too-big that it’s unbelievable, and whilst that outlandish mentality should play into the film’s aesthetic, it never completely surrenders to being so-bad-its-good.
Overall, the cheese should’ve been thicker, the pleasure should’ve been more guilty, and the bad should’ve been better. A missed opportunity to be truly cult-worthy cinema, The Meg is still a fun ride – the overtly serious delivery of some truly awful dialogue keeps it giggle-worthy – but don’t be surprised if you walk away disappointed that it wasn’t more awful.
About The Meg
A deep-sea submersible-part of an international undersea observation program-has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew-and the ocean itself-from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.
The Meg (M) is in Australian cinemas from 16th August 2018 release date.