Whoever edited the trailers for The Meg should be congratulated. They saw the potential a schlocky roller-coaster ride that pitted Jason Statham against a giant prehistoric shark could have. They saw that audiences would jettison reality, and just relax into a gory adventure of man versus megalithic monster. They truly saw what this could have been. Unfortunately the director of The Meg did not.
Here’s the hook. The privately funded underwater scientific research station of Mana One has discovered a hidden region of ocean that may be deeper than the Mariana Trench. When their submersible becomes stranded, due to an attack by a giant creature, they seek the help of the one man that has achieved a rescue at anything close to that depth, the disgraced Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham).
Oh… and the captain of the trapped sub is Jonas’ ex-wife (Jessica McNamee)
Oh… and the doctor on the research station (Robert Taylor) is the man that previously cost Jonas his career.
Oh… and the XO of the research station (Cliff Curtis) is Jonas’ previous best friend.
Anyway… enough of the coincidences… long story short, the creature discovered at that depth is a megalodon, a giant prehistoric shark that Jonas’ rescue efforts unleashes upon the world. Now the crew of the Mana One must attempt to stop the living fossil before it can wreak havoc on a beach full of unsuspecting people.
OK, I’m not going to lie to you, despite feeling dumber for writing this, the above is a killer set up for a B-grade monster film. It’s a pity The Meg is utterly incapable of backing it up.
The Meg attempts to be all things to all people, a serious film and a monstrous disaster-piece, so ends up being nothing. Whether this is by design or accident, is unclear, but in not embracing the ridiculous nature of its premise it comes across as flat, and mostly unaware. It should have jumped the shark early on, instead it plays things relatively straight laced and serious. In a better written piece, perhaps this could work, but The Meg is not that.
The crew of Mana One are stock collection of genre archetypes played completely un-ironically, going through the motions of an overly familiar plot, delivering predicable leaden dialogue in a manner that has the audience groaning. Statham does what he generally does, being serviceable in the action role, but by the end, 10 year old Shuya Sophia Cai is the only actor that can walk away from this with her head held high, secure in the knowledge that she at least made her performance believable.
What’s baffling is that this is Jon Turteltaub’s wheelhouse; he’s sold ridiculous concepts before and made immensely enjoyable fare out of them. Here the director of National Treasure (Cage’s treasure map on the Declaration of Independence schlockfest) produces bland cinema that is neither good, nor bad enough to be “so bad it’s good”. The Meg just sits uncomfortably between the two, cast adrift in a sea of mediocrity. The few shining moments it does have are predictably cribbed from Jaws.
With its gonzo premise wasted, and its teeth pulled by a lack of gore, The Meg hasn’t enough bite to recommend it, and just seems dead in the water.