the meg review

In a time when modern summer blockbusters have become predominantly defined by superpowers and spacecrafts, The Meg bites back hard. A gigantic 70-foot shark? White wave crests over glassy exotic waters? Jason Statham facing off against a prehistoric aqua-foe capable of swallowing fishing boats whole? That, my friends, is what summer blockbuster dreams are made of and director Jon Turteltaub reels us in. Not without some lax hitches between 30 Meg-less minutes and soapy dramatic gristle, but when danger’s dorsal fin surfaces, it’s bloody good fun in the sun.

Statham stars as “shamed” rescue diver Jonas Taylor, now hiding out in Taiwan (linens and straw hat) after being ousted for crying “sea monster.” Enter James ‘Mac’ Mackreides (Cliff Curtis) and Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao), who chopper in from Jack Morris’ (Rainn Wilson) billion-dollar oceanic research facility to request his services. One of their submersible vessels lost comms in an uncharted depth of the Marianas Trench after a miracle discovery, and of course, Taylor’s ex-wife was piloting. Her last words before going offline? “Jonas was right.” Taylor reluctantly agrees and rescues the vessel, but upon resurfacing, he opens a highway for any prehistoric creatures living in the chemical-barrier preservation to pass through. Luckily, only one beast makes it. Unluckily, it’s a Megalodon – the Earth’s largest underwater predator thought to be long extinct.

Oops.

Let’s be transparent. You’re watching The Meg for Statham versus a mammoth apex sea monster. Marketing knows this. Statham’s character Jonas Taylor knows this. Yet, early scenes meander while introducing us to MANA One’s operating crew (AKA fish food). Dramatic beats are frequent and hammy to the point where they become distracting. Taylor’s hangups after leaving his best friends to die years back, his rescuing of ex-wife Celeste (Jessica McNamee) – who is forgotten for large stretches – and certainly his hubba-hubba connection with Dr. Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing). Faithful to Steve Alten’s series or not.

The Meg shoe-horns emotional drivers where they’re not needed and we can never comprehend if Turteltaub is aiming for B-movie laughs or tragic sincerity. You’ll blurt out a confounded laugh as Dr. Zhang, staring ponderously towards the sky, laments “Not only did we fail [redacted], but we failed science [said with extreme dramatic emphasis].” This is, mind you, after Jason Statham JUMPS INTO THE WATER WITH ONLY A SPEARGUN READY TO TAKE ON A MEGALODON.

Actors Rainn Wilson and Cliff Curtis seem to know the movie they’re making, but others such as Winston Chao do not benefit from Turteltaub’s at-times stern direction. For every reckless abandon of life Taylor commits, we’re then smacked by “consoling a mourning female” Statham or “I’m totally not crazy guys, there’s a megashark in the ocean” Statham. This can be more of a buzzkill than day-after sunburn.

With that out of the way, I can confirm The Meg is the carnivorous Asylum-on-steroids megablast we so very hoped it would be, when focused correctly. Statham’s crazed sonofagun Jonas Taylor plays by no rules and proclaims threats like “I’m gonna make it bleed” before charging directly towards the gaping jaws of ultra-death. You’ll get Finding Nemo and Shark Tale references, DJ’s (Page Kennedy) “Maybe let’s not hunt the massive Megalodon?” brand of supporting humor, and teeth-gnashing moments of underwater excitement that swim straight out your nightmares. The shark action is vicious and you’ll feel both helplessly swallowed by Meggy’s unrivaled size and raucously engaged whenever Taylor dives into the water like “Schwarzenegger of the Sea.” If it bleeds, Statham can kill it (or that’s what the film wants us to think).

Outside of Statham, unsung heroes are Rainn Wilson – a slimy, megalomaniac kind of tycoon investor – and young Shuya Sophia Cai as Suyin’s daughter Meiying. Wilson seems to be watching The Meg through our eyes. “HELL YEAH!” he shouts as Statham dives freely into the ocean with no foreseeable plan, before or after dropping Shark Week logic in front of professional oceanic researchers. Tiny Ms. Cai is just as adorable as Cassie in Ant-Man And The Wasp, which is no easy feat.

Animation is key in today’s blockbuster landscape and The Meg is no different. As Jaume Collet-Serra did with The Shallows (remarkably well), Turteltaub’s Megalodon is composite pixelation. It’d be one hell of a practical build to pull off so I get it, but that doesn’t mean execution is flawless. Megachomp ticks all the boxes and looks the part 90% of the time because attacks are air-bubble-and-camera-whips frantic. Lots of swirling movement. The other 10% is the kind of modern movie “magic” that misses a certain sparkle. Monsters cooked up on computers still stick out when compared to brightly-lit natural paradise backdrops (effervescent sky blues, reflective mirror waters).

Fast-forward into the film’s third act on Chinese resort beach shores and The Meg hits maximum overdrive. Jonas’ target – hard to miss – glides under floating vacationers who are bumping inflatable tubes they’re so crowded together. All-you-can-eat panic ensues. Rafts get tangled when Meggers snags their chains, a dude in a massive inflatable bubble ball tries to “run” away, an overfed child with a popsicle prays not to become another Alex Kintner – think Piranha 3D’s spring break finale (except less bloody and less violent because, you know, PG-13). Comedy meets tragedy, razor-layered teeth meet fleshy torsos and plastic inflatables. The movie we want, just in time!

The Meg has its (slight) issues (including the gross underuse of Ruby Rose as the awesomely named Jaxx Herd), but ultimately achieves desired results for fans of such animalistic creature features. Throw some dead weight overboard and we’d be talking about a different movie, but I get it. There’s still gravelly-voiced Jason Statham, his character’s complete disregard for realistic combat outcomes, and an apparent death wish that pits man versus an adversary who puts even Jurassic World’s Mosasaurus to shame. Give us more giant shark movies, Hollywood. Please don’t let The Meg be a one-off.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

About the Author

Matt is an NYC internet scribe who spends his post-work hours geeking about cinema instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don't feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).