Movie Review: The Meg
Jason Statham proves bite-proof in a regurgitation of Jaws that sinks all the way to the bottom in a bid to go bigger
Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson
Directed by: Jon Turtletaub
Running time: 1 hr 53 mins
By Katherine Monk
Here it comes. Up from the depths. A great big white-toothed yawn.
You can see everything it’s ingested from the poster showing the gaping maw lurking beneath a yellow-suited bather. It’s chewed through every blockbuster cliche, and keeps regurgitating Jaws. Meet the swimming garbage truck of disposable culture called The Meg.
Short for the biggest predator that ever lived, the Megalodon is believed to have died off during the pliocene (2.6 million years ago), leaving only a fossil record of strong, massive teeth — and the indelible mental mark of a true sea monster capable of chomping through a ship’s hull. So it’s really no wonder why someone tried to write a script capable of making us believe in its resurrection: We’d like to see a giant shark eat a submarine, or maybe chomp through a luxury yacht filled with rich Asian wedding guests. Why not throw in a scene of the monster performing some karmic payback on shark-finning?
Anytime humans get the spank of hubris from some untamed beast, we well up with mixed emotions: sheer thrills and our own culpability in the unraveling of the natural pattern. It’s like we get to visit Hell, realize the consequences, and repent in time for the final credits.
The Meg certainly feels like a reckoning — and an illustration of the depths we’ll sink to in order to go bigger — in every sense of the word.
To start, the staff at the underwater research facility Mana-One have been trying to figure out if there’s a deeper part of the ocean — something lying beneath thermal layers, a dark ecosystem fed by volcanic vents. When they make their descent and penetrate the climes, proving their theory correct, they stumble into something big. The crew is in a crippled sub at the bottom of the ocean. Only one man can save them.
Did I mention this is a Jason Statham movie? Sure, normally Statham drives cars and uses balletic martial arts moves to earn his movie dollars. Now, it’s just a wetter Jason Statham, with a convenient excuse to remove his shirt. It’s good meat, and director Turtletaub hits every note on Statham’s abdominal xylophone.
He also proves to be the best actor in the entire pool of talent. Brimming with B-listers and Asian imports to keep the co-production palatable to its financiers and target markets, The Meg starts to feel like another high-end knock-off of some iconic American brand.
The whole thing is designed to earn box-office dollars, from the casting of the ever-dependable Statham and the use of big-budget special effects, to the insertion of scenes that play out like Asian soap operas and Mandarin dialogue.
The Meg makes no apologies for any of its chewed up content. It promises a big shark, and it delivers. We get many scenes of the creature attacking and devouring things, all spliced between a story of greed, discovery and PG-13 romance.
The only thing that holds any of this oil slick together is Statham, soaking up the over-emoting co-stars on one side, skewering the prehistoric shark on the other — all while balancing his own character’s weakness through tides of machismo.
It’s a watery circus floating on Hollywood’s rubber carcass, and various other bits of plastic plot debris that keep washing up. We’ve built an industry from fun trash. The Meg is our legacy — and our reckoning: a meh blockbuster that will still make millions.
THE EX-PRESS, August 10, 2018