If Jason Statham can drive a car on a freeway on top of a train while he was on fire, I think he can handle a 75-foot shark. On a mission some time ago, Naval Captain/sea diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) stood in the face of underwater danger during a trying time against an unclear assailant. While he wasn’t able to save everyone, his heroism saved many. However, the disappointment of not being able to save all ate at him, and he ended up resigning from his post as a result, drowning his burden in booze in Thailand. Jonas knew what it was, but no one would believe him.
Five years later, an exploration fronted by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) sees another team led by Taylor’s ex-wife explore the deep blue in search of new species. Once again, a team is assaulted by something much bigger than them and left for dead. His name is Carcharodon Megalodon, and he’s ready to eat. Jonas was right after all, and he’s the only one who can save the day and find redemption for his fins…err…sins.
A dog with the screen name of “Pippin” appears in the film around the final act of The Meg. This dog sells fear like no other, and is better than at least 90% of his fellow cast. I don’t know if that sums up the latest homage to Jaws well enough. The Meg is downright bad in key places—unintentionally so, but it’s offset slightly enough by the hilarious bad and the intentionally bad to make it something of a mild crowd pleaser.
Known primarily for funneling Nic Cage through legendary landmarks in the National Treasure movies, director Jon Turteltaub takes his bite at being one of the few great shark movies after Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster. The final result is a little murky. There’s no hard requirement that a shark movie has to be rated R; on the contrary, few—if any—are rated as such, especially of the wide release variety. However, a chunk of The Meg feels extremely tame and uneventful compared to what some scenes set up. Perhaps that is for for the better, as noted gore hound Eli Roth was once tabbed to direct. No, The Meg shouldn’t fill the seas with blood and body parts, but there is a middle ground that this is missing. The camerawork of Turteltaub is stronger in wider shots than close action ones, where the direction can be disorienting and hard to follow.
Adapted from a novel, Turteltaub and writing co. in Dean Georgaris and brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber run into difficulties early on as it pertains to finding a tone for their movie. For the first 30-40 minutes, The Meg plays it relatively straight with an insistence on face-palming pseudo sci-fi exposition peppered with awkward jokes and delivery. It is around the second act where the movie starts to settle in on a tone, partly by design and partly by coincidence. There are more than enough sight gags, corny dialogue, and preposterous moments that the writing and cast lean into as the run time goes on, some of them legitimately hilarious and others so pitiful in their execution one has to laugh at their inepitude. Thankfully, this feature never drops down to Sharknado ocean levels of badness in the sense that trying to be so bad is simply awfully dull, but its efforts in generating emotional heartbeats rarely bare fruit. All of this adds to near two-hour runtime that could stand to lose at least 15 minutes.
What the cast is tasked to deliver isn’t high quality stuff. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find so many members of an ensemble that deliver their lines with the amount of woodenness that is found here. At times, the seriousness jibes perfectly against the absurdity of everything, and other times, uncomfortable cringe is what the audience is subjected to. Youngster Shuya Sophia Cai steals a few scenes, though. Thankfully, two individuals operate with pretty consistent power levels. Wilson plays the perfect arrogant and goofy bigshot mogul; think Vincent D’Onofrio’s military general from Jurassic World with more self-awareness and less aggression. Of course, the star is Statham, tapping lightly into the comic relief he’s shown in recent years in The Fate of the Furious and Spy while taking the fight to the Megalodon and barely surviving time after time.
Frustrating in that it commits only halfheartedly to the approach that would be the best version of a film it could be, The Meg isn’t completely devoid of all flavor. But it is a shark fin soup in need of more fin.
Photo credits go to highsnobiety.com, cinemavine.com, and joblo.com.
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