It’s finally here. After months of anticipation and a marketing campaign as massive as its title creature, The Meg is in theatres. Based on the best-selling novel by Steve Alten, The Meg has generated considerable buzz since the project was first announced. Critical reception has been mixed to negative from critics. Audiences are unlikely to care. Now the only real question left is whether The Meg can justify its big price tag with box office receipts.
Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is a deep sea rescue diver. Five years ago, Taylor attempted a rescue of several scientists that were attacked by a giant shark, but the mission ended with some of the team members dying. In the present day, scientists at Mana One, an underwater research facility, are attempting to map regions of the ocean deeper than have ever been explored. When a submersible carrying three scientists is attacked by a massive shark, Taylor is called in again to rescue the researchers. But the rescue is complicated when an explosion breaks open the ocean floor, releasing a 70-foot Megalodon. Once believed to be extinct, now the prehistoric shark is hunting freely in the ocean waters.
Less Jaws, More Deep Blue Sea
First and foremost, The Meg is basically a B-monster movie with a massive budget and marketing campaign. There is nothing profound or earth-shattering about this movie. It’s unlikely to make any ‘Best Of’ list or be placed next to Jaws in horror film history. Like Deep Blue Sea and Piranha 3D, The Meg is very aware of what kind of movie it’s delivering to audiences. It’s a big, dumb film that’s filled with eye-rolling dialogue. Fortunately, The Meg is also aware of just how silly it is on paper.
There’s also a shortage of fun, out-there moments in a movie about a 70-foot prehistoric shark.
Unfortunately, this self-awareness is where The Meg falters and misses being a truly great summer movie. It clearly wants to be a B-monster film that embraces its own campiness. Most the humour in The Meg, however, is strained at best. Younger audiences may giggle, but more often than not, I found myself wincing. Even Rainn Wilson, clearly cast to add some comic relief, grates more than he entertains.
There’s also a shortage of fun, out-there moments in a movie about a 70-foot prehistoric shark. After the deluge of promotional material showing ‘The Meg’ swimming into crowded beach waters, I was crossing my fingers for something like what Alexandre Aja gave us with the beach scene in Piranha 3D. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t include its fair share of high-octane action moments. It’s just that nothing feels really memorable. Even The Meg’s ending is strangely anti-climatic.
Excellent Special Effects, A Restrained Shark
Shark movies need to deliver a convincing shark. Contrary to what younger horror fans may have to say on the subject, Jaws still delivers the goods. If you’re planning on seeing The Meg in theatres you won’t be disappointed by the special effects spectacle on the screen. In fact, the shark effects are arguably the highlight of The Meg with the 70-foot prehistoric ‘baddie’ impressing whenever it’s on screen.
Director Jon Turteltaub, who has a knack for helming safe box office fare (National Treasure) competently handles the The Meg’s action. There are a couple of genuinely impressive shark moments – at least least one of which that has been prominently featured in the film’s promotional bits. Yet it felt like there wasn’t a true ‘money shot’ moment like The ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat moment’ from Jaws. Nothing about The Meg feels iconic and viewers may struggle to recall any particular moment on the drive home.
Nothing about The Meg feels iconic and viewers may struggle to recall any particular moment on the drive home.
Again The Meg feels surprisingly reserved for a film about a 70-foot shark. Horror films can absolutely be PG-13 and still entertain and scare. But it feels like a lot of material was left on the cutting room floor. There wasn’t near enough carnage making The Meg feel like an oddly safe effort. I liked what I saw in the movie, but wanted to see more.
Jason Statham Makes Everything Better
For what’s essentially a B-movie, The Meg has rounded up an impressive cast of shark bait. The always charismatic Jason Statham is solid in what’s a pretty cliched role. But Statham, like Dwayne Johnson, can always be counted on to enliven even the most generic movie. In The Meg, Statham looks like he’s having fun. His fun, tongue-in-cheek performance keeps things afloat when the prehistoric shark is missing in action.
Bingbing Li, Ruby Rose, and Cliff Curtis are all excellent in their respective roles. If there’s any complaint it’s that none of these talented actors is given much to do. As much as I like Rainn Wilson, he’s a bad fit for his character. One can’t help but feel that Wilson was shoehorned into the movie. Other familiar faces are present but they’re not likely to register with audiences as not much more than shark chum.
Good, but Not Great, Late Summer Fare
As we head into the dog days of summer, box office options are drying up. The Meg is the last ‘big event’ movie of the summer, and it’s one that offers just enough fun to justify a trip to the cineplex. Nothing about The Meg stands out as necessarily bad, but you’ll be hard-pressed to pick out anything great about it. For a movie where everything from it’s title monster to the marketing campaign was ‘bigger’, it’s an oddly middle-of-the road outing that won’t make you forget Jaws, or Deep Blue Sea, any time soon.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B