“The Meg” (2018)
Running Time: 113 minutes
Written by: Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Featuring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis
Jonas Taylor: “My God. It’s a megalodon.”
Morris: “He’s kidding, right?”
As the Summer movie season winds down one of the more stranger entries into the madness of this blockbuster period is released, that is “The Meg” (2018), a disaster, monster movie of sorts about a roving prehistoric megalodon shark bent on eating eveyone and everything in its path with only a handful of humans brave or stupid enough to get in its way all being led by a charater played by Jason Statham who seems to be the only one who knows what kind of movie he is in. “The Meg” is a movie that has gone through at least two directors, had so much money spent on it that making it back looks like a long shot and a seemingly last minute change to excise any actual gore so that children could go and see it at the movies, which means we have a giant shark eating people with very little blood in the water, which seems nonsensical to say the least. However balancing out the equation is the lead, Jason Statham who is appearing in the biggest film he has led in his career, even though he has been involved in at least five franchises and numerous action as well as comedy movies to many to name, this is his firs time actually carrying a big budget movie. Interestingly, Statham has become an identifiable brand (similar to Dwayne Johnson) for those that know of him, he is a hard man, an action star who always knows how to play up to the camera as well as make people laugh with his one liners while normally punching something at the same time, the very essence of a modern action star who embraces his films for what they are, like them or not. With “The Meg” what we really want to see is him go one on one with a seventy foot shark, hopefully punching it into submission so that he can make the oceans safe once more. The question remains is this a movie worth going to see in cinemas or is it what most people were prepared for, a shipwreck of a movie that offered nothing more than a “Deep Blue Sea” (1999) rip-off with a nod towards “Jaws” (1975)? The answer is not as straightforward as it may appear on paper as this does offer some real thrills but does suffer from some real shortcomings.
Initially this movie was to be directed by Eli Roth known for his work in the horror genre although why a studio would want him for a movie of this size is baffling so it was no surprise when he left, the studio then turned to journeyman Jon Turteltaub who knows how to marshal talent as well as competently direct action while retaining a semblance of a story. It turns out that the weaknesses in this movie seem to start and end with the script which is a mess, written by at least three people adapted from a novel that should have been fairly straightforward but ends up getting mired down in not only bland dialogue but commits the cardinal sin of taking far to long to actually get to the point, that is the titular star of the movie, the shark and the grandeur of its CGI presence, or at least the promise of it. The writers involved Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber, have some real highlights in their respective oeuvre’s, but they also have some stinkers which involve some expensive blockbuster bombs, the most egregious being “Battleship” (2012) which to was bogged down in bland dialogue but also a nonsensical story that made little sense. What saves “The Meg” from being outright bad are the director as well as its star, not forgetting the supporting cast who are all very different making them some of the reasons, besides the shark to enjoy the movie for what it is.
The movie is primarily about a massive undersea creature that attacks a deep-sea submersible, leaving it disabled and trapping the crew at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. With time running out, rescue diver Jonas Taylor must save the crew and the ocean itself from an unimaginable threat, a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon.
The movie as already discussed is led by Jason Statham is as you would expect all seething masculinity who is just terrific in this role, his credentials are known well as an action star in the mould of a stockier, fiercer and more serious Van Damme who knows who he is as well as what he is doing. My only real criticism is that he could have been used better with a superior script that called for him to be front and centre for most of the movie, not just a part of the cast, he needs to put his stamp on a movie like this as he is capable of like few stars before him. The remainder of the cast is made up of character actors Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis who all do their jobs like the seasoned operators they are, for the ost part they understand their roles and what they are supposed to do, although the reason and motivations for their actions could be seen as murky but again that speaks to the quality of the script as well as the drawn out nature of the movie, which does have an adverse effect on the actors themselves, but hey we are all here to see the big shark anyway, right?
Of course this movie is the very definition of a trope laden routine action movie, however where it also falls down is that it is all surface with all the rough edges taken off for so that it becomes the least offensive movie around, there feels like a lack of scope as well as no real stakes as there are really not a lot of shark deaths in terms of the main cast which was a missed opportunity in my mind.
At the very least this is a fun, splashy, action orientated movie that is inoffensive enough for the entire family, it is not too gory but contains just enough so that the parts that either drag or do not make sense are papered over with the cast as well as the goal oriented plot which reads like many other similar action movies before. This is not a movie that is going to shock or reinvent the genre in which it is based, even though as an audience member I wished for more, either for it to be funnier, or for it to be a bit more adult or just for it to be more original. To be fair with all the giant shark movies that are around, most television movies you would think that the demand for a big budget one would be low, but considering this has been in the works for over ten years the fact that it made it to the big screen defying expectations to become a hit says something about the stickiness of not only the genre but the work the marketing people have done which is saying something to cut through the noise and deliver something that was advertised, a movie about a giant shark who has to face off against Jason Statham.
While the trailers may be a little misleading if you enjoy PG rated action with a lot of action as well as special effects then this may be the movie for you, it is easy to understand as well as having a linear narrative with plot points seen before so it is easy to follow, I wouldn’t call it dumb fun or a guilty pleasure but I can see the room for possible sequels or at least spinoffs that follow more undersea adventure which as has been proven a big selling point for audiences.
“The Meg” is out now only in cinemas.