10th August 2018 (UK)
After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.
Ruby Rose, Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson
Movies featuring sharks as merciless killing machines have seen a resurgence in the last few years, largely thanks to the 2013’s utterly ridiculous SyFy offering Sharknado, a movie whose name says it all: sharks, contained within tornadoes who wreak havoc in LA. The films instant success has, to date, spawned five more movies each more preposterous than the last.
Not content with having the kings of the sea wrapped in the windy fury of nature, independent filmmakers with budgets lower than the depths of the ocean have since found ways to incorporate the apex predators into other elements and scenarios in which they most certainly shouldn’t be in; Sand Sharks, House Shark, 3 Headed Shark Attack, even Exorcist Shark. Of course, jack-of-all-trades Nicolas Cage got in on the action too in 2016 with USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage as a Captain who must fend of sharks when his ship goes down in the Philippines.
Seeing potential in a bigger budget but more grounded approach to shark related shenanigans, Sony Pictures released The Shallows in 2016 and put an injured Blake Lively on a rock with a great white circling her location. The simplistic premise worked: the film made an impressive $119 million Worldwide on a budget of $17 million. Another shark-related thriller followed a year later, with 47 Meters Down stranding two friends in a metal cage underwater as, you guessed it, great whites eyed them up for dinner. Again, it made a killing at the box office, raking in $44 million on a meagre $5.5 million cost to make. Now, Warner Brothers wade in with The Meg, their long-delayed and monstrously budgeted $150 million attempt at taking a bite of the shark-filled pie.
Jason Statham stars as Jonas Taylor, an expert sea diver who’s seen things you wouldn’t believe, man. As a result, he’s packed it all in and is living a secluded, alcohol-driven lifestyle in Thailand. He’s abruptly pulled back into the diving game when an exploration team, including his ex-wife, are attacked by a 70-foot sea creature – the description of which sounds exactly like the behemoth of a fish which initially took him out of action. Now, Jonas must face his fear to save the world from being subjected to the wrath of a species long thought to be extinct – the Megalodon.
You’d think a film about tough guy Jason Statham fighting a massive shark would write itself really. Unfortunately, so did the trio of scribes entrusted with penning the script. Brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber, along with Dean Georgaris serve up formulaic scraps which lack in any real thrills or, crucially, biting one-liners. The Meg feels glaringly restrained too, never entirely embracing the idea of a prehistoric shark being unleashed on unsuspecting holidaymakers. Call me sadistic, but I was hoping for a scene of ol’ Meg effortlessly gliding through the swarms of swimmers, mouth wide open, catching dozens in her jaws and violently dispersing the rest on either side of her mouth as they shriek in horror (I told you this thing writes itself). Instead, we’re given a disappointing sequence of the creature swimming underwater, which makes for a few impressive top down shots of its size rather than its power, and surfacing occasionally to nip at some rafts.
As for Statham, he sounds to be in dire need of a few packs of Fisherman’s Friend mints as he gruffly grunts his lines. Not that the dialogue really matters; it’s a straightforward enough story of the team trying to stop the shark in a variety of ways which usually result in ‘The Stath’ donning a wet suit and swimming really, really fast. Still, it would have been nice to have used some of that supersized budget on a few more locations than a couple of rusty boats and an all too brief venture around a futuristic, Bioshock-esque science station situated under the sea.
That’s another point too: where exactly did the $150 million go? I know I keep going on about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the gargantuan cost as the film meandered on at the pace of treading water. Sure, the CGI looked decent enough, but not 150 million smackeroos decent. And I’m pretty positive Statham’s fee isn’t at the level where he commands enough money to buy a super yacht worthy of a Russian oil tycoon. The rest of the cast, portraying characters entirely made up of overused stereotypes and cliches, put in such poor performances that it looks like they were offered two buckets of chum and a shark tooth necklace for their work, with all of them being as expendable as Statham’s other, similarly named franchise.
It’s not all bad: as I said, The Meg herself does look remarkable at times, dwarfing helicopters and decimating fishing boats that happen to be in her path and there are infrequent glimpses of the ludicrous flick this could have been. The Meg chasing a tiny dog is one such highlight and, despite my wishes for it to have had more victims, the beach scene is possibly the most exciting of the film. Its choice of an Asian rendition of the 80s pop hit ‘Hey Mickey!’ in the soundtrack is an absolutely inspired one and The Meg would have greatly benefited from similar playful choices in every aspect of its production.
Alas, this is not the case and disappointingly The Meg is neither trashy enough to be considered awfully good nor does it contain a satisfying level of menace to be memorable. It’s a schlocky midnight B-movie premise begging for blood but is undeniably held back by the chains of its big budget and tame PG-13 rating – meaning if this is the only threat we’ve got to worry about, then it’s definitely safe to go back in the water.
Impressive size and scale of The Meg
Contains brief flashes of the OTT fun that it could (and should) have been throughout
The Asian version of Hey Mickey!
Scenes between shark action are painfully dull
Acting is awful, even for a movie which you expect it from
Restrained by its age certification and potential studio interference