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Jason Statham is a solid bet in any action role - charismatic enough to lug the dead weight of the rest of the supporting cast in a huge submarine with one hand, and still fighting off a huge shark with the other.
The film pretty much does what it says on the tin — the Meg is a Carcharodon Megalodon, a 70ft prehistoric shark that’s survived by lurking under the ocean floor, and that has a history with Statham’s character Jonas Taylor. A haunted survivor of a previous Meg attack, Taylor is the man to call when a sub mysteriously runs into some trouble and loses all contact with the underwater base.
The crew of the sub in trouble includes Taylor’s ex-wife played by Jessica McNamee, whilst Taylor develops a flirtation with fellow rescuer, marine biologist, and single mother Suyin (BingBing Li). The romantic tension isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but BingBing and Statham’s chemistry is actually pretty sweet — certainly helped along by the sparkling Shuya Sophia Cai, playing Suyin’s eight year old daughter.
Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from The Office) plays the morally dubious (read: evil) millionaire behind the underwater space station, while Ruby Rose (who’s just been cast as the CW’s Batwoman!) brings some much-needed banter as mechanic Jaxx. Page Kennedy, Cliff Curtis, and Masi Oka (Heroes) are at worst an offensive sprinkling of “diverse” caricatures amongst this US-China co-production, and at best irrelevant and forgettable.
But what about the giant shark? After a lead-up of science babble and tension building that honestly makes the audience impatient for the shark to show up just so we don’t have to listen to any more submarine technology problems being talked through in excruciating detail, when she does eventually show up … she’s undeniably impressive. A big as claimed, with teeth for days, the first encounter happens in the ocean’s depths in poor light, which only makes the glimpses we catch even more horrifying.
The rescue mission is followed by a counter-attack, and finally — what everyone’s really waiting for — a beach attack sequence … but unfortunately the standard structure makes the whole film feel a little formulaic. The innovation of this huge shark is a great one for the shark movie genre, but rather than revelling in it, The Meg seems to just be going through the motions.
A disappointing PG-13 rating leaves the audience with more bloodlust than the shark itself — no grisly deaths, and perhaps overexposure to the shark itself throughout the film leaves the final attack sequence almost entirely devoid of horror or fear at all. Another side-effect is that we’re asked to suspend our disbelief enough to accept that the weathered, PTSD-riddled vet Taylor would only drop a few well timed “sh——”s throughout this whole ordeal. Colossal shark? Sure. Jason Statham minding his language? Never.
As deep as the shark lurks in the ocean, the film is just a little too surface level. Sure, Statham swims out and uses his former- British national diving team skills to execute some heavy duty water stunts, and sure some of the jokes land well, but the ultimate impression left is hardly an impression at all.
The bottom line is that The Meg can’t quite decide whether it’s trying to be a cheesy B-movie, or an action blockbuster to contend with the likes of Mission Impossible. No shade to the shark-movie genre, but when your gimmick is a 70ft long shark, sticking to the cheese would have made for a far more enjoyable film.
The Meg is out in UK cinemas on Friday August 10th.https://youtu.be/bsLk0NPRFAc