‘I’ ON CULTURE
As many other reviewers have noted, The Meg is fairly dumb. Essentially a rehash of Jaws, it lacks the many talents that went into that blockbuster. No Steven Spielberg, John Williams, Robert Shaw, etc. But as a late summer B movie, it sort of works. Do not go if you want a great movie. At best it is OK. But there is some entertainment value.
The essential setting is a science center deep in the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot in the oceans. Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), a demented billionaire (talk about clichés) has some special project that we never quite learn about dealing with something in the deepest part of the ocean.
Somehow the scientists penetrate something, never quite clear what, that separates a second, even deeper ocean that has all sorts of beings in it. There is a gigantic squid and, of course, the megalodon, an absolutely massive supershark.
Director Jon Turteltaub is smart enough to copy elements from Jaws; after all, if you want to imitate something, it is smarter to do a classic. We do not see the big fish for the first half hour; we just get hints. (Remember, the shark in Jaws was on screen for less than two minutes.) But things get crazy when Big Meg starts going after the station. So who do you call when all the Avengers and Wonder Woman are not around? Jason Statham, of course, who plays a diving expert who specializes in rescues.
The station is collapsing, and brilliant Chinese oceanographer Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao) recruits Jonas Taylor (Statham) to save the crew, and also the whole ocean, from the big fish. It is hinted that it could wipe out all the fish, which made me wonder what it was eating before it came to attack the station. Zhang has a beautiful daughter, Suyin (Li Bingbing), who opposes the whole project and does not, at first, take a liking to Taylor, although she is ready enough to work with him.
The problem really is that Taylor has been a drunken bum for years. He was blacklisted when years before (shown in a rather long and not wildly exciting prologue) he led a dive that was disrupted by a huge fish and people died. No one believed his story, including his ex-wife.
Most of the rest of the film is a contest between man and Big Meg. The fish seems to win most of the time; strange, since most times fish go up against armed, trained people, they die. But this is the movies. First there is a battle near the science center and then there’s a fight near a submarine and then the shark decides he wants to head for Chinese food… Specifically, people from China. I had always assumed Japan was where the big monsters went, but the size of the Chinese audience has changed that.
Statham is his usual scruffy, tough anti-hero self. At past 50, he can still handle action scenes, and as a former competitive diver, he moves around well in the water. Most of the rest of the cast is not nearly at his level. Li handles the action scenes well but is not great on emotion. One cast member, Ruby Rose, as a tough sailor of some sort (there never is an actual explanation of what she does) was pretty good.
The real problem in all of these more-or-less sequels to Jaws is that we essentially know the whole plot. Whether or not we’re dealing with a shark, a megalodon, a squid or any other sea monster, we know, in the end, the fish will be dead and our stars will survive.
But at least if this is a knock-off, it is a pretty decent one. There is a harpoon against the beast scene, a monologue about being in the water with sharks and so much more. That does lift the film at points.
If it wasn’t for the obscene cost of movie tickets, this would be a reasonable film to see. It moves fairly well, and Statham handles the major role well. But it is not worth the cost of the tickets, not to mention paying at the candy stand. Wait until it hits TV. I would guess it will be on the On Demand stations in a few weeks, and probably free not long after that. At that point, it is a bargain.