A prehistoric shark thought to be long extinct finds its way to the civilised world and threatens to cause untold devastation in Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg.
I’m a sucker for a monster movie. If there’s a giant creature terrorising people then there’s a good chance I’ll be interested. Based on the marketing The Meg looked like it would be a typical example of a Hollywood version of this idea and to a large extent it certainly is.
The plot focuses on a state of the art deep sea research station funded by eccentric billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson). His considerable financial backing means that the researchers have access to top of the line equipment and can conducts tests that nobody else can. Winston Chao’s Zhang and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) are tasked with managing the facility and are concentrating on exploring a concealed pocket of the ocean floor that has been untouched as time has passed.
An expedition has complications when they are attacked by a large unknown radar contact which leads to an expert being drafted in the form of Jason Statham’s Jonas; a deep see rescue specialist who has apparently retired from the job after a rescue mission results in a number of deaths following a difficult choice made by him in the heat of the moment.
As you would expect with a film like this the setup is mostly padding though it does form the basis for the majority of the characters. Morris is eccentric, Jonas is angry at the world while being confident to the point of arrogance about his skills, Suyin is driven and idealistic to live up to the lofty expectations of her father and the facility itself acts as a fragile oasis keeping the characters alive while also being at risk of being destroyed at any point.
Despite being padding the narrative is needlessly complicated with lots of pseudo scientific babble that exists to explain why a giant shark is suddenly attacking. Considering this entire film exists to have some set pieces involving a giant prehistoric shark there’s no real need to overstuff the narrative with unnecessary details that very few people in the audience will actually care about.
There are other characters as well and they are all defined by a baseline trait. Robert Taylor’s Heller is a Doctor who has a history with Jonas that causes a shared animosity between them, DJ (Page Kennedy) is a deep sea researcher who can’t swim, Jaxx (Ruby Rose) is an equipment specialist as well a master hacker who has complete confidence in her own abilities and Shuya is the precocious daughter of Suyin who is always brutally honest. As an ensemble the cast work well enough though the characters aren’t all that memorable.
Part of the problem is that nobody really stands out to the point that it matters whether they live or die. The actors do a good enough job of establishing a pre-existing connection between some of them so that the deaths have more impact when their friends or colleagues stop to mourn them for a little while. Character depth isn’t something this film is interested in though it is appreciated that at least some time is devoted to acknowledging the deaths as something more than a body count relative to the other characters. Unfortunately none of them ever cross over into being someone the audience can invest in which does make the various deaths appear meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Jason Statham carries the film fairly well as a one note tough guy obsessed with making sure the Megalodon doesn’t terrorise anyone ever again. There’s a tragic backstory involving a failed rescue mission after the attach of an unseen sea monster in an attempt to give Statham’s character some kind of pathos but it amounts to little more than something that is brought up now and again to remind the audience that Jonas had a life before the film began. Statham does stand out as being the least convincing member of the cast throughout with some laughable line delivery though his physicality is always believable and that’s ultimately why he’s here.
The film constantly finds excuses for Jonas to go one on one with the giant shark which amounts to something amusing and preposterous in equal measure. There’s one scene in particular where he casually swims towards the hulking beast to plant a tracker on it that sums up everything this film is trying to achieve.
As an action movie it’s fairly hit and miss. The Megalodon is talked about more than it’s seen and fails to have any sort of personality so it often feels like a distant problem rather than an urgent threat. This robs a lot of scenes of their tension as it never quite feels like anyone is in any real danger despite the fact that people die. Compare this to something like Jaws and the shortcomings this film has in characterising its monstrous threat will become clear.
There are a handful of fun and outlandish set pieces such as the end sequence that manages to create some tension here and there though the overall experience is marred by the fact that the Megaldon is rarely seen. when audience do get a glimpse it is menacing enough with chipped teeth and scars to give it some character but the relative scale is never fully established so it is constantly unclear how big it actually is outside of what the characters say about it. Creature features live or die on their monstrous attacker and this one certainly needed work.
An entertaining creature feature that is full of missed opportunities. As with most films like this the characters are defined by a single baseline trait which works fairly well as far as the actors are concerned. Jason Statham leads the film fairly well with his physicality though fails to be convincing in the way he delivers his lines. The Megalodon itself isn’t featured enough to be given any sort of personality despite the physical details that show a violent history for the prehistoric beast. A sense of scale is a big problem as it’s unclear on a visual level how big the Megalodon is supposed to be outside of what the characters say. There are a handful of fun set pieces and it’s ironically funny to see Jason Statham’s Jonas going one on one with the Megalodon for increasingly convoluted reasons but all in all there’s a lot of missed opportunities here that rob this film of status as a memorable monster movie.
- a cast that mostly bring a bit extra to thin characters
- some well executed set pieces
- the design of the Megalodon having interesting details
- impressive visuals
- an overcomplicated story
- Jason Statham’s laughable line delivery
- failing to give the Megalodon much in the way of menace or personality
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