If there is one thing you should know about a cinema visit to see The Meg, it’s that you need to set your expectations really low. And once you’ve done that, set them a little lower. Only then will you be able to have some fun with Jon Turteltaub’s Jaws rip off, clearly made for the Chinese market.
I had hoped, going into the film, that it was going to be one of those “so bad it’s good” efforts. But the problem is that that kind of action doesn’t really kick in until the third act. That being said, I did have a great time watching it. The clunky script; the odd characterisation; the prominent product placement; the hit-you-over-the head exposition does make for plenty of laughs.
The plot is very simple: a Chinese marine biology company, funded by an obnoxious American billionaire (Rainn Wilson) goes beyond what was previously thought to be the deepest point in the ocean to discover a whole other eco-system. There’s just one problem – in that eco-system lives … The Megalodon.
Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, who once was a British diving champion) is the only man who is capable of working and exploring at such depths – 11,000 feet under the sea, as they say, several times – and so is drafted in to help with the exploration mission. I absolutely love The Stath and the man bloody well rocks a polo neck, but the dialogue he’s given is cringey and unnatural and the attempt at a romantic storyline between him and Li BingBing is woeful – largely because she’s an absolutely terrible actress.
In fairness, she’s not alone. Ruby Rose is equally terrible and I have no idea what a small child (Shuya Sophia Cai) is doing living on a marine research station in the middle of the ocean. Doesn’t she have school to go to? Page Kennedy, as DJ, completely changes character about halfway through and starts talking and gesticulating as if he were on the set of Straight Outta Compton. There is a fuck-ton of “borrowing” from Jaws, including the score (particularly in the third act). There’s even a dog named Pippin – which was the name of the lab in Amity.
Don’t get me wrong, as popcorn blockbuster fun goes, I was only a little disappointed in the final rendering. For me, there simply wasn’t enough action for film with the tagline “Chomp On This.” The body count was nowhere near as much as I had hoped and, even when the meg did strike, there was a lot of cutaways.
A lot of this will probably be to do with the film’s 12a rating and perhaps may even have something to do with censorship rules in China. But, when you hear that Eli Roth initially wanted to direct and keep the project at an R / 15 rating, you can’t help but wonder what might have been. It definitely felt, at times, less like Shark Week and more like Shark 15 Minutes.
All of that aside, the third act of the 90 minute run time is where the action is. If the entire film had been like this, I would have been in shark heaven. Crowded beaches full of blissfully unaware holiday makers; shadows under the sea; action shots in the water; Statham promising to make “this thing bleeeeed” … It was great. I loved the fact that it felt like you were on a ride simulator as you were plunged in and out of the water chasing this bloody big shark. I wanted more of that. Hell, I would have taken 90 minutes of that.
And that is the thing about a film about sharks – the expectation is for pure, unadulterated action and well-set tension. We don’t need a romantic storyline or speeches about men corrupting science and nature. We just want shark attacks and lots of ‘em!
I did have fun at The Meg. It was all a bit silly and over the top. The final twenty minutes or so is really what the entire film should have been – big explosions, huge close ups of shark teeth and Statham just punching fuck out of a giant, prehistoric fish.
Here’s hoping the DVD has an extended director’s cut with more deaths …