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The Meg Review

August 10, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Meg
4
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The Meg Review  

Directed By: Jon Turteltaub
Written By: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber; Based on the novel Meg by Steve Alten
Runtime: 113 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language

Jason Statham – Jonas Taylor
Rainn Wilson – Jack Morris
Bingbing Li – Suyin Zhang
Winston Chao – Dr. Minway Zhang
Cliff Curtis – James ‘Mac’ Mackreides
Ruby Rose – Jaxx Herd
Page Kennedy – DJ
Robert Taylor – Doctor Heller
Jessica McNamee – Lori Taylor
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson – The Wall
Masi Oka – Toshi

The Meg has had quite the journey to theaters. Steve Alten’s 1997 novel, Meg, has been kicked around Hollywood for 10+ years. The basic premise features a giant, prehistoric shark that comes to the surface and wreaks havoc on mankind. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why Hollywood movie executives would be interested. Not to mention, it seems ever since Deep Blue Sea in 1999, there’s been a dearth of big, quality shark movies, so a movie about a giant shark definitely could’ve filled that void.

After a number of script rewrites and an extended title change to The Meg, Alten’s giant shark finally gets to star in its own movie. Unfortunately, The Meg is an utter letdown, and not even the charisma of Jason Statham can rescue The Meg from mediocrity.

In the film’s prologue, rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham) is attempting to stage a deep-sea rescue of survivors for a nuclear submarine stranded in the Philippine Trench. However, an unseen force starts crushing the hull. Jonas is forced to make a judgment call and evacuate his rescue sub, leaving the other rescue divers behind in the doomed vessel.

Fast forward to five years later, Doctor Minway Zhang (Chao) and his daughter, single-mom Suyin Zhang (Li), are looking to stage a breakthrough exploration to discover the genuine bottom of the Mariana Trench. The oceanic research rig, Mana One, is an operation that has been funded by goofy billionaire Jack Morris (Wilson). They are sending a submersible team down to explore the greatest depths of the ocean than anyone has ever been. The crew includes Taylor’s ex-wife, Lori (McNamee), along with the jokesters Toshi (Oka) and the Wall (Ólafsson). After the crew proves Dr. Zhang’s hypothesis to be correct, their vessel is attacked by a large, unseen force in the briny deep.

With the crew running out of time and options limited for Mana One, crew member Mac (Curtis) suggests bringing Jonas Taylor out of retirement to spearhead the rescue effort. Living in drunken bliss in Thailand, Jonas is none too interested in jumping back into the fray. His previous rescue effort five years earlier made him a disgrace and a pariah among his peers and colleagues. But the audio of Lori’s last transmission is enough to spur him back into action. Unfortunately, the mission to the Mariana Trench has gained the attention of the Megalodon, an underwater apex predator with no equal, and the rescue effort enabled it to leave its deep-sea confinement. Now, Jonas and the rest of the Mana One crew has to stop this gigantic shark before it reaches civilian waters.

There’s undeniably a certain bit of appeal to seeing an action hero such as Statham, who is still looking quite ripped at 51, taking on a giant shark. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent that The Meg has going for it, and even those scenes aren’t all that great.

Director Jon Turteltaub plays The Meg tepidly safe. What carnage there is at play in The Meg is massively disappointing. There’s very little in the way of suspense or terror created from having a giant, man-eating shark at play. There are a couple minor jump scares, but even the great white shark in the comparatively low-budget shark thriller, The Shallows, was more intimidating.

Despite boasting a budget of $150 million, The Meg looks to have cost about half that amount onscreen. There’s almost a sense that CG or visual effects have reached some sort of strange plateau, if not a sharp decline. The giant shark never looks all that impressive or scary for that matter. Even when the shark finally wanders into civilian beaches, the experience isn’t nearly as terrifying as one would imagine. The last two Jurassic World movies are far from perfect, but they do a much better job of making the dinosaurs intimidating and scary.

Meanwhile, the Mosasaurus seemingly stole a lot of Meg’s thunder, even that image of the Mosasaurus swimming through a big wave as it prepares to gobble up an unsuspecting surfer. There’s not a single shot or sequence in The Meg that is as nearly inspired as that aforementioned scene in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The cast for the most part are all pretty inoffensive for the most part. They do the best with what they are given with a script that boasts at least three different writers. Veteran thespians such as Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose and Robert Taylor do a decent enough job in selling unremarkable material.

Unfortunately, Page Kennedy plays the typical one-note comic relief character, DJ. DJ starts off as a pretty normal, straightforward character, if a little bit snarky. But he eventually descends to the stereotypical character usually found in these type of movies; complete with a joke about him not being able to swim, which comes off as decidedly tone-deaf in 2018.

Credit where credit is due, the buildup to what essentially amounts to Jason Statham vs. Meg in a one-on-one, mano-a-mano brawl is somewhat amusing in a cheesy, corny fun sort of way. Unfortunately, The Meg totals up to a big budget creature feature without any bite rather than a pleasantly surprising popcorn blockbuster such as Turteltaub’s superior National Treasure.

4
The final score: review Poor
The 411
The Meg is an uneventful letdown. Despite a rather hefty budget, the film looks like it cost only about as half as much. Jon Turteltaub fails to elevate or do much at all with the prospect of a giant killer shark on the loose. Jason Statham is there and has a fun confrontation with the shark, but that's about the extent of amusement from The Meg. Not to mention, it seems all the best sequences for a giant, prehistoric underwater predator were already taken by the Mosasaurus in the Jurassic Park franchise.
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