“The Meg” stars in the jaws it doesn’t have
Movie Review by Madhusudhanan Sridaran (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
The Meg is a wholeheartedly unoriginal, run of the mill, cookie cutter summer release that fails to live up to 20-years of great expectations. The Meg is Jason Statham’s latest, and while the premise appears to be rich action movie fodder, the final product is let down by cliched characters, weak character development, and mediocre (sometimes cringey) dialogue. It makes you wonder just what exactly the production staff were doing for 20 freakin’ years.
The plot of the Meg is wholly unremarkable. Jonas (Jason Statham) is a dishonored deep-sea rescue diver who drinks his days away in Thailand. He suffers from survivor’s guilt due to his decision to abandon several colleagues in the middle of a deep-sea rescue mission. His justification is that he saw a giant shark attack the rescue vessel, a statement which leads many on his team to question his very sanity. Eventually, Jonas reaches a point where he himself isn’t sure anymore. It stands to reason that when he is called upon by Zhang (Winston Chao) and Mac (Cliff Curtis) to undertake another rescue mission to save his ex-wife and her crew, (who are stranded on their sub), he jumps at the opportunity to fix his damaged reputation.
The underwater research facility, the Mana One stands as one of the many missed opportunities of the film. Funded by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), an eccentric billionaire cum Elon Musk wannabe, the Mana One is the primary platform that the team uses for their oceanographic research. Scientific accuracy is not one of the strong suits of this movie, and given the creative liberty that it takes with regards to certain plot aspects—it is a shame that we don’t get to see more of the Mana One as a character. There are a few scenes which exploit the enormous scale of the facility and the eponymous “Meg”, but we don’t get to see more than a glimpse of what might’ve been.
Turtletaub invests too much time in the movie’s meandering characters, and wooden dialogue instead of focusing on the main attraction: the giant prehistoric shark. The movie takes its own sweet time to get going, establishing its backstory in a bid to get us invested in its cliched characters. There’s the tough girl hacker/loner who bears more than a passing resemblance to Lisbeth Salander, there’s the eccentric millionaire, the oceanographer and his doe-eyed daughter and granddaughter, and a big African-American dude who tries too hard to be funny. Throw in the skeptic researcher who doubts Jonas’s credibility, and you have a truly formulaic main cast who manage to negate Jason Statham’s considerable reserve of charisma.
Moviegoers do get to see Statham take on the ancient shark in some truly gripping scenes (suspend your disbelief, people!) but we don’t get to see enough of the Megalodon, not as much we’d like to at least. Regardless, whenever it does appear on the screen—the Megalodon is a force to be reckoned with, an ancient monster that’d send a shiver down the spine of any other fearsome predator. On a related note, it’s a shame that we don’t get to see other deep-sea monsters in the movie aside from a giant squid. A Google search shows that the deep sea is home to a plethora of terrifying monsters that are pure nightmare fuel.
The Meg is a joint production of Hollywood and Chinese studios—the movie’s shameless pandering towards Chinese moviegoers in the form of the Statham/Bingbing coupling produces some truly awkward and cringeworthy moments. Bingbing’s character appears to be randomly shoehorned in, and this trend of appeasing Chinese movie-goers is expected to continue unabated. The rationale behind this mainland-ization of popular movies is that the Chinese audiences have a preference towards movies with uncomplicated plotlines and simplistic dialogue. There is a 34-movie cap placed on foreign movie releases in China, and most movies which do end up getting released are big budget animation or action fare. Therefore, bowing down to Chinese sensitivities is not an option. Expect more movies like The Meg to flood your screens soon.
For all of its enormous size and scale, The Meg is a mainstream blockbuster whose teeth barely bite, let alone fill the jaws it seeks to supplant. There is a case to be made for IMAX screenings of this film, but otherwise—its best to steer clear.