Let’s just get this out of the way: The Meg is a bad movie. I’m as disappointed as you are! It’s Jason Statham going head-to-fin against a giant fucking shark – evenly matched foes in a face-off so momentous, so legendary, it’s worthy of scripture. Have I put too much faith in this? Definitely. But shark movies are supposed to be fun. They carve out a space for you to leave reality at the door and revel in its (lovable) stupidity. Director Jon Turtletaub must’ve forgotten about this, for The Meg is too serious for its own good.
Riding on the wave of recent shark movies spearheaded by The Shallows, The Meg sees the resurrection of the prehistoric Megalodon (lovingly known as the Meg), who is mistakenly set free by a team of scientists investigating the depths of the Mariana Trench. The crew tasked with stopping the monstrous foe is led by Statham’s Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who claims he has hung his flippers up for good, but is about as reluctant to get out in the field as Lara Croft. Joining him are eccentric entrepreneur Morris (Rainn Wilson), driven scientist Suyin (Li Bingbing) and her daughter Mei (Sophia Cai). If they all sound like generic archetypes, it’s because they are. The billionaire is bad? Check. The female lead is the love interest? Check.
The problem with The Meg is that it’s seemingly at conflict with itself. It takes itself too seriously, while also, somehow, being fully aware of how ludicrously stupid everything about it is. Its success is indebted to a joke about Jason Statham punching a shark that got a bit out of hand (though still hilarious.) All the pieces are there to create the trashy B-movie fare we’ve come to love, yet miraculously, Turtletaub achieves the impossible: a boring shark movie.
Dragged down by numerous deep-sea rescue operations, the film sticks too close to protocol and lacks the thrills it needs to stay afloat. You only need to take a look at the big daddy that is Jaws to know what tropes and beats to follow, the biggest of all being the moment when the shark terrorises tourist-infested waters – but The Meg leaves this for the third act climax. It doesn’t indulge our morbid fascination with shark attacks either. Restricted by its family friendly rating, the film is light on the gore and scares. In fact, it’s pretty light on sharks altogether. If nothing else, you know what you’re going to get from The Meg: Statham VS Shark. Without the shark punching. And not a lot of shark either.