Fishes and dolphins and GIANT FUCKING MAN EATING SHARKS, oh my!
Five years after a botched attempt at saving a downed submarine ruined his diving career, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), is pulled back from his self imposed, mostly drunk exile in order to help save another deep sea mission, this time with a whole lot more at stake. But when Jonas arrives at a top of the line research facility somewhere over the Marianas Trench called Mana One which is financially backed by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), and ran by Dr. Minway Shang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing), he realizes that the incident that sent him spiraling into his own despair may be the same reason as to why the sub crew has been stranded at the bottom of the ocean floor in the first place. Now, with the knowledge that the long thought extinct Megalodon shark, or “Meg”, might not be so extinct anymore coupled with the simple fact that no one still believes Jonas and his crazy claims, it’s up to him and the crew of Mana One to either debunk this ridiculous idea of a giant man-eating shark or prove it’s existence. Spoiler alert: the Meg is real and it loves the taste of human flesh!
First things first: this is not a good movie. It’s not clever, it’s not acted particularly well, the script stinks for the most part and the special effects are a bit wonky, so by all intents and purposes, this one should have tanked at the work “shark”. But as the film went on, something happened, something glorious that only “so bad it’s good” films can ever accomplish: I had fun.
Being a big budget popcorn flick released at the tail end of the summer, The Meg has all the staples of a film that shouldn’t work. The acting, outside of Statham, Bingbing and surprisingly, the young daughter of Bingbing’s character, Meiying, played by Shuya Sophia Cai, is pretty bad and cringe-worthy. Now I’m not saying that a film like this is supposed to have great, mind-blowing performances, but to sell a script as inherently silly and over-the-top as this one, your actors need to be in on the joke and go for broke regardless of what might be happening onscreen. And while a lot of the cast – filled with mostly stellar TV actors and actresses – has a moment or two where this happens, they aren’t consistent enough to do much good other than play their roles and either get mauled by a shark, or survive the ordeal with serious traumatic issues. That being said, I would never judge a film like this based on the merits of the acting alone – the big draw of this movie is the enormous titular shark after all – but with a cast that is much better than your average guilty pleasure flick, I longed for a bit more and was slightly disappointed when these performances delivered the script’s amateurish dialogue and questionable character decisions as if they were nothing more than a bunch of underwhelming direct-to-DVD, low-budget actors.
On the flipside, I really felt like this film delivered on the action front. The Meg might hold a PG-13 rating, but other than some real gore and blood spatter that could have pushed the envelope in terms of the violence and chaos onscreen, the kills are pretty brutal and entertaining regardless. The sheer size of the shark in question allows the film to transcend the at times shoddy CGI in order to show some truly fun and totally unrealistic set pieces that just get wackier and wackier as the script goes on. The climax alone is completely bonkers in every way that I could have hoped for with bodies getting chomped left and right, a completely ludicrous solution to the giant shark problem itself, and sense of madness and turmoil that permeates until the last scene. For this, I tip my hat to this film for being able to more or less deliver the goods without compromising the amount of insanity at hand at any given time.
A B-movie/guilty pleasure at heart, The Meg does enough right by mostly delivering on its wacky premise, but in the end, it isn’t strong enough to break free from some bad scripting, odd tonal shifts and, at times, cringe-worthy acting. While I definitely enjoyed the hell out of this one – and recommend it to anyone interested in some dumb, summer blockbuster fun – it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a mediocre film at best, barely hanging on by its entertaining premise, Jason Statham, and the fact that the titular monster straight up noms on everything in sight, much to my enjoyment. It may not stop you from wading into the ocean anytime soon, but it’s an experience that is well worth the (matinee) ticket price.