Jon Turteltaub’s shark movie The Meg ends with the word ‘Fin’ across the screen in a tongue in cheek reference to both shark anatomy and classic foreign cinema, the latter of which certainly does not apply to a film where Jason Statham battles a 75 foot thought-to-be-extinct Megalodon with nothing more than some flippers and a harpoon. This self-awareness and acknowledgment of its extravagantly priced B-Movie notions allows The Meg to deliver an easy deep-sea romp perfect for the end of summer blockbuster season.
With Statham on-board as a renowned deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor, he is called in by scientists Zhang (Winston Chao) and Mac (Cliff Curtis) to rescue one of research lab Mana One’s submersibles and its team who are stuck at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, having pierced a layer of hydrogen sulphide allowing them to go deeper than ever previously explored. Upon returning to the surface, the break in this layer has allowed a pathway for the creature attacking the team to also follow them back up; a pre-historic Megalodon shark that will eat anything in its path.
What would be expected now is a fun and campy Sharknado level of death and destruction, but Turteltaub spends too much time attempting to establish some loose relationships between his characters, namely a poor romantic interest for Jonas in the form of Suyin (Bingbing Li), Zhang’s oceanographer daughter. Ruby Rose’s character Jaxx, supposedly one of the smartest people on the team, is tossed aside so that billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson) and DJ (Page Kennedy) can shoot another one-liner. Just because The Meg is aware of its B-Movie connotations, doesn’t mean its characters also have to succumb to the pitfalls of them.
However, when the Meg finally does appear on screen it makes for some stupidly fun and overblown set-pieces, namely one involving a swimming Statham and a fishing line. A scene on Sanya Bay tourist beach that was heavily depicted in the film’s trailer delivers the quality shark-infested waters content audiences will pine for throughout the plot. There are also some surprisingly gorgeous shots that are few and far between, the killer-shark swimming underneath an unsuspecting paddleboarder for instance, gives a sense of monstrous scale that rarely feels felt outside of the final Statham V. Shark showdown. Visions of children in rubber rings, teens taking selfies and a tiny dog out swimming offer a comedic touch that could have flourished into a Piranha 3D style bloodbath. This is also present in a chilling shot of a cage-diving Suyin surrounding by sinking pieces of meat that points to a much bloodier version of the film that Turteltaub originally intended to create.
Due to its 12A rating The Meg tends to flit between genres, making for an unsteady ride between action, comedy and mild horror. It lacks the finesse and timing of a tight thriller such as The Shallows, but also sadly doesn’t fully embrace its ridiculousness to Megashark levels. Stuck between the Mariana Trench and a hard place, The Meg is solely carried by Statham’s legendary cold glare and cool delivery, his awareness as an over-the-top action hero starring in an over-the-top monster flick is definitely something to be admired and enjoyed as he faces off with the Meg in a gutsy and riotous final act. Filled with deftly spoken action hero lines, violence and victory, Statham’s scene stealer moments throughout the film will leave you wondering if there was any point in the other characters to begin with.
While clearly aware of its predecessors and sometimes revelling in them, The Meg doesn’t seem totally comfortable about which end of the shark-movie taste scale it belongs. Pairing ridiculous blockbuster-pleasing fun with its attempts at hefty scientific jargon and marine discovery often make for a slightly disjointing watch that isn’t helped by the film’s certificate. But ultimately, The Meg does what it came to do; kill some people, get Jason Statham shirtless and bite off way more than it can chew.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here