Based on Steve Alten’s 1997 book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror which was immediately optioned upon publication, it has taken over twenty years for The Meg to reach screens, a period not quite as lengthy as that over which Carcharocles megalodon is believed to have been extinct but through which the apparent purpose of the producers has been to make the film dumber at every level.
From the depths of the Marianas Trench to the airborne breaching of the carnivorous beasts, The Meg is terrible in every way a film can be terrible, devoid of tension, absent of logic, drowning in shallow spectacle and populated by handy bite-size humans as empty of personality as the hungry digital sharks which snack on them.
Death Race’s Jason Statham is unchallenged by the role of Jonas Taylor, a former deep-sea rescue specialist whose reputation was ruined five years previously when an operation resulted in the deaths of two of his colleagues, regardless of how many civilian lives were saved.
Called into action once more, there is a ticking clock on the oxygen supply of a downed submersible in the Marianas Trench below a hydrogen sulphide layer which preserves a thermocline, beneath which there is an unexplored microcosm of warmer water.
Aboard are Jonas’ ex-wife Lori (Home and Away‘s Jessica McNamee, young enough to be Statham’s daughter), Toshi (Heroes‘ Masi Oka) and “the Wall” (The White King‘s Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), but also present in the deep trench is a vast shark bearing the appearance of the prehistoric megalodon, and while the rescue is a qualified success the Meg follows in their wake back through the thermocline to the surface…
Directed by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice‘s Jon Turteltaub from a script by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, Statham’s presence and ability is well suited to the varied physical demands of the role but he is never required to develop anything resembling a personality, but then neither are the rest of the cast which includes Resident Evil: Retribution‘s Li Bingbing, Star Trek: Discovery‘s Rainn Wilson and Sunshine‘s Cliff Curtis.
Less characters than a series of responses to stimuli, principal among these is the omnipresent titular prehistoric shark, every appearance heralded by either its vast flag of a dorsal fin or Turteltaub’s repeated placement of a snack in easy reach, any hope of menace or terror sunk by the formulaic plot and drowned by the constant misplaced attempts at broad humour which undermines the shallow drama.
Absent the sense of the vastness of the unforgiving ocean which soaks the final act of undisputed king of the sharks Jaws, even Deep Blue Sea was at least aware of how ridiculous it was, but despite being an overt but undeclared science fiction film in the Thunderbirds style equipment deployed and the lax adherence to such matters as the pressure of the ocean eleven kilometres down, with surly no-nonsense Statham in the lead The Meg is played disappointingly straight even as the big man engages in an underwater submarine chase before going hand to fin with his scaly nemesis.
The Meg is currently on general release and also screening in 3D IMAX