a critiQal film review The Meg (2018)

Plot: A deep-sea submersible has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific… with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Bingbing), to save the crew - and the ocean itself - from this unstoppable threat: a prehistoric 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon.

539 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 41s)
  • ...manages to tow the line between B movie sillyness and reverence to classic shark flicks much better than expected.

Since I had read the book by Steve Alten, I was a bit excited about The Meg…and also a little nervous. Having had some experience with great novels turning into bad movies (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007), for example), would this decently entertaining book experience the same Hollywood destruction? Or would Hollywood manage to get this book adaptation right?

Jason Statham leads the cast in The Meg. After starting off badly in The Transporter (2002), he has managed to make a name for himself as a decent action hero, and he shows why again here. He’s good at playing the heroic tough guy, and thankfully, has managed to develop a amiable personality on-screen with his co-stars as well. While that seemed to be falling rather flat back when he was doing The Transporter (2002), he’s honed his craft since, and it works well here. When he seems to be having fun with his role, it seems to make the audience enjoy him more. And in The Meg, he’s definitely having a good time.

Bingbing Li is his major co-star/love interest in The Meg. While this is her most memorable role in a blockbuster movie, audiences will recognize her anyway from her roles in films like The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). With her action hero co-star Statham taking the lead, Bingbing – and for that matter, the rest of the cast – have picked up on his enjoyment, and they all seem to be taking their roles seriously, but with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor barely held in check.

The rest of the cast contributes a couple of interesting bit pieces to The Meg as well – all with that underlying sense of sillyness infused throughout. Rainn Wilson and Cliff Curtis help keep this going, while Masi Oka – who always seems to be serious even in the most ridiculous of roles even while inviting the viewer to laugh at his seriousness – contributes another solid performance. True, their acting won’t win any awards, but that humor seriously helps the film when it’s struggling to get off the ground.

But the real star of the show, as expected, is the enormous shark from the title. Thanks to CGI advances, viewers aren’t really going to see anything new with The Meg (see the recent giant sea creature in Jurassic World (2015)), but they should enjoy watching this enormous shark go after beachgoers and fighting against a tiny Statham. And that’s really the appeal of this type of creature feature, isn’t it?

While this film keeps things rather unbloodied thanks to it’s PG-13 rating, there’s an obvious reverence for both Spielberg’s classic shark flick Jaws (1975) and the B movie “science runs amok” films of the 50’s. This, of course, has been tried before (Deep Blue Sea (1999)), but The Meg manages to ride that fine line between ridiculousness and seriousness much much better than expected. True, it’s not the terror ride that recent films like The Shallows (2016) managed to convey on-screen, but it’s likeable cast and that undercurrent of sillyness really help make the film some fun popcorn-chomping entertainment.

Just don’t go in expecting anything more than a silly creature feature, and The Meg will provide a bit more fun than you may have expected.

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