A prehistoric 70-foot shark emerges from a newly discovered portion of the Mariana Trench and starts attacking everything and everyone in its way. The only people that can stop it are the people responsible for letting it out, a group of marine biologists and Jason Statham. To most of the people that read this, a premise like this sounds ridiculous, and it is. However, a movie like this can work. All of the marketing for The Meg showed the most important element of this movie’s success, self-awareness. Casting Rainn Wilson as a Nike high tops wearing multi-billionaire who is interested in marine biology is enough to prove self-awareness. The only way that this movie can be any good is if it is self-aware. Big, dumb action comedies have done well for a long time and there is still certainly a place for them. Maybe now more than ever due to the influx of dark stories and the increasing dark reality of the world we actually live in. An escape into a ridiculous and fun movie may be more welcomed.
The Meg positioned itself perfectly to be that escape. The marketing ahead of this movie was flawless. It effectively generated buzz for the movie and depicted a movie that would be a fun and funny popcorn movie. The movie itself fell far short of the standard it set for itself. It showed to be a self-aware action comedy about a shark terrorizing people. In reality it wasn’t all that self-aware and there could have been more of the shark. The movie opens with an odd and sloppy flashback to a scene that doesn’t really mean all that much. Jonas Taylor (Statham) is a Naval sea diver who chooses to abandon two of his men in the midst of saving eleven other people, all because a sea creature was attacking them. This scene unfortunately set a tone for the whole movie. The Meg had far more psychoanalysis of its lead character than necessary. Jonas Taylor, as a character does not need all of this additional motivation and character depth, in part because it’s not good. He works as a hero just fine without it. Instead we get this odd anti-hero and in turn we get more scenes exploring this character than I would have liked.
The treatment of Jonas Taylor isn’t great but it’s not the problem, it’s just a symptom of the real problem. The Meg suffers from what most blockbusters suffer from, an overlong runtime and poor pacing. The movie runs just shy of two hours, which isn’t all that long but with a script full of exposition and people talking to each other, that near two hour runtime became all the more noticeable. The movie’s pacing exacerbates this. The time in between shark attacks often times lasted too long and when we did get to those sequences, most of them felt too short. The shark is the star of this movie, or at least it’s supposed to be. More often than not it wasn’t, which is disappointing. Director Jon Turteltaub oftentimes seemed more interested in these characters than he did the shark. Most of the time good character development is essential but The Meg doesn’t need strong characters. They are there to provide some laughs and to be put into peril, and it took too long for us to get there. It seems obvious (and a bit ridiculous) to point out that the script of The Meg is sloppy. It was never my goal to even think about it but that is part of the problem with the movie, there was too many times where it took itself too seriously.
The movie wasn’t all bad and disappointing, there were some truly great moments. There were quite a few times when it’s operating exactly how it should and in turn becomes very enjoyable. The deep-sea rescue is a great sequence from start to finish. There was real tension throughout that scene. It does a great job of showing what the shark can really do and why we should be scared of it. This sequence also contains the best shot in the whole movie, a wide shot of a giant squid wrapped around a rescue craft. Another great sequence is when Suyin (Bingbing Li) goes down in a shark cage to poison the shark. The design of the cage is great, the murky water creates tension, and it is equally horrifying and thrilling when the shark takes the cage. This is also true of one part in the final sequence that feels like an under water chase sequence. It was different, unique and ridiculous, that’s what was so great about it! All of these sequences have one thing in common; they all involve the shark. When I got what I came for, it was a lot of fun.
Overall, The Meg falls short. Not because it was bad but because it wasn’t that much fun. There were glimpses of a fun summer blockbuster. It’s funny enough and the design of the actual Megalodon was good. In the end those glimpses weren’t enough to overcome its shortcomings. The film is bad. The cast wasn’t great, in spite of having some great cast members (Ruby Rose and Cliff Curtis specifically). Rainn Wilson was especially bad. His over-the-top performance provided little in the way of laughs and wasn’t nearly enough of a villain. The actual plot was ridiculous and about as over-the-top as the acting. None of what happens in this movie makes any sense if you provide any thought to it. All of this isn’t all that surprising, expecting this to be a “good” movie is ridiculous in its own right. The problem is that it wasn’t bad enough. The Meg should be so bad it’s good; instead it’s just bad.
2 out of 5 stars
Director: Jon Turteltaub Writers: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Clifton Curtis, Winston Chao & Ruby Rose Release Date: August 10th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hour and 53 minutes Image Credit: Imdb via Warner Bros.