Much like the titular creature, The Meg is something that feels like it shouldn’t exist in the modern landscape of cinema. Aside from the odd gem like The Shallows or 47 Meters Down, the shark movie has been primarily relegated to TV movies pitting a Mega Shark against another massive sea dwelling creature and the beyond parody Sharknado franchise. All of a sudden Jaws The Revenge and Jaws 3D are no longer the worst shark films churned out by Hollywood.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is one of my favourite films of all time, more than forty years on from its original release, and it’s still the best shark movie ever made. So has The Meg managed to be the second best shark movie of all time? The short answer is no, but that doesn’t get in the way of it being tremendous fun.
For a movie about a prehistoric shark chomping its way through populated waters, The Meg’s surprisingly big opening weekend sure did sneak up on just about everybody. Originally looking like it could be a costly flop with an opening weekend in the low $20 million area, The Meg devoured $45.4 million from US audiences and more than $100 million overseas. Chomp on this indeed.
Plot-wise, The Meg goes through all the expected motions. We are briskly introduced to Jason Statham’s hero Jonas Taylor during a partly successful deep sea rescue. Believing he saw something down in the deep dark sea, Jonas’ decision to evacuate costs crew members their lives and forces him out of the deep sea rescue game.
Cut to five years later, and at a lavish underwater research facility funded by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) with Jonas’ ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) leading an expedition. However, after an encounter with a large unseen creature, her submersible is damaged, and only one man can save the day. Jonas is living the broken man’s life in Thailand and is one drink away from being a cliched haunted hero with a drinking problem (with washboard abs of course). IT doesn’t take much for his old mucker Mac (Cliff Curtis) to convince him to suit up.
Warner Bros made a bold move leaning into the ridiculous nature of The Meg for its marketing campaign. It so easily could have played it as a straight-faced monster movie, but the mix of cheeky taglines, dumb dialogue delivered seriously all set to Bobby Darrin’s Beyond The Sea, paid off massively. Sadly, while The Meg offers a good night out at the movies, the end results aren’t quite as much fun as the marketing campaign suggested.
The last time we got a big budget shark movie, it was nearly twenty years ago with Warner Bros’ Deep Blue Sea, and The Meg tries very hard to be as much fun as Renny Harlin’s cult classic. I’m going to apologise in advance for the forthcoming pun, for all Meg’s good intentions it’s the lack of bite (or horror if you will) that is the biggest disappointment. There are times when you wish there were more gore, a little more self-awareness, and just a dash of subtlety. That said, you don’t go to see a Jason Statham movie for the subtlety.
The Stath’s unexpectedly hilarious performance in Spy proved he had an untapped comedic side that had been lying dormant for years. While his turn as haphazard spy Rick Ford might have been a thinly veiled spoof of his usual character, The Stath is so game for a laugh he steals the whole movie. If only Jonas Taylor could have cracked a few more jokes.
The Meg is out now in cinemas.