2.5 stars (out of 5)
Sharks are always a cinema fave, from the barnstorming original Jaws and its sequels, imitations and rip-offs to those dire Sharknado pics to the endless stream of sharky TV movies that includes (no joke) Sand Sharks, Snow Sharks, Super Shark, Ghost Shark, 5-Headed Shark Attack and many more. This filming of Steve Alten’s 1997 book has been stuck in ‘Development Hell’ for ages and might have seemed to be missing the shark-esque boat as it went from filmmaker to filmmaker over the years (at one fanciful time, for example, Eli Roth could have directed and Guillermo del Toro produced), and yet at some point, sneering star Jason Statham got involved, any-old-thing director Jon Turteltaub came on board and much Chinese money was pumped into the budget, and suddenly it was all systems go.
However, the finished finny result falls pretty flat, mostly as it’s all so damn predictable and also due to the fact that the nastiness was toned down deliberately to ensure a lower censorship rating (and a bigger box office), something that irked Statham, who was hoping it would be gorier. And when you’re dealing with gargantuan prehistoric sharks, the proceedings should be very gory indeed.
Statham’s Jonas Taylor is a rescue diver we see make a disastrous decision while saving a bunch of scientists from a nuclear submarine stranded in the deep, and then we pick up five years later and get acquainted with a bunch of characters in ‘Mana One’, an FX underwater research facility that allows for unobstructed views of all sorts of sea life (bad idea). When billionaire sponsor Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) turns up Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) has a show-off operation for his delectation, as a submersible is descending below the Marianas Trench into an unexplored realm where, of course, something strikes, and they wind up trapped along with Minway’s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), who had tried to rescue them (another bad idea).
The haunted Jonas is naturally summoned from boozy ruin in Thailand and duly plunges to the rescue, only to find that the angry culprit is a somehow-surviving megalodon shark (or ‘meg’) that’s distracted while most of the cast are saved, but then comes back to put the bite on the rest of the multicultural ensemble (and many others). And as usual you start wondering who’ll survive: surely Jonas and Suyin will pull through, but what of Morris, James ‘Mac’ Mackreides (New Zealander Cliff Curtis) and Aussies Ruby Rose (as Jaxx Herd), Robert Taylor (as dopey Dr. Heller) and Jessica McNamee (as Jonas’ ex-wife Lori for a little extra contrivance)?
With the Chinese finances meaning that the final scene isn’t, say, in dreary old San Francisco but Sanya Bay, and a cast that can actually act and try to quite a bit, this is still rather plodding, and even Jason’s manly carry-on seems drab, especially as we know, once again, that NOTHING here is real, meaning that the Meg has very large teeth and a bad attitude but no personality at all. And yet there will probably be a sequel anyway, and it might well be titled… what? The Meg 2: Meg Harder? The Meg 2: Getting Meggy With It? Or maybe The Meg 2: Get A Meg Up?