‘The Meg’ takes a bite out of the shark-movie genre (review)

“There’s a monster outside…”

Ever since the dawn of 1975’s Jaws, three things have always plagued our cinematic summers: a fear of the unknown, a fear of the ocean deep and a fear of sharks. Jaws instilled in moviegoers -long after it came and went to theaters- these fears that we never knew existed within us, and continue to, even to today. But the terror-of-the-deep genre has spiraled into more of a laughable attempt nowadays, with this generation describing films such as Sharknado becoming as Jaws-esque. This saddens me, deeply. Nothing strikes fear into a movie-lover such as myself more than hearing people equate Sharknado to Jaws. So when the news of The Meg being adapted into a feature film, I got excited! I was a fan of the books, and so this has to be good, right?

Directed by Jon Turteltaub, The Meg tells a whale shark of a story, where a deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct. It 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 (Jason Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon.

What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below, bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.

“He looks heroic… but he’s kinda got a negative attitude.”

From the man behind such films as 1993’s Cool Runnings and 2000’s The Kid, Turteltaub has kind of been all over the map in terms of his style. From the more action and historic driven pieces like National Treasure to the heartwarming and moving Phenomenon, it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly this man draws inspiration from. So I think it’s safe to say that after watching this film, and seeing his filmography, I can easily say that this man is all over the place. His film mounts a basic assault of a story out the gate, but doesn’t steer straight for very long, leading moviegoers on a ride that goes from the Mariana Trench to the depths of our hearts.

But it isn’t completely his fault, as part of the film’s issue also lies in the performances of the cast. Jason Statham is known to be very active in his roles, and it’s safe to say that even though this film is about a huge shark, this has got to be one of his tamest performances. Statham, being a very action-oriented actor, fighting and shooting and the lot, is relegated to driving a sub, swimming, and staring. Sadly, this completely negates much of the purpose to have an actor such as Statham on screen in the first place. Unfortunately, the other performers aren’t memorable either, including Rainn Wilson. I was hoping for more from Dwight K. Schrute, but to my dismay his character is under-explained, and ill conceived, as his purpose serves no meaning other than to bankroll the whole operation.

One of the shining points of The Meg, however, is the shark. This beast is massive! Not only does it take up the whole screen at the theater, but also looks quite convincing up close. I was hoping that the shark wouldn’t look as fake as the ones in those other film, and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. From teeth to tail, this shark has an impressive look that would scare the tar out of any IMAX viewers. Another high point was the science, which for most of these types of endeavors, that is where the film falls apart instantly. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I want to say that if this film doesn’t get people wondering about the Mariana Trench, I don’t know what will!

“My God. It’s a megalodon.”

All in all, despite all the things it has going against it, I still enjoyed the film! The Meg, although chock full of issues and acting mishaps, still produced one thing that all the other shark films have yet to do: a decent shark! This film will have you fearing, even for just a moment, going into the water again, much like our beloved classic JawsThe Meg is no powerful epic or man’s fight all out brawl against nature, but it is still a fun and unique film that will shine amongst a sea of bad shark movies. I -for one- am hoping to get a second viewing, and hopefully, make sure that the next time I jump into the pool, I’ll look before I leap.

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

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