From the distinctly sub-Crichtonesque book it’s based on to its original director (Jan De Bont), The Meg, as directed by Jon Turtletaub, is a creature feature that’s been kept on ice since the latest ’90s.
Finally chomping its way into cinemas after a sizeable Chinese investment, Jason Statham, he of shiny bonce and glint-y eye, stars as Jonas Taylor, a legendary rescue diver brought out of retirement to save a scientific team trapped on the ocean bed below the level of the Mariana Trench. In rescuing them, however, they unleash The Meg: a massive shark, more than a hundred feet in length, thought extinct since prehistoric times. Oops.
Not as schlocky as Deep Blue Sea or as expertly crafted as Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows, the recent high watermark for shark movies, The Meg plays it big and generic. It takes a classic premise (no points for guessing which) and blows it up by an order of magnitude; much like Skyscraper – also Chinese funded – did with Die Hard.
Instead of Quint or Hooper, we get a cast of amusing stock characters – morally ambiguous billionaire (Rainn Wilson), punky tech-head (Ruby Rose), fat/black/Asian comic relief (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson /Page Kennedy/Masi Oka); a demure yet tenacious love interest (Li Bingbing) and her cute, tenacious kid (Shuya Sophia Cai).
Surprisingly few of the cast end up on the menu, heroically or ignobly, and only one of which seems mean-spirited. Instead of the tragic deaths of Chrissie Watkins, dragged beneath the dark water by an unseen force, or that little Kintner boy, chomped on his lilo, we get a bather trying futilely to escape the monster from within his waboba ball and a chubby Chinese kid determinedly licking a lollipop amid the carnage.
The lack of Bobby Darin’s Beyond The Sea, as included in the trailer, does suggest a certain failure of imagination; though the surprising fate of a Pomeranian, an escapee from a pleasure cruise, may be the most shamelessly crowd-pleasing moment of any summer blockbuster this year.
The sight of an enormous toothy maw and mass of gristle, muscle, and sandpaper skin rushing towards our protagonist carries a certain charge, especially when it’s suspended, snapping, just out of the reach; but the main attraction is the prospect of Statham punching it on the schnoz.
That’s one way to spend an estimated $150 million. Still, it may be as shallow as a kid’s paddling pool, but, like a kid’s paddling pool, The Meg is sort of fun to splash around in for a bit.