Hot on the dorsal fin of everybody’s favorite week of the year, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, comes The Meg, which pits an exceedingly growly Statham against a 75-foot-long prehistoric ur-shark. Megalodons did indeed exist back in the day and the fossilized remains of their 6-inch-long teeth have been found by paleontologists in, among other places, South Texas. It turns out that everything was, is, and forever shall be bigger in Texas.
As for the movie, a more fitting title would have been The Meh. Steven Spielberg’s reputation as director of the best shark film ever remains unbloodied. Jaws, after all, has long been credited with creating the entire concept of must-see summer blockbusters and while this toothy fish tale is occasionally decent Saturday matinee popcorn fare, it’s also something of a slog. Heavy on long-winded expository yawn-breaks, from characters with only trace elements of emotional backstories, and who pop in and out the film like so much chum tossed off the back of the Orca, you’re always waiting for the Megalodon to resurface and devour something, anything to relieve the between-shark-attack tedium.
Statham’s character, deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor, at least has an interesting arc: He encountered the titular beast in a submersible 50 fathoms down and was forced to abandon ship, as it were, leaving behind other crew members to their watery graves. This hasn’t done his professional reputation (sea cred?) any favors, but when the crew of the deep-water research facility Mana One comes under attack, he’s forced out of retirement and once more unto the breach, this time with vindication that his heretofore lunatic theories about the existence of a lone Megalodon roaming the abyssal trenches of the Pacific.
Teaming up with Mana One mover and shaker Jack Morris (Wilson), researcher Dr. Minway Zhang (Chao), and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing), the chase is on before the gargantuan gilled eating machine can chow down on hapless swimmers off Sanya Beach. There’s a whole lot of running around and talking fancy oceanographic tech-y jargon to get through before Megajaws reappears. Unfortunately, the dialogue, courtesy of Jon and Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris, is about as zippy as an unholy mackerel left out in the sun, which results in the usually enjoyable and borderline snarky Statham giving one of his least interesting performances to date.
Yes, the CGI Meg is reasonably horrifying, but then so was Charlie the Tuna and, come to think of it, Flipper. It’s not as howlingly awful as Jaws 3-D or Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! but for the $150 million USD and however many millions of yuan Warner Brothers’ Chinese cohorts-cum-financiers Gravity Pictures threw into this summer action flick, it should by all rights be more flat-out fun. Instead, the plot, action, and endless exposition mirror some of Toho Studios’ latter-period Godzilla movies, i.e., too little kaiju kick-assery and too much yammering endlessly on about something or other. If shark attacks appeal, hit the video store or your favorite streaming services and check out the wonderfully bugnuts (and as legend has it, epically trashed) Richard Harris in 1977’s Orca or the more somber but genuinely harrowing Open Water. The Meg is simply mediocre, PG-13 monster-moviemaking at its mind-numbing kinda/sorta best-ish. Meh.
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