The Meg review: Jason Statham leads the cast of this summer, sea-bound spectacle – but is this the blockbuster we’ve all been waiting for?
The Meg review by Andrew Gaudion.
It is typical of British Summertime that the night an outdoor screening of The Meg was held at Brockwell Lido, the heavens decided to open and rain on The Meg’s parade. This could have been read as a warning, a case of pathetic fallacy signalling a miserable time for us an audience. But, with a poncho donned and the movie rolling, the rain ended up being pretty tolerable, thanks to the fact that the movie on the screen was a big hunk of dumb, ridiculous B-movie chum.
When a deep sea exploration team unwittingly discovers a prehistoric shark and sets it free from its underwater home, disgraced diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is brought in to help track down the once-thought extinct Megalodon and stop it before it gets its teeth into the wider population.
The Meg will never give Jaws a run for it money as the king of shark movies, but neither is it trying to. Jon Turteltaub’s film is very much striving for more schlock than substance with his Man vs. Shark movie. For the most part, the film delivers on the ridiculous promise of its inspired marketing, if not quite to the level that some genre fans may have been hoping for.
The film is based on Steve Allen’s 1997 novel, a book which is exceptionally trashy in a way that books designed to be a summer beach read only can be. Many of the terribly corny lines are lifted directly from Allen’s book, but the film wisely side-steps some of its source material’s more disagreeable trashy elements (the book is guilty of being quite misogynistic).
The film also side-steps some of the more outlandish action sequences found in the book, boiling the action down to essentially make it a race for The Stath to find the unleashed Megalodon. As a result, the action is never quite as bonkers or as mad-cap as you perhaps would be hoping for, culminating in a final act which feels a little rushed and lacking in invention. It is also quite anemic when it comes to its shark attacks. Blood is largely avoided in favour or earning that all important PG-13 rating, one assumes to improve its box-office potential, but sadly it takes a bit of the bite out of The Meg’s potential.
That said however, all the action looks handsome enough, shot with a clear eye by Clint Eastwood’s regular cinematographer Tom Stern. Turteltaub displays his experienced skill as a filmmaker by ensuring the action is well articulated in terms of space and pace, turning to jump scares, misdirection and tongue in cheek humour to make up for the lack of gore. It gives The Meg a personality which feels a little more innocent than some audience members may have been expecting, but a personality that is charming in its own silly way.
Much of the gleefully daft spirit that buoys this film comes from the cast committing to the ridiculously pulpy dialogue contained within the script. Statham is great fun as the lead, spouting out corny action hero lines with his trademark gravelly tone and wit. Li Bingbing plays off well against Statham with a performance that is both stoic and endearing, while Rainn Wilson is clearly having a ball as the sleazy financier of the whole operation.
When it comes to comparing it to the other inhabitants that occupy shark movie waters, The Meg is thankfully more akin to Deep Blue Sea than it is Jaws: The Revenge. It doesn’t attempt anything all that awe-inspiring, but what it does do is make sure you have a good laugh once you dive in. It is a wonderful audience movie, packed with dialogue that you can’t help but laugh at as well as the occasional ‘whoop’ inducing action beats. It is dumb. It is cheesy. And it is best enjoyed with a slice of pizza, a group of mates, and a six pack of beer. You won’t even mind if it rains.
The Meg review by Andrew Gaudion, August 2018.
The Meg is released in UK cinemas on Friday 10th August 2018.