Entertainment » Movies

The Meg

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 10, 2018
'The Meg'
'The Meg'  

Ever since "Jaws," shark movies have been a genre all to themselves. So much so, they've become a parody of themselves. So for every "Deep Blue Sea" and "47 Meters Down," we have a "Sharknado."

Landing somewhere in between those films is "The Meg," adapted from the 1997 Steve Alten novel "Meg" that has been in development hell for over twenty years. A number of big names have been attached to the film, but many left due to creative differences, including horror maestro Eli Roth. And we can see why. If you know the plot of the book, the change in the story of the film is so lacking and dull, one wonders why not just stick with the much better source material?

Probably because this Warner Bros. co-production with China feels like a "one for me/one for you" agreement between two countries. With a mixed cast (which I appreciated), the film is basically a retread of every shark movie you've ever seen with one exception: The shark is bigger.

Whoop-de-doo.

Somewhere in the development process, the studios forgot to give us a hero to root for and characters to care about. The one person we feel anything for is an eight-year-old girl named Meiying (Sophia Cai), who is never really put into any great danger. Which truly feels like a lost opportunity.

Instead, we get scientist Suyin (Bing Bing Li) constantly trying to save the day and then needing to be rescued. By who? Why Jason Statham, of course. B-movie action star Statham plays Jonas Taylor a marine biologist who happens to have run into a Megalodon years before, except no one believed him. When a deep sea investor, Zhang Tanaka (Winston Chao), needs help getting one of his submersibles out of the Marianas Trench - the deepest part of the ocean - Taylor is contacted to help because they think there might be a prehistoric shark causing mayhem in the depths.

Taylor is now a drunk hermit on some island somewhere (even though he looks perfectly healthy), and is brought to a deep sea station to see what he can do. He, of course, saves the day even though Tanaka's son dies in the process. But that doesn't mean his work is done. No. Because the Megaladon (The Meg) has escaped the Trench and reached the surface. He is super hungry and angry.

The rest of the film consists of the cast reciting insufferable dialogue, awkwardly flirting with each other, and exhibiting every stock character clich├ę in the book. Mouthy humorous black guy? Check. Tough (probably) lesbian chick? Check. Paunchy nerdy bro? Check. Attractive captain who is out of his league? Check. Beautiful smart scientist? Check, check.

Bing Bing Li struggles with an English accent for a while, but she manages to rise above the material enough to make a likeable character. Sadly, she's the only one you truly remember when the movie ends. Statham is almost nonexistent, even though he is supposed to be the main hero. He doesn't have much of a character arc, and his moments of saving the day are all fairly expected and sort of ho-hum. There's some nonsense with him and his ex (Jessica McNamee), who he saves at the beginning of the film, but there's no conflict there so it's sort of a pointless plot point. (The book posits his ex as a fame-hungry reporter who uses the Megalodon crisis as a way to boost her career. I guess that was too interesting for the studio.)

The only kinda/sorta villain here is investor Morris (Rainn Wilson) who is also so bland you forget he's in the film. He does some sort of sneaky thing midway through the movie, but it just happens and then we move on.

There's really nothing in "The Meg" that takes the genre to another level. Most of the plot is them trying to kill the shark in stupid ways, messing it up, then having to come up with another plan while hoping to not get eaten. And the threat of them getting chomped on disappears when the plot needs it to.

The story begs for the massive shark to do so much damage to the underground facility that the characters have to fight to survive not only the shark, but the structural mutilation that would put them in danger. You also have an eight-year-old child who needs to be put into dire situations so our main character (or her mother) have the chance to be a hero. But, no.

Even the genre clich├ęs would have been far more interesting and exciting than what was put on screen.

How director Jon Turtletaub ("National Treasure") was able to make a shark attack movie boring is head-scratching. Because it really is just plain dull. It's not bad enough to be a good/bad movie, and it's not stupid good enough to be a fun night out at the movies.

Quite simply, "The Meg" just bites.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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