The Stath has committed a number of incredible feats over his career. Fighting a group of thugs, topless, on a slick of oil? Check. Having rampant sex with a woman on a horse track, in the middle of a derby? Check. Clinging onto Melissa McCarthy while she dangles from a helicopter in flight? Check.
But now it’s time for his greatest test: can he single-handedly defeat an 18-metre long megalodon, thought extinct, now arisen and angrier than ever? Well, if that’s the kind of question you conjure up on a lonely night, Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg is here to gift you with an answer, in all of its daft, over-the-top, overly CGI’d glory.
Statham stars as Jonas Taylor, hardcore rescue diver and effortless womaniser. Psychologically recovering from an early disaster, Jonas is lured back into the business by his old colleagues at the revelation that a certain toothed megalodon has come to draw blood from his ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee) and her team of marine investigators, trapped beneath a hidden layer of the Mariana Trench. With the help of Dr Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing), computer analyst Jaxx Herd (Ruby Rose) and other computer-game-named associates, Jonas hopes to save his fellow crewmates and shut the Meg up for good.
It sounds nigh-on Shakespearean, the kind of epic saved for the Greek and Roman battlefields of the Gods. However, you need to hold your Apollonian horses, because The Meg is a surprisingly small film, despite the quadruple decker sized shark at its centre. See, despite the fact that the marketing would have you believe that The Meg is going to show off all kinds of shark-chomping-man-meat action, its tighter, its teeth more focused towards the specific ragtag group mentioned above and their personal efforts to rid the ocean of the Spielbergian beast. Set largely in and around a futuristic, underwater facility, The Meg upsets expectations in a way that is refreshing like a soft slice of avocado.
Now, I was going to refer to this as The Meg’s attempts to be more character-focused, if those characters were more than mere mannequins to begin with. Yeah, The Meg fishes out all of the stock character types and puts them on full display as though they were advertising an aquatic addition to Madame Tussauds. The butch Brit. The money-grabber. The one guy that screams at the slightest ripple in the water. And, as of recently, a stereotypical Asian role that fits Chinese superstar Li Bingbing just well enough to ensure some solid box office returns from the land of the Forbidden City.
That being said, the actors inhabiting these roles give it their all, some willing to wink at the screen a little more than others. The Stath, as per usual, gives the Meg a run for its money by chewing through the scenery. Protein-fuelled abs and Cockney coloured one-liners fuel Statham’s single-handed efforts to steal the movie, and he does so like a professional London pickpocket. The supporting cast does an admirable job also. Ruby Rose just about pulls off her edgy, nerdy role, despite a couple of forced sentimental moments. Rainn Wilson isn’t quite on Dwight Schrute form but still offers some levity.
But you’re not here to see if The Stath has honed his Stanislavskian craft. You’re here to see a megalodon chew through humans like a Brit working through a packet of bourbon biscuits. And despite a slow start and a meandering, exposition-heavy second act, The Meg does deliver on that unhumanitarian promise in its third act. Inflatables go flying, kids and parents scream in horror and a little puppy’s fate is left up in the air, to the chagrin of you canine lovers out there. It’s dumb fun and what’s admirable is how The Meg realises that. This isn’t Sharknado. There’s no giant octo-crocodile hybrid to fight the megalodon here. But, it has its tongue in its cheek at the right moments, to satisfy those B-movie supporters out there like myself.
The Meg is no technical tour de force. The effects are adequate. Tom Stern’s camerawork likes to capture The Stath’s chiselled complexion and hairless dome in all of its movie star glory. But The Meg wades into the slightly overcrowded paddling pool of popcorn-worthy flicks with beautifully silly action and characters that have jumped straight out of a colourful cartoon. I’m not going to write like I’m some high-minded film critic: I had a blast with The Meg. Plus it finally gave us an image we all knew we wanted: Statham fighting a megalodon face-to-face, a David and Goliath battle where we can finally believe that David could actually win.
Dir: Jon Turteltaub
Prd: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Colin Wilson, Belle Avery
Scr: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hober, Erich Hoeber
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose
DOP: Tom Stern
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams