A deep-sea submersible (part of an international undersea observation program) has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific with its crew trapped inside.
With time running out, expert deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer, against the wishes of his daughter Suyin, to save the crew and the ocean itself from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that Taylor has already encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below, leading to the ultimate confrontation with the greatest and largest predator of all time.
Based on the Steve Alten novel Meg, the film takes is a mix of Jurassic Park, The Abyss and Jaws, with none of the skill of any of those stalwarts of cinema. Rainn Wilson plays a millionaire investor, Winston Chao is a dedicated scientist, Bingbing Li is his headstrong daughter, there’s an annoying child, geek-chic whizzkids, a post-Girl With The Dragon Tattoo female hacker, a loudmouth realist and Jason Statham plays the action hero. It’s a film of flimsy stereotypes with a big idea wrapped around them as our hero tries to rescue the trapped submersible without any true sense of peril before he tackles the bigger problem of a prehistoric shark. Thankfully for Jonas Taylor and his erstwhile team of misfits, conflicts of personality dissolve as quickly as any semblance of character development.
For the most part visually impressive, with special effects provided by Glasshammer Visual Effects and the accomplished Tom Stern as director of photography, The Meg is a film that looks better than it should. In other hands, it would be a straight-to-DVD film, yet the multinational production gave the studios enough clout to make it a cinema release and no doubt secure the talents of Jason Statham.
Despite close calls with giant squids, sharks and the expected megalodon, the film somehow manages to sidestep any real sense of threat that the underwater world may offer. The closest it gets is a rather impressive sequence involving a shark cage and the hungry giant shark, but even then it’s more “oh look at that” as opposed to “oooooh, I hope she doesn’t die”. The film won’t have you at the edge of your seat, despite its best attempts.
The script is a stumbling block throughout the film. It swings from moments of machismo to attempts at conflict, with the odd, almost laughable, meaningful statement thrown in. “You go that deep, you take your life in your hands,” says Taylor and you can’t help but feel that this film was written as a homage to the dialogue of Pacific Rim; at least that film had the vision of a true auteur to guide it, despite its silliness. The Meg, by contrast, collapses under the weight of its own bland and laboured script.
The Meg exists as a fine example of a great idea reduced to popcorn cinema, and not very good popcorn cinema at that. The film starts off fine, then gets sillier and sillier as it goes along, with the type of characterisation and dialogue that would cause consternation in TV movies but a look and feel of something that actually does belong on the big screen. For fans of 90s science fiction television, it’ll make you long for a cinema version of SeaQuest DSV.
There is a lot to like about the film, though – Jason Statham is on form as the plain speaking, charismatic hero, the film looks good for the most part, the CGI isn’t bad at all, it’s well directed and well paced, the concept is actually a really interesting one and it certainly gives a feel for its international origins.
The positives, however, don’t outweigh the key negative in The Meg; it never really amounts to much, despite attempting to be a thought-provoking action film with it’s “dangers of the unknown” approach. It has so much potential that it liberally wastes as it loses its way in an ocean of disappointment.
The BluRay has three throwaway extras and no commentary track. The Chomp on This: Making The Meg is the usual “look what we did” fare and lasts a brief twelve minutes, despite having the cast and creatives talking about the whole filmmaking experience, whilst Creating the Beast gives us a ten-minute insight into the background work that brought the megalodon to life. Shooting in New Zealand at least gives us a look at New Zealand. There’s very little to recommend here, though.
Dir: Jon Turteltaub
Scr: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Cast: Jason Statham, Winston Chao, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Bingbing Li, Jessica McNamee, Robert Taylor
Prd: Belle Avery, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Colin Wilson
DOP: Tom Stern
Runtime: 113 mins
The Meg is out on BluRay, DVD and Digital Download from 10th December 2018