Film Review: ‘The Meg’ Chows Down On Brain Cells

Big, dumb, but not much fun. That would be a more accurate tagline for “The Meg,” a neutered would-be blockbuster. It doesn’t have the same ring to it as “pleased to eat you,” but it would be more fitting. A toothless action/horror outing, any attempt at tension (or entertainment, for that matter) is sabotaged by poor writing and directing. If “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” were idealistic touchstones for the creative forces here, none of that wound up translated on to the screen. Worse, if recent interviews by the director and star are any indication, they’re aware that this fish is stinky. Not only is it a misfire, the talent involved knows that it is. If they can’t even pretend to enjoy it, how can anyone else be expected to?

Yes, in the last few days, director Jon Turteltaub and star Jason Statham have given interviews that should have clued folks into the dreck that is “The Meg.” Turteltaub talked about all of the cool sequences that weren’t shot or included in the film to secure a PG-13 rating. Statham bemoaned how much the script changed and that the final product doesn’t resemble what he signed up for. Now, an R rating or whatever the original script was doesn’t guarantee success. That being said, having read the book “Meg” that the movie is based on, dumbing things down as they did certainly wasn’t a help. The combination of stupidity pulled punches, and no sense of this is having a purpose is what makes this flick sleep with the fishes.

Jonas Taylor (Statham) once claimed to have been attacked by a giant shark. Of course, his former colleagues think he’s crazy, mainly since this occurred while he was on a rescue dive that went south. Still, when a research station loses a team deep below the sea, Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Zhang (Winston Chao) recruit Jonas. He resists, but since one of the trapped individuals is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), he relents. Along with Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li), Jonas goes below the Mariana Trench. Go figure, what he finds yet again is a giant shark, specifically the prehistoric Megalodon. Now people believe him, but that’s the least of their problems.

With the Megalodon loose, the financier of the research station, Morris (Rainn Wilson), wants to make sure the shark doesn’t cause any lawsuits. So, these scientists end up hunting a prehistoric animal. With close calls here and there, they attempt to take it down, as of course, it gets closer and closer to beaches full of human snacks. If this sounds like the makings of a fun flick, rest assured that it’s not. It’s dumb, plodding, and telegraphs every single moment in the nearly two hour running time. You’ll yawn way more than you’ll scream or smile.

When the film can’t even service its main character creature properly, what hope does the cast have? Jason Statham is a generic invincible hero, though any attempt at giving his character personality is halfhearted at best. There isn’t any good action of him against the shark. It’s clear watching the movie that he lost interest as things devolved. Cliff Curtis is basically on hand to spout exposition, while Bingbing Li is forgettable as both a heroic partner and potential love interest for Statham. Just as unremarkable are Winston Chao and Jessica McNamee. As for Rainn Wilson, he’s out of an entirely different movie. Perhaps a better one even, but we’ll never know.

Joining Statham and the aforementioned company is the likes of Page Kennedy, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Masi Oka, Ruby Rose, Robert Taylor, and young Shuya Sophia Cai. In some cases, they’re just on hand to be devoured. In others, like with the Cai, there’s a need for a child on-hand that can be cute and you know will survive. It’s supposed to be Statham’s show, or more aptly, the Megalodon is thought to be the star. Unfortunately, “The Meg” doesn’t do right by either.

Jon Turteltaub never seems to have an interest in showing the audience what’s going on. Quick cut after quick cut torpedoes tension, reducing whatever cinematographer Tom Stern shot to mere glances. This isn’t the “Jaws” theory either; it’s just poor filmmaking from the director. Case in point…for a massive animal, this creature is as quiet as a mouse. Throw in a crummy screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Erich Hoeber, and Jon Hoeber that doesn’t work in the least, and there’s failure built upon failure. There are no assurances that Eli Roth (the original directorial choice) would have done anything better, but there wouldn’t have been pulled punches at least. If nothing else, some over the top gore would have livened up the rotten action sequences. Whatever the case, this is just a shell of what Steve Alten came up with in his novel.

Even by the low standards of the shark movie sub-genre, “The Meg” doesn’t work at all. To list all of the individual moments of stupidity would be a waste of time. This is just a bad film. It’s not so bad it’s good either. It’s just poorly done. As the summer movie season wraps up, this is simply another gigantic flick that can’t stack up. If nothing else, rest easy in knowing this likely won’t be one of the inaugural “Best Popular Film” nominees…


GRADE: (★½)