August 17, 2018

The Meg

You gonna need a better script

Grade: C –
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Shuya Sophia, and Jessica McNamee
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Actor Rainn Wilson said this week that his new film The Meg is “Jaws on steroids.” If he means the movie is a bloated behemoth that betrays the legacy of its forebears before fading away in disgrace, then he’s correct. Meg is short for Megalodon, a mammoth prehistoric shark thought extinct until Jack Morris (Wilson), a billionaire adventure seeker, funds a floating science rig that plumbs the apparently permeable depths of the Marianas Trench to explore an undiscovered, warm-water world below. Unfortunately, three oceanographers are going to need a bigger submersible, because when a creature capsizes and strands them down below, only disgraced scientist Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham?!) can return and do the job.

Just a few hours from chugging beers in a Thailand dive bar, Taylor’s rescue effort ends up blazing a trail for megalodon to return to the upper ocean, where it begins to run amok. So, the sensible thing is to alert any and all governmental authorities in the South Pacific, right? Well, that’s the plan, until it isn’t, until it is, until it isn’t. It’s impossible to keep track of the capabilities and motives of the scientists, other than the death of one triggers the rest to abandon any safety and common sense and embark on the next phase of an extended revenge quest needed to drag out the film’s running time to feature length.

At one point, the scientists appear stranded on the research lab, then they’re suddenly cruising the high seas onboard a previously unseen research vessel to hunt the Meg, despite being ill-equipped for the task. In one scene, we’re told the Meg would ignore an isolated, seemingly nonthreatening swimmer, only to see it target individual swimmers throughout the rest of the film. The Meg makes minced meat out of the lab’s submersibles early in the film, only to see them outrun and outmaneuver the shark during the final act.

The Meg starts out as an aquatic King Kong before its second act fairly shamelessly starts ripping off Jaws. The shark threatens beach swimmers (wading in incongruously deep waters), causing a panic. The scientists shoot a tracker into its dorsal fin. Someone jumps into a shark cage with plans to pump the Meg full of poison, only for the shark to wrest the cage off its moorings. But give me Spielberg’s fake great white any day before The Meg’s bloodless CGI specter. There’s not a visceral, much less logical moment throughout this dog days dog, which doesn’t even succeed at being a so-bad-it’s-good throwaway a la Deep Blue Sea. The Meg thinks that bigger is better, but it’s just shark weak.

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