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Released: August 10, 2018 (UK, US and China)
Length: 113 Minutes
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee and Masi Oka
Shark films have been around since 1975’s Jaws powered through the industry, yet even over 40 years later, they still have the ability to make a profit. This time we’re putting Jason Statham in the tank to face off against one of nature’s most iconic creatures with The Meg, a film which doesn’t really excel at anything but still gives audiences what they’re looking for.
Jason Statham vs. Shark is all you really need to know about The Meg’s plot; when a science expedition to the deepest part of the earth goes wrong at the Mana One facility, it’s up to Jonas Taylor (Statham) to save the day, what the motley band of researchers doesn’t realise is that the deep Pilipino trench houses Megalodon, a giant shark long thought to have been extinct. From here, Jonas works with fellow scientists and doctors at the research station to find a way to kill the beast and it mainly follows this collection of characters, before later moving across the civilization as the titular monster closes in. With a corny title and basic subject matter, you know what you’re getting when you walk into the screen. The Meg is never so serious that it turns the audience off, nor is it so schlocky that it veers into B-movie territory. It occupies a handy spot in the middle that avoids the pitfalls of both, without being too remarkable in return. The films serves up a good amount of action and never slows down so much to let other elements get in the way of it.
Casting isn’t much of a focus in The Meg and it shows with its central star. Jason Statham is, just like every other film he’s starred in, perfectly capable as both a simple action hero and physical actor; at this point we’re used to seeing his roles blend together no matter the franchise and he throws himself into the proceedings (which is fitting, given how he used to be a diver). Following close behind is Chinese actress Li Bingbing as Suyin Zhang, another capably performed role that matches Statham well. It’s clear from the offset that The Meg isn’t all that interested in giving us memorable characters. Despite this low development though, the cast are all giving their best in their roles. Ruby Rose makes for a smoothly acted tech hacker, and Cliff Curtis acts as an anchor for the other team members to rally behind. The weakest link in the cast is Rainn Wilson, who plays a pretty cliched billionaire without many redeeming qualities. At times the dialogue can be groan-worthy, but at others it can also be cheerfully self-aware, particularly a scene in the first act where Statham runs down the clichés of a protagonist getting called to action. It’s moments like these which raise the film above mediocrity, along with the film’s capable set-pieces, which I’ll talk about now.
The effects surrounding The Meg are quite good for the most part, relying heavily on CGI to create a sense of scale and the most part it really works. All the nifty underwater gadgets and vehicles in the offshore base pop out of the scenery with some great lighting that both shows off the sheer size of the shark along with the depths it inhabits. The set designs are also very well suited to the action, placing the audience in a hardened glass cage one moment and in the shallow reefs near a tropical beach the next. The music on the other hand is sadly forgettable; it’s hard to complement the tension when we’ve seen so many similar shark films and their efforts to frighten the viewer have been done to death. It’s mostly a standard collection of sombre undertones and ambient instruments for the underwater scenes. In addition, the action, while mostly well shot, does fall into the hole of rapid cuts at some points as well, particularly in its final moments. While nothing mind-blowing, The Meg is competent at what it does, delivering those fast-paced underwater thrills we’ve come to expect from the sub-genre.
Normally I wouldn’t enjoy films like The Meg; the plot and characters for the most part are pretty thin and with so many shark films on store shelves, it’s hard to take the film’s attempts at drama seriously. Yet despite this, the film knows what it’s out to give and often relishes in it, making it a nice chunk of innocent summer fun. It won’t be winning any accolades, but you won’t leave feeling cheated either.
Rating: 3/5 Stars (Fair)