The Meg review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
In the genre of shark movies that are either stellar character-driven stories of terror (Jaws) or insanely goofy camp-fest (Sharknado), The Meg exists in a balanced purgatory of a B-movie. Too serious to be silly and too winkish to be frightening, it’s a film so unbelievably safe, teeth rounded and loaded up with PG-13 floaters. For those seeking simple and dumb summer fun, it’s hard to deny that this movie doesn’t fill that quota. But in trying to tap that vibe, the thrills come more artificial than genuinely entertaining.
The film starts off promising enough with a dazzling underwater research facility, armed with high-tech research vessels that probe an unexplored pocket of the oceans. When a research team ventures into this new world, they discover a wondrous sight of all sorts of new species, either yet to be discovered or thought to be extinct. In the thought-to-be-extinct category is the Megalodon, a massive shark that can eat whales like a corndog and swallow dogs like a peanut. So far so good, but there’s a nagging thought in the expositional dialogue and lacking characters that film will be nothing more than a modern update of those drier 1950s monster movies. While this direction may carry a certain nostalgia for yesteryear, it reminds why this genre favors more parody than preservation.
The characters are all charisma and little personality, some providing more than others. The king of this picture is undoubtedly Jason Statham as the daring deep-sea rescuer called in to save the day. His cocky attitude and infectious smirk, more present here than it has been in any other film, is perfectly suited for a campy atmosphere. He nearly tows this movie all by himself with his smartass action movie persona, so much so that he feels almost alone, working overtime to make the movie worthy of a laugh and a wince. The supporting characters merely standby until they can make a quip or spout some exposition. Ruby Rose plays a tattooed engineer, but never delivers a memorable line or personality, merely looking like the badass girl who would rather be in another movie. Page Kennedy plays the cool and commenting scientist that is reduced to little more than “hell, yeah” talk. Even Rainn Wilson feels underused as the greedy dolt of a billionaire that invests in the research facility.
The only other character on Statham’s level, or at least aloud tag along with him on shark hunting adventures, is Li Bingbing playing an oceanographer eager to hop into an aquatic craft and do the job herself. While she’s given more of an emotional edge with her family on the station, from her doctor of a dad to her angel of a daughter, a lot of her development comes bafflingly out of left-field. She seems to have a nice relationship with her father, but it was apparently a rocky one in a confusing confession during a life or death situation.
All this lacking in notable characters can all be washed away with the film’s main draw of being an exciting killer shark movie. But as far as killer shark movies go, Meg seems most mundane in its carnage. Maybe I’m seeking too much out of a PG-13 shark movie, but how can you film on one of the largest beaches on the planet with one of the most massive assemblies of swimming extras and not go nuts with shark kills? Sure, he’ll eat a few people, but he seems to cause more chaos knocking a few boats and platforms around. Jaws is laughing at this beast, so big and yet so incapable of eating the dog, saved in a post-production edit to make sure nobody writes an angry letter about a canine being turned to lunch.
With expectations ramped way low, The Meg can be enjoyable as passable summer camp. But if you’ve become seasoned to the subgenre, there’s clearly more potential here that is held back for the most passive and broad-reaching of entertainment value. It’s a blockbuster most stock that the only genuine laugh I got out of the film was its clever ending title of “Fin.” It’s a dumb joke, but The Meg could stand to be dumber if only to be more than forgettable.