Shark films from Hollywood are just like actual shark attacks really. They’re extremely rare, all things considered, but when they happen they’re all over the place. There’s been this strange tradition with Shark films – barring Deep Blue Sea and arguably Jaws 3D, the big budget films are often treated seriously, whereas the low-budget ones take a sillier approach. So, it’s nice to see that with The Meg, the tongue appears to be firmly imbedded in the cheek.
The Meg is based off of the book, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten – which I have read and found to be very enjoyable, despite and indeed because of the ridiculousness of the book. The story follows Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea rescue diver, who encountered a creature living at the deepest depths of the ocean. He’s called back into the fray when a million-dollar sub and its crew are lost at the bottom of an ocean trench. He goes down to the rescue, but in doing so he releases something monstrous – a seventy-five-foot prehistoric shark. Megalodon! Now back from extinction, and insatiably hungry in a world of new and innumerable prey.
Nobody will have seen this trailer or the posters and thought that they were about to see high-art. Nobody came to admire the performances, or be blown away by a stellar script, or see a director work to make the film of their career. We all came to see some dumb, thrilling, gory fun. In this The Meg delivers at times and doesn’t really at others. The first act in particular is a little slow – we get a lot of technical jargon that doesn’t really get us anywhere. It thinks it’s more interesting than it is, which does bog it down a little. It’s also tame at times, which surprised me, though not in a good way.
Luckily the second and especially the third act make up for this little short coming. The shark action hits, and it’s constantly entertaining. It feels a lot like Deep Blue Sea and has echoes of Piranha (the original, not that trash with Kelly Brook) – those being very entertaining films in their own right. The Meg’s story is full of logical errors and many plot conveniences, but that doesn’t really take away from the film. That’s mostly because it’s very evident that the plot is not the point. The point is to see a gigantic shark cause complete and utter chaos. I love the set up to these action scenes. The beach scene from the trailers – which I’ll warn now is at the end of the film – was a good deal of fun and a perfect note to end on.
The actors did perfectly fine jobs with what they were given. Jason Statham feels like a modern-day Arnold Schwarzenegger – in that he’s a terrible actor but is endearing for it. He plays the part of Jason Statham fighting a shark. That’s it. It’s not very creative, but it’s also part of what people came to see. The other actors, again, are fine in their roles. Cliff Curtis and Li Bingbing play their roles with what dignity was needed and are having a bit of fun with the material. Ruby Rose is fun, as is Robert Taylor. The show stealer is Rainn Wilson, from the American Office and Super, as a fun yet out-of-touch billionaire. He gives some of the best moments of the film, knowing exactly what he’s starring in and wanting to keep the audience on board with it. All these actors manage to play very likable, if cliched characters. You’ll be able to guess who’ll make it come the end, but it’s a good bit of fun watching them bounce off each other too.
My only real problem with this film is how tame it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching them lately, but the pacing of this film reminded me a bit of the George A. Romero zombie films. We have our slow start, then we build the action but still keep things at an even pace, only for things to go crazy come the end. It was always either going to be that way or just relentless violence, like in Snakes on a Plane. Either would work. But the key to those is that they are gory! The 12a rating is a sad hindrance to the film. What action is here is good, but a good splatter of blood and some comical close-ups would have gone a long way. I hear that the original director for the film was Eli Roth – director of Cabin Fever and Hostel. While I don’t think he’s a great director, I do think his style of unapologetic gore and offensive humour would have gone a long way. I also have a feeling that this is why he didn’t make the film in the end.
I’ll admit it, I liked The Meg. I really enjoyed it for what it was, even if at times it didn’t know what it was. A scene that made me laugh was when someone tries to make that speech of the follies of mankind – how it’s all our fault and that we should be punished…only for Rainn Wilson to moan irritably! Moments like this make me wonder if the film was in on its own joke – that it did know exactly what it was but pretended that it didn’t. It’s not quite Deep Blue Sea or Snakes on a Plane, but The Meg is a fun little romp. I really recommend it if you enjoy this kind of thing. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it doesn’t try to do anything other than entertain you and it does it a lot better than most these days. Get to the cinema and chomp on this!
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