My past two cinema trips have been to see small, heavy, sombre British dramas which tackle themes and subject matter that really challenge you and leave you thinking for hours after the credits have rolled. Do you know what the perfect antidote to that is? A big fuck off shark movie starring a big fuck off action dude. That sounds about right.
Set two hundred miles off the coast of China, The Meg follows diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) as he is recruited to rescue a team of marine scientists who have discovered a new, deeper than ever ocean summit, but encountered more trouble than they could ever have imagined when they unearth a megalodon, a prehistoric shark that makes Jaws look like a flipping kitten.
The narrative proceeds in exactly the way that you would expect. There is some cheesy comedy, some big boy action scenes, some generic heroics, some double crosses, some twists, a forced protagonist romance and plenty of character stereotypes, but here’s the thing, nobody in the world is coming to watch The Meg for nuanced drama and subtle metaphor.
For a film with a poster like that, The Meg actually shows a pleasant amount of restraint with a much slower and tenser reveal of its monster than one might expect. Let me be clear, this is no Hitchcockian masterpiece of suspense. Once things get going, they go pretty hard and pretty fast, but I was fairly impressed to pick up on a very slight and temporary homage to the ‘what you don’t see is scarier than you do see’ technique of something like Jaws.
You’ll notice that I haven’t really been that in-depth with criticism overall, but the thing is that I can’t really be mad at a balls to the wall dumb movie like this, mainly because it knows exactly what it is doing and isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is meant to be. It’s an action-thriller about a GREAT BIG shark that swims around taking out caricatures one by one. What else do you need to know? In many ways, The Meg feels like this generation’s Deep Blue See. That is another dumb but fun shark movie, but one that I absolutely love because I saw it when I was 12 rather than 28.
If there is anything to acutely pick on, it would have to be the at times incredibly cheesy and cringe worthy dialogue. Even though the film very much has its tongue in its cheek from start to finish, there is only so much I can take before I have to check out of the already silly bubble that I’ve put myself in. For what it’s worth, it carries a 12A rating, and the young kids in my audience were having an absolute whale (pun intended) of a time. For adult viewers, the sanitised nature of the picture is probably what holds it back from being out and out trashy fun. More swearing and more blood would have probably made for a better time personally, but I can appreciate the kind of introductory horror/action/thriller vibe the The Meg gives to younger audience members who don’t usually get something like this to explore.
The main thing I discovered from this experience is that I am simply not a fan of Jason Statham’s schtick. Having only previously seen him play a literal parody of his usual characters in Spy, I was slightly dismayed to see that nothing was that different. He’s a hard guy who does hard guy things, admittedly with a twinkle in his eye, but his dramatic acting in the very few serious moments of the movie is woeful. And what the hell is with his accent? It’s almost like he’s trying to retain as much rugged British as possible whilst ironing out some words for American ears, and it sounds absolutely mental.
The rest of the cast all give average to above middling fun performances, and shout out to Ruby Rose for being so distractingly hot in all of her scenes. I’m not mad about it. If anything, too much time in the film is spent on attempted character development that never truly pays off. We don’t care if someone used to be married to someone and now the other person is crushing on that other person. There’s a fricking prehistoric, giant shark in the water guys, that should be the only item on the menu!
Overall, The Meg is dumb fun, but perhaps not even enough fun to make it full circle enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had much worse experiences in the cinema with films that were trying to do a lot more, but it’s not something that I’m going to be seeking out again. It’s probably down to nostalgia, just as this may very will turn out to do for today’s twelve your olds, but I think I’ll stick to Deep Blue Sea the next time I’m in the mood for mindless killer shark insanity.