Dir. John Turteltaub
2018 113 min.
John Turteltaub’s 2018 nature horror film The Meg, based upon the novel Meg, has a budget over $130 million dollars, state of the art special effects, and a cast of multi-award winners including Cliff Curtis, Li Bingbing and Rainn Wilson. That sounds like a recipe for a rollicking creature feature. It’s not. Here we go.
The film begins with Jason Statham – playing the same role he always does – as Jonas Taylor, a deep sea rescue specialist. Jonas is shamed by colleagues for his perceived failure in a submarine rescue where ‘something’ attacked the submarine and most of the crew was lost. He is pulled away from a life exploiting Thai fishermen and drunk driving near child pedestrians when his ex-wife is part of a scientific expedition gone wrong and only he can rescue her. She and her crew are exploring a silly idea that the sea floor of the Marianas Trench isn’t actually the sea floor. Instead a whole world of sea life has been partitioned off there for over two million years. It’s Doyle’s The Lost World only with more fish and less racism. During the rescue a couple megalodon sharks, an extinct species that grew to an estimated 38ft that the movie doubles, follow the rescue teams back to the research station. Hijinks ensue and it’s Man vs. Shark for the remaining run time.
The Meg shares a problem with all shark attack cinema that I’ve written about before. We first meet the megalodon when it eats an improbably giant squid that, with a mantle length that looks to be around 20ft, probably weighs a solid 4,500 lbs. That shark is done eating for the duration of the film. When the next megalodon eats that shark, that shark too is done eating for at least a couple weeks. But the shark cannot eat like a normal shark would. If it did its monstrosity would be unremarkable and there goes the entire sub-genre of shark attack movies. It’s a little stunning actually, that so many filmmakers struggle to make a shark attack horrific without grossly exaggerating what sharks are capable of.
But the primary flaws with The Meg are not scientific. They’re poetic. Turteltaub interrogates no cliches and uses what seems like all of them. They left all character development on the cutting room floor. There is a romance subplot between Li and Statham that has less convincing chemistry than your average anti-vaxxer analysis. Using a script this bad on performers as great as Li and Curtis is depressing. The only thing that separates it from Shark Attack 3: Megalodon or any of the other ‘Jurassic Shark’ themed movies is budget. The Meg’s is conspicuously higher which improves its standing in comparison. The Meg isn’t an especially bad film. Just a generically bad one. Which is a shame. If it wasn’t so corny or if it hadn’t taken itself seriously, perhaps it could’ve been a bit of fun at least.