The Meg is the kind of summer movie I miss. It may be based on a book, but it doesn’t have to be to get you interested in seeing it. The premise alone – giant prehistoric shark – is enough to make you go, “I need to see that.” Add “Jason Statham vs. Giant Prehistoric Shark” and it’s actually cruel to make us wait until August.
Jonas Taylor (Statham) was disgraced when he was only able to make a partial rescue of a submarine crew, and claimed to see a giant creature. When the Mona One crew gets attacked by the same creature exploring the space under the ocean floor that’s been covered by fog (long story), they call in Jonas to rescue them.
The Meg is really three movies in one. There’s the deep sea dive rescue, but you know that that’s already unearthed the megalodon of the title. Then you get a shark hunt movie, finally climaxing in the meg on the surface.
We know from the trailer (and because it better be) that this is all leading towards the meg attacking a beach, but there’s lots of wicked bloody fun along the way. A sequence involving a glass cage is a total nightmare of open water fears. You’ve got the shark pulling the boat, cranes dropping in the water, Jonas swimming with the shark, anything that could make you feel unsafe in the water. It really comes from all directions and there are several sequences like that in The Meg.
It seems director Jon Turteltaub knows the audience for a giant shark movie and he’s giving the people what they want. He teases us with characters who think they’re safe only 60 minutes into the movie. We know they’re doomed but it’s going to be fun watching them go.
Despite a PG-13 rating there is plenty of shark carnage. We get to see the remains of poachers and bloody shark bites. The limits on blood in a PG-13 must not apply to other sea life because aquatic creatures take a beating. The finale is a smorgasbord of human shark food. The reason those payoffs work is because of the effective buildup to the shark’s impact. Turtletaub sets numerous ticking clocks throughout the movie, and plenty of distracting misdirects.
It’s funny how Jaws invented the “don’t show the shark” school of filmmaking. Turteltaub doesn’t have to worry about a broken mechanical shark, and there are plenty of money shots of the meg chomping away, but he still uses markers on the surface to show the impact of the meg’s carnage. The tricks Spielberg invented out of necessity can still be incorporated into a CGI shark movie.
It’s also funny how this is the first movie that really took advantage of Statham’s diving background. Sure, high diving is not the same as deep sea, but he certainly has grace in the water. Jonas is also the perfect action hero role for him. He acts nonchalant about deadly missions like Ash going off to fight another round of deadites. He’s so badass he cuts his heat and life support so he can dive faster! Turteltaub also gives him a gratuitous shirtless scene. He knows what the fans came to see, and Statham is definitely flexing his six pack for the camera.
The Meg does a good job building up the Mona One crew. We know they’re all potential shark food but we get to know them enough to be moved when some make the heroic sacrifice. Suyin (Li Bingbing) is really Jonas’s equal. Her daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) has the best banter with Jonas. Morris (Rainn Wilson) is the billionaire who funded this and it’s quite possible that Wilson shares the film’s view that billionaires may perhaps be amoral.
Jaxx (Ruby Rose) is another capable badass who earns Jonas’s respect immediately. Mac (Cliff Curtis) has a gleam in his eye about embracing the shark hunt. DJ (Page Kennedy) is the cowardly comic relief.
Laurie (Jessica McNamee) is actually Jonas’s ex-wife but the cool thing is they sort of play it that both knew it didn’t work and are okay with that. Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor) was Jonas’s old boss who discredited him, so that beef is fun. Toshi (Masi Oka) and The Wall (Olafur Darri Olafsson) are buddy techs who giggle immaturely but also come through when it counts. Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao) fights for science, but good luck with that in a killer shark movie.
The Meg is the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer. With a premise like “man eating prehistoric shark” in the realm of a 2018 action movie, by the time The Meg gets down to its remaining survivors, you’ve been on a ride that few other movies have delivered lately.