When it comes to beating the summer doldrums, nothing is better than going to the movies. Whether it’s just to spend a few hours in a darkened room with the A/C blasting to find some reprieve from the heat, or it’s just to get lost in the world of big-screen visuals while munching on popcorn, summer movies often provide us with some much-needed escapism, which perfectly sums The Meg up to a T. It’s an action-fueled monster movie that delivers some solid moments of suspense and spectacle, although I do wish the script spent more time diving deeper instead of treading shallow water most of the time.
As far as the plot goes, The Meg follows a team of researchers who work for an international undersea program and dive into uncharted waters (quite literally and slightly figuratively in this instance), where they encounter an unseen monstrosity that attacks their submersible, leaving them stranded with very little hope for survival. Famed oceanographer Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao) recruits expert rescuer Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) to rescue the crew, much to the chagrin of his strong-willed daughter, Suyin (Li Bingbing). It’s up to Jonas to confront his own past fears when he realizes that he is dealing with a gigantic Megalodon, a pre-historic shark long believed to be extinct, that terrorized him on a previous expedition which nearly cost him everything, including his life. In a nutshell, Statham takes on a giant shark, and this time, it’s personal.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a variety of shark-centric entertainment swim its way into multiplexes, and The Meg keeps that tradition very much alive in 2018. Director Jon Turteltaub (who previously helmed the National Treasure movies, and I dig them both) does a solid job of mixing up action, adventure, and crazy, over-the-top movie monster thrills and chills. On a visual level, The Meg is something very special. The mix of practical and visual effects complement each other greatly, and all of the deep water scenes are extremely effective (that’s the kind of stuff that gets under my skin as a viewer) and help keep tensions high at various points throughout the movie.
That being said, The Meg does have to navigate its way through some choppy waters. The film’s tone meanders all over the place, and I’m not sure exactly who on the film’s screenwriting team (consisting of Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber, who adapted the screenplay from Steve Alten’s 1997 novel) was responsible for the dialogue for Jack Morris, Rainn Wilson’s character, but nearly every single one of his lines is just him volleying up one-liner after one-liner, and Wilson is deserving of much better material than he gets here (if you missed his work in The Boy—the movie about a killer kid and not a killer doll—allow me to once again sing the praises of that film and his performance, because he’s astonishingly great in it).
There are moments when it feels like The Meg is being restrained, and I’m wondering if that is due to the film’s PG-13 rating, because things never get quite as crazy as I was hoping they would. I did really enjoy Statham and Bingbing together in The Meg, though, and I’d be the first in line to follow them on any future adventures, because they have some great chemistry that kept me invested the entire time. Shuya Sophia Cai also steals the entire show as Suyin’s precocious daughter, Meiying, who more than holds her own alongside her fellow castmates that are nearly four times her age. She’s absolutely adorable, charming, and entertaining. I do hope we see more of Cai’s work in years to come.
So, is The Meg worth your time? I definitely think so, especially if you’re someone who digs over-the-top creature features that lovingly pay tribute to the greatest summer movie of all time: Jaws. It may have a few rough patches, but as a whole, it’s entertaining as hell and it really scratched my itch for aquatic-themed adventures this summer. Besides, who can resist Jason Statham taking on a prehistoric shark? Not this writer.
Movie Score: 3/5