John Turtletaub’s adaptation of “The Meg” may not have been everyone’s cup of tea in 2018, but for me it was a damn good time with an eye on being about as novel as possible. While it does pander to the ever important Asian movie going audience, “The Meg” is a weird and wild action movie that feels like an eccentric amalgam of Peter Benchley, Renny Harlin, and Paul WS Anderson. It’s a comedy, a science fiction film, an action movie, a romance, a man vs. nature picture, and a tale of redemption all rolled in to one. It even squeezes in a bang up cast of character actors like Cliff Curtis, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson as an eccentric billionaire thrust in to the extraordinary confrontation with a giant megalodon.
Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, an expert deep sea diver who became a pariah after experiencing an attack by a Megalodon. Though he insisted he experienced a confrontation with the beast, he was let go by his team and cited as insane. Now with an international undersea observation program going deep in the fathoms to explore new sea life, they’re observed by a billionaire and financier who want to learn about the program. But things go awry when an underwater vessel unleash the mythical megalodon and is attacked, stranding them underwater. Now with a chance to redeem himself, Jonas agrees to go under and rescue them. What the crew fails to realize they’ve opened the door the megalodon to follow, and have unleashed an unstoppable force of nature.
“The Meg” is a movie that goes everywhere it can within its two hour run time and it amounted to something of an eccentric but fun action movie that covers all the bases in what audiences might expect from something of this ilk. Even the casting of Jason Statham is somewhat outside the box, and Statham rises to the occasion as a fun and sleek underwater hero who always seems to be working by the skin of his teeth. “The Meg” never has time to settle, running back and forth through various plot threads. It’s almost like the script has been rewritten a thousand times with new sub-plots introduced. When the movie almost seems to settle down, there’s a brand new setting established. And yes, there’s even a giant attack in a public beach set in China, meant for the international audiences.
But it ends up becoming so offbeat and unusual, I couldn’t help but soak it all in and have a laugh. It wants sorely to be “Jaws,” “Deep Blue Sea,” “Deep Rising,” and “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” rolled in to one, and on rare occasions it almost pulls off the feat. Statham, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson come out the best in “The Meg,” playing some interesting heroes that do battle with the Meg on their own terms. Wilson is great as the modern wunderkind billionaire who can do nothing but stand back and watch, and inevitably become his own worst enemy. Li Bingbing is very good as the heroine Suyin working hard to prove something to her father (Winston Chao), while also trying to maintain the relationship with her gradually alienated young daughter.
For what it promises, “The Meg” fulfills a lot of its promises with some great shark rampages, a lot of close calls, and some top notch action scenes with Statham doing what Statham does best. There’s even a cute dog put in to a massive amount of jeopardy for the sake of a classic Boomer “Independence Day” moment. An R rating and a few F bombs could have improved on the film’s urgency, as well as much less superfluous comedic relief, which literally feels tacked on, including a gag about a crew member’s inability to swim. I also would have loved a lot more peeks behind the psychology of Jonas’ back story, and whether he’s still tortured by the failed mission that made him who he is when we meet him. That said “The Meg” is a fun, briskly paced monster picture, and while it suffers from uneven tone, it’s a worthwhile popcorn movie.
Featured on the release from Warner is “Chomp on This,” a twelve minute look at the creation of the movie, while “Designing the Beast” is a ten minute look at the creation of the monster and how the design team sought to make the monster look unique. Finally, there’s a short commercial for the New Zealand Film Commission.