“The Meg” Movie Review

So, Jason Statham is taking on a gigantic shark all by himself, while his pals join in on the action with a number of cheesy quips. I don’t care how stupid it ends up being, this movie could not possibly be more My Shit. This sci-fi horror flick was released worldwide in theaters on August 10th, 2018. Produced on a budget of $130 million, it made a second-best Thursday preview gross and has managed to far outperform predictions for its opening weekend. It’s also on track to a healthy and hopeful box office intake from China, who helped co-produce the film. Based on the novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten, the rights for a Hollywood adaptation were originally purchased by Disney and its mature production label in 1996. After a few years, the rights were reverted back to the author and stayed in development hell for a number of years. After many production companies and attached directors or producers kept abandoning ship, Warner Bros. Pictures finally moved forward with Eli Roth, who eventually left the director’s chair and replaced by Jon Turtletaub. Set in a somewhat futuristic time, the story mostly follows the crew and administrative staff of Mana One, an underwater research facility off the Chinese coast. When its main financier Jack Morris comes to celebrate their discoveries, the team manages to find an extremely deep part of the ocean. During the mission, they accidentally attract the attention of a megalodon, an enormous, prehistoric shark long thought to be extinct. The team has to recruit the help of washed-up rescue diver Jonas Taylor, played by Jason Statham, in order to get out alive and face the megalodon in the open waters. If that premise doesn’t sound like the most insanely, delightfully idiotic thing that’s ever been concocted, then I’m at a total loss for imagination. The fact that it’s based on an existing (And apparently, beloved) novel just adds to that fact at least 5 times over. From the trailers, I expected The Meg to be one of those monster/disaster flicks that had a cool setup but ultimately succumbed to too much self-seriousness. That’s unfortunately been happening a lot in studio monster movies lately, leaving the campy fun of the genre to straight-to-video dreg like Sharknado. And I absolutely hate that series and the cult it has inexplicably spawned as a result, so really Deep Blue Sea was the last decent shark movie. Thankfully, The Meg proves to be just stupid enough to be a fun time at the movies. Maybe I’m just growing more lenient and soft as I get older, but this mostly self-aware B-grade monster flick proves to be an odd breath of fresh air in an environment dominated by superhero epics and overly ambitious franchise-starters. This honestly feels like a throwback to a time (Oh, let’s say, the mid- to late-90’s) when major studios could still be allowed to make stupid-but-entertaining blockbusters. Statham vs a giant shark is going to get a ticket out of me, no questions asked. Obviously, this is not going to be competing with something like Jaws in any capacity whatsoever. There are a number of absurdities and plot points that make almost no sense in the slightest and shows the titular beast far more than Bruce to be considered that menacing. Then again, it doesn’t really need to be, nor does it even really show that much interest in trying. Jason Statham plays his usual caricature of rough and complicated badass with complete and utter ease. His physical commitment to the diving scenes, as well as his generally great comedic timing, make him very watchable as Jonas Taylor. Dwight Schrute from The Office A.K.A. Rainn Wilson is surprisingly good as essentially the comic relief. As the billionaire financier of the whole operation, it’s clear that he has little to no clue as to how to work at sea. The supporting cast is filled with some great international talent. These include Cliff Curtis as the general leader of the crew, Winston Chao and Li Bingbing as the father and daughter in charge of the research, Page Kennedy as a swaggering tech designer, and future Batwoman Ruby Rose as the wisecracking tech expert in the whole facility. Each actor does a fair job, but don’t expect development outside of their archetypes. I’m also rather impressed by how technically proficient The Meg really is. Shot and composited by Clint Eastwood’s regular cinematographer Tom Stern, the digital camera moves in and out of the Mana One with ease and fluidity. Mixing neat, practical production design with gorgeous underwater visuals, it occasionally gets a tad hard to figure out where the CGI starts and ends. There are also a number of obligatory P.O.V. shots just at level with the surface of the ocean, adding to the tension of certain scenes. It’s also edited by Steven Kemper as if it’s a full-stop action movie. Although not hyperactive in its cuts, it does mostly utilize them well for moments when the megalodon might be near. During some shots, it becomes clear when the shark will strike against its next victims, but it tries to draw out that anticipation. Tries, but not always succeed. The prolific composer Harry Gregson-Williams provides the musical score, which is appropriate and sometimes dynamic. It employs the obvious accompanying strings and horns that are virtually customary for the genre. But it makes use of a few leitmotifs. While the shark itself is clearly backed by the low cellos and basses, there are also instances of more percussive drums and wooden flutes. In a way, it helps to add a bit more characterization to certain characters, particularly the Chinese father and daughter. It was a cool score, but nothing I’d pick up on iTunes or listen to again. That’s really everything to be said about the film. If you go in expecting this to be like a gamechanging monster horror movie with thematic or character depth, then look somewhere else. It knows exactly what it is and makes no intention or hints of apologizing for it. The Meg is an unapologetically dumb piece of fun popcorn entertainment. Possible to forget come the next morning, but surprisingly better and more fun than I had initially anticipated. Save for a rainy Friday night.

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1 thought on ““The Meg” Movie Review

  1. Pingback: Retrospective: 2018 Superlatives | Geek's Landing

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