Jon Turteltaub (director)
1h 53mins (length)
09 August 2018 (released)
13 August 2018
More than four decades after Steven Spielberg's Jaws left audiences terrified to go in the water and introduced Hollywood to the high concept summer blockbuster, another shark movie, The Meg, looks set to make a splash in 2018.
The movie can be explained simply by saying that it's Jason Statham versus shark - although its director Jon Turteltaub does go through the motions by setting up a plot that will eventually allow its star to encounter the Megalodon (a giant species of prehistoric shark) that gives the film its name.
Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who has given up on life and turned to booze after a disastrous trip to the bottom of the ocean cost the rest of his crew their lives. Having been branded mad due to his description of an attack by a giant creature of the deep, he believes his diving days are over.
Inevitably, they are not - as a research crew containing his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) are undertaking their own expedition to the seafloor in the hope of discovering unexplored depths cut off from the rest of the ocean by a cloud of freezing gas. A bruising encounter with the giant fish leaves them trapped in their submersible at the bottom. Crew members left at the surface Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing) and James 'Mac' Mackreides (Cliff Curtis) recruit Jonas as the only man with the experience to conduct a rescue mission.
These plot details are of course merely there to get us to a point where Statham has to face off with his huge fishy nemesis, although meeting Suyin's adorable daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) is a delight, and Ranin Wilson is enjoyably dastardly as Jack Morris, the uncaring financier of the research team. Turteltaub also extracts humour from the absurdity of the film's premise, sending up action movie cliches by unashamedly embracing them - and there's plenty of familiar disaster movie tropes from nonsensical science to peppy one-liners delivered while in mortal peril.
This makes for a film that is very funny in a way that is part of the charm of lowbrow action thrillers - a genre Statham has made his own as the face of the Transporter films and a regular in The Expendables. Like both of those franchises, The Meg has its tongue firmly in its cheek.
It's a disappointment, however, that when the Megalodon properly arrives in the second and third act, the set-pieces don't feel as spectacular or threatening as they could be. Turteltaub has mentioned in interviews that several ideas for gory scenes were dropped to ensure it could be shown to younger viewers (the film is rated as a 12A in the U.K.) and it shows. Spielberg's 1975 Jaws terrified audiences, and while the makers of The Meg clearly have different aims, it would have been nice to have more of a flavour of that legacy, given its origins as an adaptation of Steve Alten's pulpy horror story, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.
Lack of real bite aside, The Meg is thoroughly entertaining. Statham is typically enjoyable as a gruff anti-hero with a heart, albeit one with an accent whose accent appears to have got lost somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, and the film's humour certainly lands - with the giant shark's encounter with an unfortunate Pekinese dog a highlight.