Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Film Review: The Meg

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

When you go to the theater to see The Meg, you get what you pay for: dumb characters being chased by a giant shark.

The movie focuses on Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) a former deep water rescue leader who has retired after making a tough call that cost lives.  If that sounds a lot like the beginning of Skyscraper, you're not wrong.  Jonas is called back into action when his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) has become trapped in a sub below the recorded bottom of one of the world's deepest trenches, which is filled with previously undiscovered aquatic life.  Little did they know that among these sea oddities is the long-thought-extinct megaldon, a gigantic shark that is nearly 100-feet long.  Wacky horror ensues. 

One of the surprising things about this movie is the number of quality actors who are in it.  Rain Wilson plays Morris, the eccentric billionaire who is funding this deep-sea expedition.  Cliff Curtis is Mac, one of the overseers of the project.  BingBing Li plays Suyin a brilliant scientist/single mother who butts heads often with Taylor of how to proceed.  You also notice other semi-familiar faces like Ruby Rose (from John Wick Chapter 2) and Masi Oka (from the TV show Heroes).  Their presence makes for a fun game of "Oh, Hey, I Know That Actor From Somewhere" while watching.

And fun is the biggest selling point of The Meg.  It never quite tries to be more than it is.  We know that you can make a masterpiece like Jaws from shark movies, but The Meg is never this ambitious.  It's only goal is to give cheap thrills and it delivers for the most part. 

There are plenty of opportunities for The Meg to give us real horror and suspense.  The settings at sea make for the perfect sense of vulnerability.  It is difficult to think of a more vulnerable position in nature than to be swimming in the presence of a shark.  But instead of tapping deeply into this primal fear, director Jon Turtletaub goes for the quick shock, followed by action movie sequences.  

This is where Statham's presence as a leading man becomes a mixed bag.  There is a reason that Brody and not Quint was the main character in Jaws.  Statham's stoic machismo never quite registers the panic and fear that should be transferred to the audience.  When told that he must swim out to the large shark to tag it with a tracker, Statham is filled with eye-rolling annoyance, rather than pee-down-your-leg terror.  But his hyper-masculine presence is just the right side of ridiculous to create a strangely entertaining absurd tone to the whole film that a movie like Deep Blue Sea never achieved, while not devolving completely into Sharknado territory.  The other actors provide for some nice comic moments, especially Wilson, but they never achieve anything very memorable.

That silliness works sporadically.  When we see the giant shark approach a beach full of vacationers, it's over-the-top nature sails along well.  But there are times when the main heroes behave so stupidly that you have to fight the urge at one point not to scream at the screen.  One moment had me so frustrated where one character is knocked off of a boat.  Just a few minutes earlier there were swarms of sharks in those waters.  But instead of insanely paddling back to the ship, he floats there for a few moments and laughs.  I cannot imagine anyone human being who has ever lived behaving in this way, except that the script needed for it to happen.

This silliness means that there is a great lack of tension in most of the chase sequences.  Instead of feeling afraid, we are meant to be thrilled by the visual spectacle on the screen.  And while that spectacle is adequate, it is by no means great.

The Meg might be larger in size to Jaws, but it will be much smaller in your memory.

image by Yasir72.multan

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