Jason Statham punches a 70-foot shark in a modern Summer A-List Blockbuster. If this sounds appealing to you, then you will enjoy The Meg. If not, then maybe this review may convince you that this is still worth your time as it is what the ‘shark attack’ genre has been struggling to for a long time to deliver – a solid, enjoyable film.
Ever since the release of Jaws in 1975, sharks and the filmmakers wrangling them have attempted to score again with a blockbuster to match and never quite succeeded. The Reef and Open Water capture the authentic terror of being stranded in the water with sharks. But that’s all they accomplish. Deep Blue Sea, aside from a few dodgy shark effects has held the runner-up trophy since its release in 1999 for making its enhanced sharks a cheesy but effective force of terror. And then there are the works of The Asylum – kickstarted by the truly awful Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and refined with the infamous Sharknado franchise.
It’s a solid well-paced film with actual characters and suspense that showcases set pieces and special effects that don’t make you laugh unintentionally as much as its many, many peers
Films like this have now become the majority of shark titles, churned out on the cheap with terrible effects, legions of bikini-clad chum bait and raising philosophical questions such as: “Surely there can’t be 5 of these?” and “Would any of these be any good if they actually had money and acting talent thrown at them?” The Meg answers the second question. It’s a solid well-paced film with actual characters and suspense that showcases set pieces and special effects that don’t make you laugh unintentionally as much as its many, many peers. It has a script which while cheesy is competent and direction to match. This is not a cheap cash-grab. It’s an expensive cash-grab and it happens to be as fun as its premise implies.
While it doesn’t dethrone Jaws, and arguably cannot through that film’s cultural impact alone, The Meg definitely belongs in the top 5 shark films for what it showcases. Its opening act not only provides one of the more credible reasonings for the existence of a giant shark but it also contains genuine intrigue and a sense of wonder in the unknown of the sea. The intrigue quickly turns into well executed suspense as the attacks begin and the ‘Megalodon’ starts off as a legitimately unstoppable monster. The performances from everyone are solid with Jason Statham, while he is playing Jason Statham, making for a compelling and likeable lead. He’s also refreshingly the main source of the camera’s gaze as opposed to any of the women in the cast. Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson and the rest of the cast all do well with the material given. None of them make for deep characters but they fulfill their functions as more than shark bait. The film’s sense of fun is teased out as the film goes on and the action becomes more outlandish and it builds to an insane action-packed climax without any stupid deaths decided by a Twitter poll. It’s not tasteless or gratuitous the way the Piranha films are and you will feel satisfied that you got what you came for as the shark doesn’t hide away from the camera and claims its prize as the best Megalodon on screen to date.
It plays out exactly as one would expect and doesn’t deviate from the formula of the B-Movie shark film
If The Meg has any flaws it’s tonal consistency. There are funny moments but they often come right after the serious ones and character deaths. You’re unable to connect to people when the film wants to have its goofy jokes straight after and then have you terrified straight after. You end up with a film which while fun and an adrenaline rush ultimately becomes only that. It doesn’t have the depth to be Jaws or the crazy inventiveness to be Deep Blue Sea. It plays out exactly as one would expect and doesn’t deviate from the formula of the B-Movie shark film, it just looks better doing it. What’s worth remembering is that The Meg could have been awful. It could have been lazily cobbled together and nobody would think of it as anything other than yet another bombastic, bad shark movie with more money behind it. But it tries to be something more, delivering genuine tension and thrills, giving us an idea of how many shark movie stunts we could have had had The Asylum not simply made its business model churning out as many as possible with as stupid a title as they could conceive before lunch. It’s fun, it’s got thrills and it’s worth the watch. And that’s all it needed to be.