Another summer full of big movie releases is about to come to a close, so of course, we’ve got to encounter yet another of the seemingly endless shark movies. The Meg (2018) is this year’s shark entry, featuring a fairly strong cast that brings some solid moments but suffers from some bad writing and directing choices. Still, it wasn’t as bad as 47 Meters Down from last summer…so that’s a plus.
The Meg is mostly entertaining
The film opens with Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) in a rescue sub that’s in extremely deep water. The audience watches as Jonas goes through another submarine looking for survivors of some unknown catastrophe. It cuts back and forth between Jonas and his two partners, who are in a different part of the sub. While trying to reach them, Jonas is stopped as the sub is attacked by some unseen monster that crushes a part of the hull. Jonas is forced to make the hard choice to save himself and several survivors on board the rescue sub and leaving his friends behind.
Cut to five years later – Morris (Rainn Wilson) is about to see the fruits of his billion dollar investment as he joins Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter, Suyin (Bingbing Li), on board a state-of-the-art marine-based laboratory. Zhang’s theories are proven true, as a submarine crew descends into a deeper part of the ocean than previously thought to have existed. However, they’re attacked by a 70-ft shark that could only be a Megalodon, which was believed to be extinct. This shark matches the description Jonas gave five years prior. In order to rescue them, they reach out to the shamed diver, and Jonas seeks to prove his sanity and earn a little redemption in the process.
One of the biggest problems with this film is the length. It’s at least twenty minutes too long with some very clear moments that could have been cut out. For instance, after Jonas leaves his friends to die on the rescue sub and the film cuts to five years later, we get to watch a helicopter take off in China and fly to the remote marine lab. There is no reason to watch the helicopter take off, nor follow along the journey. There are several moments like this where we come in too early, and often leave too late in the scene. In an action film centered around hunting a giant shark or being hunted by said shark, there needs to be steady pacing, and no reason for wasted time watching people go from one place to another if nothing is going to happen (or at least threaten to happen).
There are also numerous scenes where the characters dump expositional dialogue or spew pseudoscientific nonsense because there is a misconception that we need to understand details that we really don’t. We’re there to see Statham punch the shark or to see the giant shark destroy things. That’s it. Keep it simple, and either scare us or wow us. Luckily, the cast in the film manages to make even some of the more tedious sequences less painful. Wilson hams it up a bit too much early in the film, but he did win me over by the end. Statham has that cocksure charm that if you’ve ever enjoyed it in the past, will probably hook you again. The biggest surprise performance was from the young Shuya Sophia Cai, who is completely charming and gets some of my favorite character moments in this giant shark movie. Bingbing Li also gets to stretch her range a bit, having some dramatic moments, some horror moments, and a few comedic ones to boot. Not to leave out Cliff Curtis, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Page Kennedy, and Ruby Rose, who all get a few moments to shine in this slightly mega-cast of a film.
The Meg has enough going on to make it tolerable. It’s not amazing or a must see film in any regard, but the cast is entertaining, the CG looks decent enough, and enough happens to keep you hooked. I’d gone in to the film feeling like the mayor of Amity, ready to deny the existence of any shark movie…but left feeling more like the fisherman who didn’t know what a tiger shark was. The Meg earns the Decent Watch rating.