Jason Statham kind of looks like a shark. That's the main thing I took from The Meg. He's about as close as you can get human-wise. I was hoping he would somehow turn into a shark, but that would be too good. See, The Meg is a silly monster thriller, but it could've been something more worthwhile by being sillier. Have we learned nothing from Sharknado?
Ever since Steven Spielberg gave us Jaws in 1975, filmmakers have been trying to make another good shark movie. None have succeeded. The Meg doesn't succeed. It takes itself too seriously, not realizing how ridiculous it is.
The Meg fails to connect with us on a human level. Directed by Jon Turtletaub and based on a book by Steve Alten, the movie is every bit as digitally disconnected from reality as you might think. The film's $150 million price tag notwithstanding, none of it looks real. It's the type of horror plot best left to cheap paperback because it's the imagining that makes it scary.
As film legend goes, the prop shark in Jaws (they called him "Bruce" on set) was a huge failure and would sink all the time. This is why we don't see it that much in the movie. Spielberg devised ways for Bruce to be scary off-camera. The Meg has none of these subtleties, despite its frequent Jaws references.
What it does have is a monster shark, which essentially makes it a Kaiju movie. It's much closer, in terms of genre, to Jurassic Park or Godzilla than Jaws. Seemingly awakened from slumber after scientists discover a "completely new world" in the ocean's depths, the "extinct" Megalodon is described in the book via sentence fragments: "...a 70-foot, 60,000 pound Great White Shark. Hundreds of seven-inch serrated teeth filled jaws that could swallow an elephant whole." The movie goes even bigger ("75 to 90 feet"). And, by the end, it's evident size doesn't matter without a convincing plot.
The Meg is bogged down by backstory from the jump. Statham plays Jonas Taylor, an unfairly disgraced rescue diver called back into action. He was discharged years earlier for giving up on an impossible situation. Now, faced with a similar situation involving an unseen beast, his superiors turn to him again for help. But... he doesn't do it for them. His ex-scientist wife is one of the people in trouble, trapped in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean... the Meg's ocean. Instead of jumping right into this action, however, the movie makes us wade through the past which only delays the monster's reveal.
Once the mega-shark finally shows up, the movie goes into hyperdrive, bouncing from dream shark horror scenario to dream shark horror scenario. First it's the trapped submarine, then open ocean, then an underwater lab, then a bustling beach of tourists. It's all very Super Nintendo as the hero jumps from level to level with the ante bumped each time.
The Meg's plot and characters make it ultimately forgettable, but the film does deserve a spot next to Deep Blue Sea as another fun, violent shark movie with a ludicrous story and weird cast. Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Bingbing Li, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Ruby Rose, Ruby Rose's tattoos, and Hiro from Heroes all show up in The Meg. (Wilson gets the wildest shark encounter.) And Statham is as furious as ever. Hopefully, one day he finds a movie that lives up to his star-power because he is a true screen presence. The search for his Die Hard goes on. The Meg is not Statham's best. It's not the monster genre's best. But it doesn't really have to be. It's got a shark as big as an airplane.