Movie Review: The Meg

Jon Turteltaub directs this action/adventure film, and with his history of success from hits such as National Treasure, one would think it would be a thrill ride of fun. Unfortunately, the script by Dean Georgaris, with Jon and Erich Hoeber, falls short, leaving the viewer feeling like they have watched a re-release of a 1980’s flick with modern special effects added.

Jason Statham is Jonas Taylor, a deep-water rescue expert who has been haunted for five years with the failure to bring part of his team out alive. His story of a giant shark destroying a ship, filled with friends that he supposedly abandoned, causes everyone to believe he is delusional. He has spent the time since the rescue drowning his painful memories in beer.  But when former teammate Mac (Cliff Curtis) and his boss Zhang (Winston Chao) come to him seeking help for another deep-water rescue, he cannot refuse when he is told his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) is on the ship. As the mission unfolds, Jonas’ worst nightmares and memories come true as another megalodon pursues him out of the depths.

Even with a great deal of suspension of disbelief applied, the script is incredibly hard to believe in, and there are a number of issues with species evolution and behavior that are difficult to ignore. But even if you get around that, the story follows a familiar trajectory, especially in the first half of the film, and offers few surprises to keep viewers on their toes. At that point, credibility bolts for the door and the film takes on a “comic book” feel. Although it does not seem that this was the intent, or that Turteltaub even realized this during filming, it does earn the title a little extra bump in this rating.

None of their acting skills stands out particularly, even with a number of almost familiar faces in Bingbing Li, Masi Oka, Ruby Rose, Robert Taylor, and Rainn Wilson. This is another summer blockbuster-wannabe that feels like people playing other people. In fact, the only interplay in the script that seems to capture reality is how friends respond to each other. However, instead of creating a sense of loss in the moments it is called for, we are assaulted with a brief moment of grief, followed by a lackluster return to business as usual. For this reason, there are no particularly positive callouts to the performances. Worse, this is yet another film in which the solitary black lead is far too stereotypical to take seriously, and this is an additional blemish on the script.

Other than a few moments and the unintentional turn towards farce, the real quality of this film is in the special effects. The shark is the most believable element, blending seamlessly with both the settings and the characters. There is never a hint that the beast might be anywhere but right there with them on the screen, and everyone involved from cinematographer Tom Stern to the art, special effects, and visual effects departments should be commended.

Unfortunately, these few things are not enough to save what is an otherwise lukewarm, somewhat campy entry into the action/adventure genre. The film is sure to please fans of Statham, but those looking for a good story in addition to the action are likely to be left high and dry.

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