Making fun of The Meg might be more trouble than it’s worth. There’s no hype for this adaptation of a schlocky 1997 novel about a scientifically unsound super-shark. So what if Jason Statham (Crank, Transporter) got caught up in an unfortunate film? Every summer has its low-stakes stinker.
But we would be doing summer moviegoers a disservice to not warn them of exactly what to expect should you use a shark movie as an excuse to sit in a theater’s air conditioning on a hot day. In particular, anybody with even the slightest appreciation for science, logic, or sound research practices needs to brace their butts for how baffling The Meg turns out to be.
We meet Jonas Taylor (Statham) during a deep-sea rescue mission after his team has connected an escape pod to a sub’s hatch. When we tune in, the rescuers have pulled all survivors onto the escape pod, but some violent collisions are rocking the sub. Statham makes the tough call: disconnect the escape pod and shove off, leaving two rescue divers stranded. The sub’s doctor accuses Taylor of deep-sea madness for doing this… even after a massive explosion rocks the escape pod as it flees. (What do you think caused that explosion, doc? Too many beans?)
Flash forward a few years, and we meet Mr. Morris (Rainn Wilson, The Office), an American tech gazillionaire, as he visits a new, billion-dollar deep-sea research facility he has personally funded. Morris’ constant “ooh”s, “ahh”s, and “wow”s punctuate the fact that he has never seen the facility that he funded nor been informed about what exactly it’s researching, until this day. The crew explains to Morris that the ocean’s floor in this one particular deep-sea zone isn’t solid ground but rather a layer of… you gotta be kidding me… hydrogen sulfide.
Worse, in examining this deeper-than-deep stretch of ocean, the crew in question has never bothered sending either a camera-equipped drone or a deep-sea craft full of organic life forms. (Morris must really like rats.) To see this brand-new stretch of ocean, the deep-sea team is sending a craft full of high-tech touchscreens and a three-strong crew of joke-cracking dorks. This should go well.
Within 20 seconds of breaking through the… I can’t believe I’m still typing this… hydrogen sulfide layer, the three-person crew is rammed by a massive, unrecognized creature. The ship’s power goes out, and the diving station’s crew scrambles. Maybe Taylor can help? Didn’t he deal with a mysterious deep-sea incident that might have involved a giant creature?
One helicopter ride to Thailand later, Taylor is found slamming back beers and saying he has zero interest in ever diving again, as he has, quite frankly, given up on empathizing with anyone anymore. This is when we’re informed that one of the three crew members happens to be his—dunh dunh dunnnnh—ex-wife.
The ol’ three-chopper slam
Warner Bros. Pictures
The rest of the plot stretches the limits of human logic to a sinewy, gruesome extreme. One untrained scientist decides Taylor is taking too long and disembarks in a rescue pod roughly five minutes before he arrives. Every deep-sea dive that happens, even after the reveal of the terrifying “Megalodon” shark, is done without the help or reconnaissance of an unmanned drone. Once the super-shark makes its way to the surface, nobody bothers to inform any authorities about what they’ve discovered—particularly when they start tracking the shark and confirm that it’s swimming directly toward a popular tourist destination.
At no point does the crew believe that the shark has some sort of exoskeleton or protection from sheer impact. The monster is eventually stabbed to death in remarkably low-tech fashion. And it constantly swims on the surface, as evidenced by the film’s “tribute” to Jaws, by having a single dorsal fin stick out of the water on a regular basis. This movie could have been renamed The Most Boring Air Strike and been done in 30 minutes.
“If we can short out the firewall, I can probably reboot the computer.”
All of that says nothing about the part of the film where three helicopters (manned by apparent journalists) start flying over the giant shark once it emerges at a beach and, for some reason, crash into each other simultaneously. The Meg is perhaps best described by this scene: it’s like watching three helicopters somehow slam into each other at the same time.
The film’s dialogue is so ridiculous that I was afraid my notepad’s pen would run out of ink, as I furiously scribbled terrible line after terrible line. “If we can short out the firewall, I can probably reboot the computer.” “We should find all sorts of species completely new to science.” “Whoa, I just lost telemetry.” “You might be a son of a bitch, but you sure are no coward.” After one successful escape, while some crew members celebrate, another one offers a “mournful” aside: “It didn’t go our way. Not for [dead person].” A dramatic pause. “Not for science.”
People’s Republic of Desire film review: Yes, Black Mirror is already hereParagraphs like that might lead you to believe that you’re in for a so-bad-it’s-good, sci-fi version of The Room, and to some extent, you’re right. But the appallingly wooden acting by the film’s Chinese leads, Bingbing Li and Winston Chao, comes off a little too seriously, as if they were actually trying here. And Jason Statham doesn’t get to act like he’s having fun while swimming through this garbage fire, considering how toothless the Megalodon is (yes, that’s what “The Meg” is short for) and how ho-hum the film’s few action scenes turn out to be.
My disappointment with The Meg is perhaps best summed up when Morris tries to murder the shark without telling anyone else about his plan. He directs a helicopter to shoot the shark, then asks that chopper to fly low to confirm. This is the part of the movie where, after the helicopter pilot crew confirms everything is fine, a massive shark should jump out of the water and freaking eat the helicopter.
Rampage is the awesome Jurassic World sequel we got—but didn’t deserveThat doesn’t happen. The producers waste countless opportunities to insert delightful cheese into the film. Instead, the writers and director leave this film’s dimwitted characters and bumbling science holes to flail about as utter laughing stocks. My advice: if this sounds like your cup of tea, go into a theater with an expectation of comedy, not logic. You’re probably still better off waiting for its Rifftrax version, however.
Listing image by Warner Bros. Pictures
More Info: arstechnica.com