THE MEG —–“That living fossil ate my friend!” tells you that it never really is safe enough to go back in the water, especially when the head of the food chain is a gigantic prehistoric Megalodon, hefty enough to make a Great White come off like a goldfish. Naturally, per movie logic, this horror-adventure opus from 2018 takes the accepted size of the original predators, daunting enough at 35 to 60 feet, and adds another 15 feet. All in good dumb fun.
A zillion-dollar underwater research facility probes the depths of the Mariana Trench (about as deep as you can go without bumping into the cast of Journey To The Center Of The Earth). Some Big thing wrecks their fancy submersible, and disgraced one-time-ace rescue diver ‘Jonas Taylor’ (Jason Statham) is called to the rescue, not least because his ex-wife is one of those in peril. Before you can say Cast According To P.C. Manual, the thing is revealed to be a giant shark from millions of years back, famished and not worried who it upsets. Plenty of absurd, predictable but amusingly done CGI action follows.
The screenplay, shared by Dean Georgaris and Jon & Erich Hoeber, was taken from the 1997 book by Steve Alten “Meg: A Novel Of Deep Terror”, which spawned seven sequels. Directed with practiced hand-upon-throttle smoothness by Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure), it steers full-goofy-ahead in the manner of see/enjoy/laugh at/leave behind ya monster mashings from way back, albeit with modern casting demands and state-of-the-shark special effects. A refreshingly confident sense of its own silliness and its razzle-dazz high-tech chomping action makes for more enjoyable time wastage than other oceanic monster pix like Deep Rising, The Neptune Factor, Leviathan and DeepStar Six. On a sheer teeth-meets-meat basis it can’t touch the snouts of Open Water or The Shallows, let alone Jaws, but does it have to?
Statham (hired because Dwayne Johnson was not free?) plays in his standard Clint-growl style, affecting that Perpetual-6-day-Beard look that magically never requires a shave yet also never gets any longer. Ex-wife being cool with it, the superstudley Taylor can gradually warm up to oceanographer ‘Suyin Zhang’ (Li Bingbing), even as the Meg decimates much of the supporting cast. That bunch includes Rainn Wilson as a slippery billionaire (name one who isn’t?) and Ruby Rose as ‘Jaxx’, there for some reason that involves being the hip, take-no-shit chick with a hot haircut. Ethnic, national and sexual diversity in cast: check. Precocious kid who hero grows fond of: check. Panicking crowd scene reminiscent of Jaws 2, but on massive Chinese scale: check. Blow-it-up angle: check. Abundance of errors in plot, logic, fact, geography, continuity: check. Fun matinee: check.
Costing something close to $178 million dollars to churn to the surface (with perhaps another $140,000,000 chummed for prints and advertising), the old fish oil formula hooked customers, eating up $530,243,742 globally, 72% of that outside the US market, ranking 14th place for the year.
Shot in New Zealand (West Auckland) and Sanya City on Hainan, China, the “Chinese Hawaii.” On board (and the menu) are Winston Chao, Jessica McNamee, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy and Sophia Cai. 113 minutes. Sequel being spawned even as we race for shore.