Review: ‘The Meg’ (ridiculous mega-shark fun)

So, there’s this giant shark… and only Jason Statham can stop it. Do you need to know more?

Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) has retired from diving work following a rescue mishap: no one believes his story that anything with jaws the size of an elevator car could have bit into the side of a submarine, let alone still exist. Five years later, a billionaire industrialist (Rainn Wilson) financing an underwater laboratory finds his project in jeopardy when one of his expensive high-tech research subs goes missing. With eighteen hours or less to save the crew, one man’s name comes up who’s close enough to help, but the chance to repair his shattered reputation won’t be enough to tempt Jonas back into the water. He fears what only he understands is down there: twenty tons of Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark.

The 1997 novel Meg by Steve Alten finally sees the cinematic light of day after numerous failed attempts for two decades to get it into theaters. Casting Jason Statham seems like a no-brainer, a competitive diver long before modeling and acting took over as his career of choice. Filmmaking technology has also come a long way, able to fulfill pretty much any idea a director can come up with. Will an August release date give this monster disaster film the teeth it needs to succeed, or is this proof the studio had no faith in the final product against the likes of earlier summer fare?

It’s a good bad, not bad-bad, and worth a popcorn matinée. If there’s anything that can really be said about a giant prehistoric shark movie, it’s that it should have been more violent. You can see the heavy influence of other sci-fi aquatic films, specifically James Cameron’s The Abyss; prior to that film, Cameron reportedly had to commission clear full-face diving masks so you could see the actors in the water. Still, both director Jon Turteltaub and Statham have already expressed regret online over the studio’s decision to make edit it into a PG-13 action-adventure instead of the blood and gore-fest expected for a shark attack movie.

With the exception of Rainn Wilson and a few cliché quips from Page Kennedy, there isn’t much humor to be had aside from the antics of a dog in the water; some additional wise-cracks would have gone a long way to endearing our characters to their audiences. Ruby Rose cast as engineer Jaxx was a great choice, but Bingbing Li’s Suyin spends a bit too much time running off and being saved, often enough to be seen as “a thing.” “Heroes” alumni Masi Oka needed a larger part to pull in a little more of that aforementioned missing humor, something that could have offset the purged carnage that even SyFy’s “Sharknado” franchise doesn’t skimp on.

Taken as-is for what we got, it fills the big screen just fine as a crowd-pleaser. While it’s easy to lament what could have been, neither a serious horror nor action-vehicle was going to win big awards; maybe summer success and brand recognition here will lead to a bloodier badass sequel later.

The Meg is rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language… but we’d really like an R-rated cut, please.

Three skull recommendation out of four

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