Saturday, 22 December 2018

The MEG ★★★☆☆


Shark movies have had somewhat of a bad rap in recent years - no thanks to The Asylum, who have been putting out at least two shark movies every year since Sharknado made them all the money back in 2013 - so it came as quite a surprise to me to see someone actually taking a ‘proper’ stab at one. (’Proper’ is, of course, a relative term; we’re not talking Jaws here. I’m using it to mean ‘actually given a mainstream cinema release’). Enter Jon Turteltaub, with his 2018 sharkstravaganza, The Meg. But how does it fare when held up against such a colourful history? Well, let’s see...


Loosely based on a 1997 novel by Steve Alten of roughly the same name, it follows the story of jaded deep-sea rescue expert Jonas Taylor (James Statham), who gets recruited to save an exploration team who get lost in a submersible in a secret part of the ocean, hidden underneath a layer of gas at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. It’s not long, however, before they realise that something’s down there with them… (spoiler: it’s a Megalodon).

I went into the cinema, not with high expectations as such, but with at least a hope that for the next two hours I’d have a blast watching a dumb-but-fun flick about Jason Statham punching a giant shark in its giant sharky face. However, surprisingly, I came away feeling a little disappointed. The main issue I had with the film is that it’s just not as fun as it should be; this is a film in which a 2.6-million-year-old shark the length of a cricket pitch that’s - again, just to reiterate - been hiding in a secret bit of the ocean, wreaks havoc on an underwater research facility. It’s such a bonkers concept that it’s a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t really follow suit; The Meg is, despite briefly flirting with a few bits of silly high-tech gadgetry and playing through a handful of campy moments (there’s a bizarre nod to Finding Nemo in it), largely played disappointingly straight. After all, this is a film directed by the guy behind both National Treasure movies; he should know how to make a film fun, of all things.


Perhaps I’m being too harsh. The Meg isn’t a bad movie. The ensemble cast is pretty solid - a special nod to both Rainn Wilson’s megalomaniac billionaire Jack Morris, who clearly is having a blast, and Shuya Cai’s Meiying, whose interplay with Jason Statham is just plain adorable - and the action pieces are...numerous, I guess? The trouble with it is that it doesn’t know where its focus is; superficially, it’s a cheesy, schlocky, b-movie-with-a-budget, but at the same time it seems to frantically be trying to distance itself from the spate of trashy shark movies that have been released in recent years. The tragedy of The Meg is that it’s a film with so much potential; there’s a sense that there’s a real romp hiding somewhere underneath there, but unfortunately, between taking itself a little too seriously and overstaying its welcome a touch, it stays just out of reach.

★★★☆☆
Phil Taberner

The MEG at CeX




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