After more than 20 years in development hell, the movie adaptation of Steve Alten’s 1997 book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror is finally here. Was it worth the wait (if you were waiting for it at all)? Well, judging by its trailers, I don’t think anyone would expect it to be the best movie ever. Also, there have already been plenty of shark thrillers released since the book’s release, including ones that are about the same extinct species and similar, overused plot. So my short answer would be a resounding no and disappointingly, it’s not to the extend of “it’s so bad it’s good”, which was what I was hoping for.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub, who did a number of my childhood guilty pleasures such as 3 Ninjas (1992), The Kid (2000) and National Treasure (2004), The Meg is about a group of explorers and scientists who submerge deep into the hidden layer of the ocean where their submersible is attacked by a giant, 75-foot prehistoric shark called Megalodon. Disgraced expert rescue-diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is urgently sent down to save them before the oxygen runs out. But by submerging in and out of this uncharted depth, it opens a pathway for the Megalodon to the top of the ocean and right to their underwater research facility.
The plot is as formulaic as it can get with absolutely horrid writing and cheesy acting performances, filled with unintentionally awkward and cringeworthy moments. Complete with generic stock characters such as the rich jerk (Rainn Wilson) who you know is going to die at some point, the sensible black guy (Page Kennedy) who whines a lot, a gutsy punk girl (Ruby Rose) who’s a computer expert, and a hot Asian mum (Li Bing Bing) who’s going to be saved by the white protagonist for a forced romance. None of these characters are fleshed out enough except for the washed up protagonist who’s bluntly mentioned to be drinking all the time. But after all that screen time wasted just to show what a drunkard he’s become, it doesn’t add to the plot at all.
The characters are so unrealistically dumb that they need to be told to switch off their lights to avoid attracting the shark. And they have brilliant ideas of shooting poison into the shark’s mouth instead of just feeding it with the bait that they have. They keep putting themselves in needlessly forced situations. I didn’t care who dies and I’d be entertained if I’d get to see people get graphically eaten alive but the film doesn’t even deliver enough of that. Most of the thrills come from jump scares instead of genuine fear with the situations and surroundings. And it’s cringy almost every time the film tries to be humourous. For the final act, it’s a big, crowded beach finale as usual. We get to see the protagonists “fight” the creature in their “gliders” (small but speedy underwater ships that’s only as big as the Megalodon’s mouth), almost like in Aliens (1986) but not really. It’s silly and the CGI is less than convincing but at least there’s a bit of action there.
So The Meg certainly not comparable to the likes of Jaws (1975) but I wouldn’t say it’s down to the level of the Sharknado franchise (2013 – 2018) either. Sharknado films aims to be cheaply bad and it’s an effective gimmick for its target audience. The Meg, however, with a budget of $150 million and a cast of very familiar faces, does try to be decent. Unfortunately, it turned out to be neither super serious and scary, nor overboard silly and hilarious. Imagine Deep Blue Sea (1999) but with bigger sharks instead of intelligent ones, typical Jason Statham (Fast & Furious film series, Mechanic: Resurrection) in the leading role, usual Chinese co-production problems, and the Thai version of the song Hey Mickey as the film’s theme song.
What I would’ve named the film: “Shark Attack 4: Megalodon in Asia”
Malaysian censorship: I’m not sure if anything is censored but the deaths are not graphic and there isn’t any hint of nudity. And some of the deaths are not even caused by bites.
Verdict: Easily one of the worst sea creature thrillers/horrors I’ve seen on big screen.
Rating: 1.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi action thriller
Running Time: 113 minutes
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriters: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bing Bing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis
Malaysia Release Date: 9 August 2018
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures, Gravity Pictures, Flagship Entertainment, Apelles Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Maeday Productions