Well, the summer is approaching its end, so it’s about time we get our yearly shark movie.
When Jaws hit the big screens in 1975, Hollywood became obsessed with shark movies. Many inferior shark movies were produced and failed to connect with audience members, including the increasingly baffling sequels to Jaws. Even with Deep Blue Sea being popular with audiences in 1999, it feels like it wasn’t until Sharknado became popular on TV that Hollywood renewed its interest in shark movies. Ironically, since we are given a Sharknado sequel every year, we started getting a Hollywood-produced shark film every year as well. In 2016, we got the Blake Lively survival film, The Shallows, and last year we got Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down, which I had reviewed at the time. With two financially successful shark movies in a row, can Hollywood score a third hit?
Off the Chinese coast is the Mana One underwater research facility. During an underwater expedition into the abyss, their submersible is attacked by an unknown creature, revealed later to be a Megaladon, a prehistoric shark that can grow up to 100 feet long. Since 11,000 meters beneath the ocean, the crew calls upon the only rescue diver they know who can go that far, Jason Statham (his character’s name is Jonas Taylor, but face it, we’re all going to call him Jason Statham.). Although the rescue operation is a success (mostly, given there was a casualty), the Megaladon simultaneously escapes from the abyss and runs rogue throughout the China Sea. Now it is up to Statham and the crew to find and kill this humongous beast before it attacks a nearby beach.
What follows is just about everything that one would expect from a shark movie, as well as, for that matter, any type of movie cliché. Such clichés include a spontaneous romance between the male and female leads, the protagonist who has quit his job due to a personal tragedy, and the question of whether the dog or some child on the beach will survive the shark attack. It is worth noting that when it is revealed that one of the people Statham has to rescue from the submersible is his ex-wife, all I could think to myself was “Well, of course, she is!” After all, why else would he be compelled to go back to his dangerous job? There are also many references to Jaws, including a dog named “Pippet” (ahem).
Strangely enough, despite the overabundance of clichés, the film is kind of charming in its delivery. Admittedly, the film starts off flat, because the execution of the plot feels too straight-forward as if the filmmakers don’t know what kind of story to tell. Once the Megaladon escapes, however, the film finally finds its energy and embraces it silly nature. This tonal shift can be seen in the reactions to death, wherein the first half, death is treated with weight and significance, and in the latter half, people are indifferent enough to crack one-liners, despite some close friends getting devoured. Perhaps the reason why the film works despite these problems is that the filmmakers do not linger on these clichés for too long, and keep the story flowing at just the right amount.
If you have seen the trailer for this film, you will remember the section featuring the action scenes is set to Bobby Darin’s ‘Beyond the Sea.” The song doesn’t appear in the film, but even better, we get an Asian cover of Toni Basil’s ‘Hey Mickey.’ Either of these songs being should be enough of a hint of what kind of tone the filmmakers are going for, something light-hearted and delightfully corny. This is expected giving the fact that this is directed by John Turtletaub, who previously directed Last Vegas, in which four elderly men go to Vegas to celebrate a friend’s bachelor party.
Jason Statham is easily the big standout amongst the cast. Ever since his stellar performance in 2015’s Spy, he has been able to fully embrace the hilarity that comes with some of his line readings. In addition, in terms of playing a disgraced hero being called on due to his skills and knowledge, he makes his character much more likable than Gerard Butler in last year’s disastrous Geostorm. Another standout is the dependable and spunky Ruby Rose as Jaxx, the research facility’s technician. The scene where they introduce themselves to each other got a solid grin from me. Rainn Wilson as the wealthy owner of the exploration is basically just Dwight from the office all over again, minus the trademark glasses. Wilson is one of those actors whose schtick wears out after a certain amount of time, no matter whether or not you like him. As far as the rest of the characters in this film are concerned, they are fine, but kind of forgettable.
The Meg is the definitive example of modern old-fashioned entertainment. If you go in expecting the next Jaws, you are going to be vastly disappointed. On the other hand, if you leave your expectations at home and just let the film speak to you, despite a slow start, it is a decent time at the movies. Given the film has a $150 million dollar budget (which you can fortunately see on the screen with its grand effects), it’s questionable whether the film will break even, let alone be a box-office success. The film is pleasantly entertaining in places, it doesn’t break any new ground for shark movies. Being that the final Sharknado film is premiering next week, does this mean that shark movies will become stale once again? Well, let’s wait and see what happens next year!