The Meg: Jason Statham’s $150-million budget B-movie is all shark and no bite

Film review: It’s fun, but neither good fun or bad fun, it just flounders in between

The official trailer for The Meg, starring Jason Statham. Video: Warner Bros.

All at sea: Jason Statham in The Meg

Film Title: The Meg

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis

Genre: Action

Running Time: 113 min

Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 20:46

   

Who would win? Jason Statham or a prehistoric shark? That’s the neat meme-generated premise at the heart of this $150-million budget B-picture. Tune in next summer for who would win? Jason Statham or a trillion lions? Or, more likely, tune ion next year for the major motion picture based on whatever comes next in the sequence of Meg novels by author Steve Allen, the Dan Brown of ancient oceanography. Yes. There are novels.

Indeed, If The Meg proves a big enough hit – and that’s a dead cert – we’re three films away from Hell’s Aquarium, the fourth book in the Meg sequence. Who doesn’t want to see a movie called Hell’s Aquarium?

In the meantime, we have The Meg, a Chinese co-production powered by product placement and needlessly stupid dialogue. It’s fun at times. Trouble is, it’s neither good fun or bad fun, floundering gracelessly in between. The size of the sheer Megalodon allows for some Jawsian moments: Look, our beach has thousands of edible people on thousands of delicious flotation devices!

An impeccably diverse cast speak in cod marine science and hackneyed phrases. We’re spared ‘awkward’ but we do get a cutesy-pie wise-beyond-her-years kid who, in several acts of questionable parenting, is taken along for every dangerous ride. Her mother, played by Li Bingbing, is Statham’s love interest, which requires her to trade some of the worst adversarial romantic repartee you’ve ever heard.

The biggest problem, however, is the Meg itself. Director Jon Turteltaub sees to have entirely misinterpreted the mechanics of the creature feature. With reverse Spielbergian logic, the beast is unveiled too early and increasingly diminishes in visual impact.

 A most inconsistent fish, early on, as the rainbow crew laments the loss of smaller sharks culled only for their fins, there’s a suggestion that the Megalodon may be like the Equaliser with giant teeth. This idea is quickly discarded in favour of more boat and submarine chomping. By the Meg’s final predatory circle, it’s an absolute bore. The family-friendly rating is a straightjacket for Statham, who never gets to go full throbbing neck vein. Worse, the 12A ensures there’s little by way of splatter or mess. Roger Corman would never have signed off on such shoddy work. Eli Roth, who was originally attached to direct, would not have forgotten to bring his buckets of blood.   

It sounds churlish to require something more from a nonsensical blockbuster about a marauding dinosaur, but here we are. It’s this year’s Snakes on a Plane.  

Opens: August 9th