In case your kids are not ready for ‘Jaws’…
By Jason Wiese
If you consider yourself a person who loves movies, you have to be able to love a good B-movie. Sometimes even the trashiest, most derivative and mind-numbing shlock that Hollywood has to offer can be just what you need to put a big, popcorn-stained smile on your face. I believe that the key to a fun B-movie is to take a plot to a film that is still considered the gold standard of its kind, widen the scope (in literal size, not necessarily in ambition) and, once you have accepted that you will most likely not achieve the same level of acclaim or memorable iconography as the film you are ripping off, have a blast with it.
I imagine that is the route director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) took with The Meg, based on the novel by Steve Alten, which, in the simplest terms, is basically Jaws, but bigger. Well, the shark is, at least.
Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor (with more personality than in any performance I have personally seen from him since his days working with Guy Ritchie, I might add), a Naval rescue who chose to leave his crew trapped at the bottom of the ocean in an effort save another group of lives, claiming that an onsite encounter with a monstrous creature forced his decision. With no one believing his story, he is dishonorably discharged. Five years later, he is asked by a marine research facility to save their exploration crew, trapped in the unexplored areas of the Mariana Trench. Soon they discover that Taylor was not as crazy as they believed because the danger that he and the crew are about to face is none other than the largest prehistoric predator to ever exist: a Megalodon.
The titular, 70-foot shark is quite a wonder to look at, with no expense visibly spared on the CGI. The monster is often more compelling than its human co-stars. Then again, there is a reason the film is not called The Victims. If anything else, it could have been called Statham vs. the Really Big Shark. Despite employing an ensemble cast, also including Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Cliff Curtis, this is truly a one-on-one showdown, giving Statham his closest opportunity to be a superhero yet with the purely impossible feats he achieves.
However, the impossible is welcome in a film like this, as well as silliness, which I believe was the overall goal for this film’s tone. Rarely is there a moment in which it takes itself seriously and the few breaks from hilarity there are only quickly followed by something more ridiculous, which had me both delighted and slightly underwhelmed. Whenever the film seems to prepare you for moments of extreme thrills or ghastly imagery, it is almost eager to reveal that the build-up was merely a façade leading into a campy payoff. It is surprisingly tamer than most creature features and it made me realize that I was wrong when I thought Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom would be acceptable for young children to see. Against this giant killer shark show, the dinosaur flick is clearly the one with a stronger thirst for blood.
The Meg is an ocean of over-the-top whimsy inhabiting a kingdom of clichés. Nevertheless, Turteltaub directs each sequence with a giddy, child-like enthusiasm that makes for a satisfying cinematic escape. It is as good as a movie about a big shark, that is not called Jaws, could be. Better yet, you can take the kids with you.