The fine tradition of killer shark blockbusters stretches back to Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and has recently been kept alive by the SyFy Channel's Sharknado series. So obviously, when The Meg started making the rounds, it kind of felt like it was being teased as a sort of blend of both worlds that knew it wasn't either of those franchises, but would attempt to mix the two into one hell of a ride. As it turns out, in the process of attempting to make The Meg a movie full of stupid fun, they forgot to have fun, but stayed square in the lane of stupid.
After a rescue operation gone bad kills some of his colleagues, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) becomes a recluse hellbent on never diving into the deep blue sea ever again. That's about to change, as a recent scientific expedition gone wrong has stranded a sub full of researchers at the deepest depths of the ocean. And waiting there to face him, and the entire crew of the Mana One research facility, is a predator so massive and forceful, it forced Jonas to retire in the first place.
If The Meg had decided to become either more of the silly parody its ads are trying to suggest, or focus more on the serious, action-packed thrill ride that it could have been, we might have gotten a better movie. Instead, what we're left with is a film that takes itself way too seriously, while not being funny enough to offset that choice in the slightest. Betraying the tone that was set in earlier looks at the film, the film is more stoic than I would have expected, leaving its ridiculous premise without a way for me to dig into what it was trying to sell.
This would have been perfectly fine if the film committed to being a serious adventure, with fleshed-out characters that I could have cared about. But The Meg disappoints in this respect also, as there are too many characters in a script that moves too fast for us to truly care about the folks that have just become shark bait. One character is sacrificed early on in the film in not only an almost identical fashion to the token sacrifices in the film's opening, but also with a casting choice that screams for the audience to care because this actor's previous work makes him a "fan favorite." You could dump whole characters almost at random in this film, and you wouldn't harm what passes for story.
At this time, it should be noted that The Meg's casting is not the problem, as Jason Statham plays the charming hard ass he's usually called upon to deliver as forcefully as ever. Not to mention, the diverse cast of researchers and colleagues that he works alongside in the film give it their all, with small moments to shine here and there. There's even a good amount of laughs between Statham and young actress Shuya Sophia Cai, whose Meiying shares some laugh-out-loud moments of conversational humor with Jonas in an attempt to set up a romantic connection between him and her mother, played by Li Bingbing.
None of this makes up for The Meg's huge mistake of taking itself too seriously to be truly funny. If the rumored R-rated approach that director Jon Turteltaub had suggested lies unfinished in the Warner Bros vault was the film that made it to theaters, then perhaps I might have seen a film that stood a better chance at entertaining me. But as it stands, this PG-13 summer tentpole plays it way too safe to be fun, and feels as if all of said fun was robbed by the edits that allowed the film a wider audience.
If there's any compliment to be paid to The Meg, it's that it takes the antics of Sharknado and gives them a budget, while also teasing just a little bit of what could have been a Jurassic Park knockoff worth some laughs. Should you be looking for action and adventure, there's plenty of leftover thrills still left in theaters should you want that adrenaline rush. Otherwise, if you're a bad movie fan looking for a movie so perfect for riffing the jokes write themselves, you couldn't find a bigger dope.