The Meg is nothing more than another opportunity for Jason Statham to be Jason Statham
“He looks heroic and he walks fast, but he’s got a negative attitude” is how one character sums up the leading man in The Meg. While accurate — Jason Statham’s role as Jonas, a deep-sea rescue rogue, plays up his signature obstinance when no one believes his claim to have seen a 70-foot shark — it is also the kind of worn-out, self-winking sentiment that undoes the thrill-rides here.
Statham’s cry-wolf moment is more than a twee sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. He sacrifices two men on a deep-sea mission in order to save the rest of the crew, a decision that sinks his career. But when the Meg — short for Megalodon, a ginormous prehistoric creature resembling a shark-shaped turd — is seen once more, this time beneath a hidden layer of ocean, Jonas is recruited to save a new research team trapped in the depths.
The team includes two members from Jonas’s first ill-fated crew — the still-resentful Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor) and the more understanding Mac (Cliff Curtis). Along with Suyin (Bingbing Li) and Zhang (Winston Chao), they have been living and working at MANA One Station, a research facility funded by billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson).
Though here he’s made into more of a caricature — clueless, young, neck-bearded — Morris is the classic John Hammond opportunist. Like his counterpart from Jurassic Park, his ambition to capture the beast (for fame or fortune, it’s never made clear) runs up against the practical concerns of Jonas and the rest. Now that the Meg’s existential status has been proven, they know the only way to avoid havoc is to kill it.
Speaking of existential, this is in part a typical man vs. nature narrative: does adventuring in the name of science justify the inherent potential for human casualties? Will this team manage to survive the might of the Meg? If they do, are they justified in killing the creature to spare human lives?
If the film is smart enough to at least ask some deeper questions, though, they serve mostly as philosophical window-dressing for the action sequences. Some of these are admittedly exciting. But there are at least two too many, for instance, a sequence at a Chinese beach that dots swimmers so perfectly along the shore that its CGI algorithm is near-perceptible, like code from The Matrix.
The platitudes and corny music employed here also seem better suited to a 1990s film than a grand epic. As do lines like “It’s a great day to go fishing!” which Statham proclaims in his best gravelly-action-hero voice as the crew initiates their hunt for the Meg.
- Why the Oscars’ most popular award idea is its least popular yet
- The Spy Who Dumped Me is your millionth reminder that Kate McKinnon is everything
And should we care that Statham’s built bod is blatantly served up to the female gaze (most notably Suyin’s) as he gets into and out of aquawear? Why bother pointing out his “negative attitude,” or any other attributes, if the film is only interested in him as a sex symbol?
For that matter, is it really worth self-conscious nods to the audience when genre conventions are performed with at best perfunctory gusto and come up short in producing a half-decently scary action film? Perhaps these are the wrong questions to ask of a shark movie. It’s not Jaws. But then again, nothing ever is.