Movie Review – The Meg
This started as a book in 1997 and Disney sat on it for nearly 20 years before Warner Bros. took it over. The adaptation now, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is essentially Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) but on a bigger scale. There are certainly references to Jaws here. One of which is a scene where we see a Yorkshire Terrier go for a swim in the ocean. That terrier is identified as “Pippin,” the same name as the dog seen swimming in Jaws. There’s also a bit of James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989) thrown in here for good measure. These comparisons are obvious given this movie features a giant shark and scientists in an underwater laboratory. Of course, there have been plenty of shark movies since Spielberg’s classic. Some have been really great, B-movie thrillers like The Shallows (2016) and some have been really silly camp or shlock like Sharknado (2013). Turteltaub’s film lies somewhere in between but leans more toward shlock.
The title here is a diminutive of the Megalodon. There has already been a movie called Megalodon (2004) that originated in Japan that isn’t so dissimilar from this one. Along side that, The Asylum, which does direct-to-video action flicks, has brought about several kaiju films about massive sharks. Substantially, this movie isn’t that much better. Turteltaub is helped by a $130 to 150 million budget, co-financed by China, as well as the presence of a really engaging cast led by two incredibly, sexy action stars, Jason Statham and Li Bingbing.
Statham stars as Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea diver who performs a lot of rescue missions. When scientists get stuck in a sunken submarine, Jonas is called to pull them up and out. If you’ve seen Statham in his several franchises like The Transporter (2002), The Expendables (2010) or Furious 7 (2015), then it’ll be no surprise that he’s his typical action-star self, macho, tough, stubborn and somewhat witty and charming. He’s also a total beefcake who’s super-ripped, probably more so in this film than he’s been in previous, and who could do all the physical things that a campy movie like this would demand, such as him fighting a 60-foot shark, mano-a-mano.
Li Bingbing co-stars as Suyin Zhang, one of the scientists in this adventure, a marine biologist. She lives and works on what looks like an oil rig off the coast of China with her father who is also a scientist. With Suyin, there’s also her 8-year-old daughter Meiying. When some people connected to Suyin become trapped in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, she attempts to save them, literally diving right in using a special, one-person vessel. Eventually, Jonas jumps in too to assist.
The basics to the premise is actually eerily similar to Bingbing’s last feature, 7 Guardians of the Tomb. It too was a monster movie. Bingbing was also partnered with a Hollywood hunk, namely Kellan Lutz. Her character there also had a child. Instead of a giant sea-creature, she battled a giant spider. The visual effects are obviously a million times better here. Bingbing’s previous really didn’t reach too far beyond the bottom of the barrel from whence it pretty much started.
This movie though reaches more for Star Wars or the more recent Star Trek films. It doesn’t quite get there, but it reaches for it. Some sequences here are reminiscent of being in outer space or on another world. Certain visuals could be confused for that kind of science-fiction. It certainly has that same kind of energy. Yet, I probably had more fun in this film than this year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.
It also makes better use of its supporting cast. When those cast members’ characters were killed or put into danger, it was felt a lot more. Page Kennedy (Rush Hour and Blue Mountain State) who plays DJ was funny. Winston Chao (1911 and The Wedding Banquet) who plays Dr. Zhang (pictured below) was good as Suyin’s father and Rainn Wilson who plays Morris, the wealthy white guy financing this whole thing was also a bit of a hoot.
Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.