Hot Take: I’ve never hated a shark movie so why start now? The Meg is more like The Meh though as it drags often and fails to be wacky or dumb enough to draw massive audiences. It lacks the bite it needs is another way to say it. See what I did there?
To be fair, we didn’t need another shark movie. There’s Jaws. It’s basically perfect. There’s not much else we need beyond that. We didn’t need it’s numerous sequels, the shot stealing Deep Blue Sea or any of the latest run of shark flicks that we’ve been getting what seems like yearly lately. Oh and Sharknado 1 through whatever number they’re on now (132?). Those, we definitely didn’t need. All that being said, we want the shark movies. Give us all the shark movies!!! Amazingly, it took The Meg over 2 decades to get to the big screen. Optioned to Disney’s now discontinued Hollywood Pictures in 1996, one year before it’s release, the novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror has spawned numerous sequels despite The Meg‘s inability to swim its way into theaters. Eventually, that deal fell apart and the next studio in line to nab the rights was New Line Cinema who grabbed the rights in 2005 with a plan to get it in theaters in 2006. The budget became a concern and New Line killed their plans and the rights reverted back to writer Steve Alten. Finally, the film landed in the hands of Warner Bros. in 2015, landed Jason Statham for the lead role in 2016 and was shot in four months at the end of 2016 in New Zealand and China. Even then, the film still met hiccups as it was originally slated for a March 2018 release but ended up releasing in August. But then again, why wouldn’t you expect such a long, arduous journey for a film about a prehistoric shark thought long to be extinct?
Where The Meg fails is in its inability to capture on the zaniness a shark film allows. (See Nado, Shark… oh wait, that’s one word. On second thought, don’t ever watch Sharknado.) This isn’t saying that a serious shark flick doesn’t work and recent efforts over the past few years have sunk their teeth into the topic and delivered suspenseful, compelling results. With Statham in the lead role, there’s no expectation of a cinematic masterpiece. (Sorry, Jason but you know you’re never going to be considered for anything beyond an MTV Movie Award.) There’s some decent second tier casting here with Rainn Wilson as the billionaire behind the underwater research center which uncovers the monstrous shark beneath an icy layer of ocean thought to be the deepest of the deep but actually just a cold water cloud. (I’m sure there’s a technical term but let’s be real here, this is The Meg we’re talking about.) Li Bingbing plays the oceanographer daughter of the doctor who partnered with Wilson’s Jack Morris to launch the research site. Ruby Rose is decent in her role as Jaxx, the smart, tough designer behind the research facility. There’s Jessica McNamee as Taylor’s ex-wife who gets in trouble on the research facility’s first trip through the ice cloud along with Masi Oka who gets a small role here and is better known for his work on Heroes and Hawaii Five-0. There’s that giant CGI shark, too. It’s impressive enough but the film is so wrapped up in trying to be good, we don’t get enough gratuitous shots of that CGI shark in action to make it worthwhile.
What we end up with is a mediocre movie that will appeal to those still dripping wet from their immersion into Shark Week (which is still a thing 30 years later) and likely contributed to The Meg’s monster opening of $45 million. It would be unsurprising to see The Meg dragged down to the depths with a 55-65% drop off in weekend #2, though. That’s surely okay for Warner Bros. who likely couldn’t have expected a movie headlined by Statham (whose previous non-Fast and the Furious opening was The Expendables at $34.9 million and if you reach down to a Statham headlined film, it’s Transporter 2 at $16.5 million) to reach such a massive box office swell. With a $150 million budget though, Warner needed this kind of performance to justify such a lofty price tag.
The Meg is pure escapism and your typical throwaway summer popcorn flick. We count on these to take us away from the sweltering heat outside and keep us entertained for about 90 minutes and change and don’t often care if it’s easily forgettable. The Meg delivers on that end and has a few memorable moments. If you like Statham with his shirt off to show off his chiseled stomach (probably his most refined acting talent outside of his perpetual smugness), there’s a few of those moments. The shark is huge. It does everything you’d expect it to do with a few scenes that really do stick out. Young actress Shuya Sophia Cai plays the daughter of Bingbing’s character and is a distracting comedic delight in her few on screen moments. There’s actually enough here to make it a mediocre flick. Actually, there’s a little too much as these films should come with a 90 minute cap and The Meg runs about 23 minutes too long. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it experience that you won’t regret whichever way you decide to go.
You’ve got almost 2 hours to kill but there also might be an emergency that requires you to leave. The Meg is that film you won’t feel bad about leaving behind and watching the rest on cable in a year.
You can’t swim your way through another mediocre shark movie.