Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriters: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, based on the novel ‘Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror’ by Steve Alten.
Runtime: 113 mins.
Australian release date: 16 August 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 16 August 2018.
The star of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg is a Carcharocles megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark considered extinct for millions of years, until Man messes around with nature and goes where he shouldn’t. Judging by its box office takings so far, it could out-gross its shark-action predecessors like Jaws et al; because it is a USA/China co-production, it will traverse the seven seas even faster than the creature can swim, opening wide on all shores. And why not? It’s destined to be an over-the-top, B-movie mammoth, just like its star.
Five years after a deep-sea rescue mission that went disastrously wrong, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is drowning his sorrows in Thailand. While there, he is visited by an old colleague Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Mac’s current employer, Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), who heads up an underwater research facility called ‘Mana One’ in the West Pacific near the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the world’s oceans. One of the facility’s diving vessels has submerged below a line of hydrogen sulphide that hid the entrance to an even deeper part of the Trench and is now stuck, having been struck by an unknown object. The crew of the submarine, which includes Jason’s ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee), has only a few hours left before they perish and Taylor’s expertise is needed to rescue them. What’s a guy to do?
The Mana One is funded by a rather dubious billionaire, Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), who seems to be more concerned about his investment and reputation than any of his employees. On the research station is Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li, a major star in Chinese cinema) and her young girl Meiying (Sophia Cai), a smart kid who entertains herself with robotic toys and a curious mind. The multi-ethnic team includes Australia’s own Ruby Rose as a tattooed toughie called Jaxx, who holds her own up in the group of scientists and seamen that includes fellow Aussie Robert Taylor (Dr. Heller), New Zealander Cliff Curtis (Mac), American-born Icelander Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (‘The Wall’), African-American Page Kennedy (D.J.) and Japanese Masi Oka (Toshi), most of whom are picked off one-by-one by the rampaging ‘meg’, as is the never-changing nature of creature-features like this.
There are moments that make you leap out of your seat and a couple of cringe-worthy ones too, like when when Suyin catches Jason as he comes out of the shower and flexes his pecs for her and the rest of us. It looks like Statham is considering giving ‘The Rock’ a run for his money in the beefcake stakes! The Meg, however, is mostly a lot of fun and is indicative of a current trend in Hollywood, viz. making movies for a Chinese audience. The fact that it includes passages of Mandarin dialogue sub-titled in English is confirmation of this inevitable change. The actors are all efficient, doing what they were hired to do. The effects are what we’ve come to see and they don’t disappoint - the ‘meg’ is very impressive and suitably scary. Most of the underwater filming took place in the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand and there are impressive aerial shots of the beach at Sanya Bay on Hainan Island in Southeast China, too.
Although the script is pretty stock standard, lacking in tension and an emotional ‘buy-in’, and it feels like we’ve seen much of it before, The Meg is undoubtably Jaws for the 21st century and will certainly leave as big a bite! It doesn’t seem to matter how outrageous (Sharknado, etc.) or predictable (like this one) they are, it seems people just can’t get enough of movies about sharks - the bigger, the better.