‘Jaws it is not, but it certainly closer to that level than some of the other shark-attack films’
The Meg, 2018
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis
Sine Jaws many, many films (including three Jaws sequels) have tried to recapture the magic of a shark-attack film and most of them have failed. Even as recently as 2017 47 Meters Down was released, taking the idea of a shark-attack in a slightly different direction, so I was less than excited about The Meg, yet another shark-attack film, albeit the shark in this film is a Megalodon (a shark also previously used in a shark-attack film, Megalodon), previously thought to have been extinct, however the film truly surprised me; I found I began to care for the characters and the situations (and the dog) and it became quite an exciting film.
A group of scientists, headed by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and funded by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), want to explore what’s beneath the surface of the ocean (believing it to be a blanket, rather than a ground) and when they do they uncover the Megalodon, an extinct prehistory shark standing at 23m who follows them back through the blanket (previously it couldn’t break through due to the blanket’s temperature) and into our ocean, threatening the lives of everyone as it goes.
The Megalodon is a beautiful shark, and it’s quite interesting to see about this prehistoric animal and there is a great idea about the blanket storing lots of unknown animals who also can’t break through it (only minimally is this invested in, though). And some of the action scenes of the shark attacking are quite exciting. There’s also some decent acting throughout and a nice story between Jonas (Jason Statham) and Suyin (Li Bingbing), who seem to take in turns rescuing each other. Jonas also has a history in deep-sea rescue missions as he failed to save his friends in the past, an issue which plagues his time on the film and something which he must overcome to protect those he’s with now. However, I was never truly invested in Jason Statham’s performance (he’s perfectly fine and is believable in his action scenes). Even in the really sweet scenes with Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), who was adorable throughout the film, he still came across as Jason Statham, rather than Jonas.
I also really liked how they kept the shark away for so long, but I felt they didn’t do it in a very good way (which, I admit, does sound quite contradictory). Much like with Jaws, the shark is kept hidden from screen for a large part of the first act with shots of the submarines being flung from side-to-side constantly hiding the beast that’s causing it, but therein lies the problem: the shark is huge. After we see it for the first time we see it attack other ships and at no point is it hidden as stealthily as it was in the initial scenes. In those it came across as if a small shark was hitting it, but the characters just look stupid because if they can’t spot that they’re being hit by an 80-foot shark then how did they get a job there in the first place?
The Meg also tries to utilise comedic elements throughout the film, and one of those particular moments made me bow my head in shame and want to hurl abuse at the film (which probably would have still been quieter than half of the people in the cinema screening I saw it in, with a couple not far from me discussing their thoughts as the film went on). DJ (Page Kennedy), the film’s token black guy, has a really heartfelt moment where he almost tears up upon realising he’s lost a lot of friends, some of his ‘best friends’, even, but in the next scene we see him he’s jumping and laughing at them shooting the shark. If a shark killed my friends my excitement over its own death would still be very minimal, especially in the immediacy of the said killings. It did come across as lazy writing as they didn’t want DJ to have an emotional journey. He’s not the only one, though, as many times characters seem to completely ignore the fact that others have died (I completely understand that it needs to be set aside while they concentrate on killing the shark but they can still at least remember their friends) and it comes across as if they don’t care, which makes it harder in the long run for us to care. Also, a shark has attacked a beach and killed many people and a woman is complaining about her wedding being ruined as a result. It’s not even presented comedically so it seems pointless to have her character say that as it doesn’t make her any more the hero for surviving.
Jaws it is not, but it certainly closer to that level than some of the other shark-attack films. Solid acting but not great, solid writing but frustrating at points and a great shark all combine to make a rather middle film, but still a fun ride.
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