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Thursday
Aug092018

THE MEG

Stars: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Robert Taylor, Shuya Sophia and Masi Oka.
Writers: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber.
Director: Jon Turteltaub.

Rating: 2/5

For a movie so cynically calculated to hit all-important commercial KPIs, so much feels miscalculated about The Meg. The cheapest looking US$125million film ever made, joyless journeyman Jon Turteltaub’s big-shark movie drags the anchor for most of its interminable 113 minutes.  From the bored action lead routinely grimacing, to the beast itself, blessed with the natural skill to change size at will, The Meg seems destined to only find favour with snarky podcasters seeking schlocky targets for ridicule. 

The central ‘plot’ concerns a boozy ex-diver called Jonas (think about it…actually, don’t), drinking his life away in Thailand having lost two colleagues in the film’s lackluster prologue. Jason Statham plays ‘PTSD grief’ as script directions to be ignored; when called upon to return to the ocean depths to save a stranded submersible that contains his ex-wife (Jessica McNamee), he monologues with a grin about why he won’t do it, then jumps on board a helicopter to do it.

The clincher is that his ex may have just seen the same prehistoric beast that Jonas claimed was responsible for his crew’s death. Soon, he is on board the Mana One, an underwater research facility overseen by scumbag entrepreneur Rainn Wilson and peopled by Cliff Curtis’ boss-man, Ruby Rose’ feisty operations manager, Page Kennedy’s shrill nuisance DJ (the film’s most thankless part) and Li Bingbings’ single mother scientist (asked to pull off some excrutiating sentimentality with her on-screen daughter, Sophia Cai, and some chemistry-free romantic sparks with her leading man).

It takes Turteltaub and his trio(!) of writers 40-odd  minutes to shoehorn their moneymaker into the action, the Megalodon’s first appearance recalling the T-Rex reveal in Jurassic Park (the first and last time the movies will be compared, rest assured). The special effects that bring the Meg to life run the gamut from state-of-the-art (a midpoint sequence in which the shark closes in on Statham and Bingbing as they are being reeled in is the film’s best action) to Jaws-3 clunky. The PG-13 framework means kills are meagre by any horror buff’s measure; barring one legitimately hilarious sight gag involving a helicopter pilot, humour is barren (note to the producers – you owe the Sharknado franchise an acknowledgement for stealing their closing shot gag).

Everything about the movie – the cool posters, the fun trailer, the decade-long development history, the mystery behind what horror auteur Eli Roth once might have seen in the insipid material  – is infinitely more interesting than anything that made it into the movie. The Meg is so bound to the ‘studio blockbuster’ template, it never breathes; that’s perhaps appropriate, given its waterlogged staidness, but it leaves this hulking behemoth dead in the water.

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