The Meg (short for Megalodon) is a movie about a giant, prehistoric shark which only Jonah (yes, like the bible), played by Jason Statham, can stop. A more apt title for this film would have been The Meh. Which is to be expected when a film’s gone through as much development hell as The Meg has, so for what’s going to make a much more interesting read than my thoughts solely on the film, let’s start at the beginning.
The Meg is based off a 1997 book, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Allen, and has had quite the journey to screen. Allen discussed the extensive studio productions on and off in an interview with Bloody Disgusting, and it’s here that I think The Meg fell off the rails. Way back here. Since Jaws redefined the genre of thriller movies, and put both a shark movie and the entire concept of a blockbuster on the map, subsequent shark movies have veered sharply in a much campier direction (Sharknado, Deep Blue Sea). The Meg originally had Guillermo Del Toro attached, in a sort of Moby Dick style, much more serious premise. Not Jaws, but maybe in the vein of more recent films like The Shallows and 47 Metres Down. What I would have given to see the visionary director of my favourite movie of last year The Shape of Watermake his Moby Dick instead of the vanilla concoction that is The Meg.
However this fell through, to have the project later picked up by Eli Roth, who wanted a much more slapstick, gory, shark movie. If you look at his body of work Hostel, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock, as well as the campier, stupider, funnier, more tongue-in-cheek shark movies listed above, this could also work. This version of The Meg is actually what was sold during its brilliant marketing campaign. I mean, the posters actually say “Opening Wide” on them. But Eli Roth and the studio parted ways due to creative differences. Chances are, the studio wanted a much less gory, significantly watered down version of The Meg, set to appeal to a much wider audience. Alas, it doesn’t.
What we ended up with was a Jon Turteltaub directed film (National Treasure, Last Vegas) that has no real concept of tone. The Meg draws you in to a semblance of understanding; you start off almost buying the science – but then it flips gears and goes back and forth between the slapstick stupidity and taking itself way too seriously. Statham has moments where he really goes for the ridiculousness, as does Rainn Wilson, and Page Kennedy. They all completely know the movie they signed up for. Well, the movie that it was. Jason Statham revealed recently in an interview with Collider that the script he signed up for is significantly different to what made it into the film, specifically, he would have preferred a lot more gore.
With regards to the rest of the cast, we’ve got an exceedingly forced love interest with Bingbing Li, and a way too serious Winston Chao. Not to mention Ruby Rose, who might be an awesome Australian advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, but I’m sorry, cannot act to save her life. Cliff Curtis and the young Shuya Sophia Cai were both saving graces in the cast, but overall, this was a bland, stereotyped group of individuals, ticking boxes with no interest in bringing anything interesting to the film.
If The Meg had really pushed in any direction, be it a serious, interesting thriller, or a crazy, slapstick, gory romp, it might have worked. At is stands, it’s a bland, cookie-cutter, made-by-committee, boring as, you’ll forget it in a week kinda movie, that has so much more potential. If anything, the commercial success and brilliant marketing campaign highlight the desire for a well made shark movie. This could have been great, there are people here for this. But I’d put good money on seeing a big second week drop-off.
The Meg is showing now, but you should really go watch Mission Impossible: Fallout, or The Breaker Upperers if you’ve missed either of those. They’re much more worthy of your time and money, and I promise you’ll have a better time than you will watching The Meg.
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