Monday, August 13, 2018

Movie Review: The Meg

The Meg ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub.
Written by: Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber based on the novel by Steve Alten.
Starring: Jason Statham (Jonas Taylor), Bingbing Li (Suyin), Rainn Wilson (Jack Morris), Cliff Curtis (James 'Mac' Mackreides), Winston Chao (Dr. Minway Zhang), Shuya Sophia Cai (Meiying), Ruby Rose (Jaxx Herd), Page Kennedy (DJ), Robert Taylor (Dr. Heller), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Wall), Jessica McNamee (Lori), Masi Oka (Toshi). 
A movie featuring Jason Statham fighting a giant prehistoric shark should be a lot more fun than The Meg ends up being. The back half of the film is the kind of over-the-top goofy fun that you expect it to be, but the film takes a little too long to get going, choosing instead to spend a lot of time on characters and their relationships that we don’t really care about – we just want to see a giant shark killing people, before Statham finds a way to beat him in hand-to-fin combat. The film delivers that to be sure, but it takes a while to get there.
In The Meg, Jason Statham plays the character he always plays – a grizzled man of action. When we first meet this version, named Jonas, he is doing a deep sea rescue where he manages to save 11 people – but leaves two people behind, because something BIG is attacking the submerged submarine. 5 years later, he’s burnt out, filled with regret, and drinking his days away on a Thai beach. That is where the team of Man1 – a huge underwater scientific research facility, bankrolled by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) finds him – and drags him back into action. The group of scientists have discovered there’s actually a whole different undersea world underneath the Marianas Trench – and three people, including Jonas’ ex-wife, are trapped down there. And wouldn’t you know it, something big is down there. Jonas goes on the rescue mission, but that something big follows them back as well. Of course, that something big is Megalodon – a giant shark, thought to be extinct for 2 million years. And it’s going to eat everyone and everything it comes in contact with – unless Jonas can stop it.
There are other characters of course. Statham needs a love interest, and it isn’t his ex-wife. Instead it’s Suyin (Bingbing Li), a scientist at the facility, with an adorable 8-year-old daughter. Like Jonas, she is a woman of action – unafraid to put her life on the line at any and all times to save others – and take on the giant shark. There are more people – they need shark bait after all – on board as well.
I do appreciate somethings about The Meg. Director Jon Turteltaub waits a while before showing us the shark at all – a refreshing change from most modern blockbusters, who seem to think we need to see the special effects in the first few minutes or we’ll get bored. Turteltaub also plays with jump scares a little – sometimes setting us up to expect something, only to deliver something slightly different. You wouldn’t think that a 75-foot shark could sneak up on people, but apparently, you’d be wrong.
The problem really is that in that period that Turteltaub isn’t showing us the shark, he isn’t really showing us anything at all. Not a lot happens in the first half of the movie – just a lot of very intense exposition dialogue, as he has to setup conflicts between people, only to resolve them fairly quickly and in an unsatisfying manner. It feels like the film is treading water for the first half, waiting to get to the good stuff.
The good stuff, when it happens, is fairly good. The scenes are ridiculous of course, but that’s what you’re signing up in a Jason Statham shark movie. Nothing rivals the pure guilty pleasure of something like Deep Blue Sea – the best movie of this sort – but it eventually mostly delivers the goods. Too bad it takes too long to get there. You’re better off coming in at the half way point.

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