Whilst the world waits eagerly for Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, its top-tier action stars have been whetting appetites with individual projects. This year, the Rock has delivered Rampage; now it’s the Stath’s turn with Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg. The question is: whose behemothic, Godzilla-inspired, uber-beast is bigger? There’s only one way to find out…fiiight!
On size alone, The Meg has it. The seventy-foot titular megalodon – based loosely on the millennia-since extinct Otodontidae shark and 1997 book by Steve Alten – is bigger than any of Rampage’s offerings by a good thirty feet. A giant CGI creation, the Meg is a vehicle for jump scenes and – 12A tame – blood, gore and massacre. The film’s underwater world has a beguiling aesthetic, with star-like bubbles belying a tone more comfortable in the genre of adventure than horror. Harry Gregson-Williams score is, likewise, more Williams’ Jurassic Park than Jaws.
Jason Statham’s film itself isn’t quite so delirious as Dwayne Johnson’s but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Welcome back to a world in which only one man’s abdominals can save the day – albeit in the company of equally capable women. This is the twenty-first century after all.
The film opens with pro-diver naval captain Jonas Taylor (Statham) spectacularly losing his honour after abandoning half the crew of an exploratory mission in the Marina Trench he’s supposed to be rescuing. It doesn’t help that his excuse involves an underwater mammoth which cannot possibly exist in modern day oceans: the Carcharodon Megalodon. All this crisis and conspiracy ends Jonas’ marriage and career alike. Sucks to be him.
Five years later, when a submarine is attacked by a creature exactly like the one Jonas described before, it is he who gets the call to save the day. Just because facing the shark that ruined his career wasn’t personal enough, things become more complicated when Jonas discovers that his ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) is on-board. Despite seemingly spending half a decade on a Thai beach – downing a very specific brand of beer like its tap water- Jonas’ bodice remains impeccable. He might be reluctant but it’s not long before he’s diving bare-footed under the sea – and there ain’t no singing crabs down there.
Comparisons to Jaws are inevitable – particularly during a beach-based climax that directly quotes the Spielberg classic – but beats too here of King Kong and The Poseidon Adventure are tangible. Particularly when a rich smarmy American ignores the scientists to make things much, much worse: ‘Every person who gets maimed by that thing is a potential law suit! With so much of the script harkening to a lineage of shark and monster movies, The Meg never finds its own gumption, nor iconic instance.
A thoroughly enjoyable – and terrifically claustrophobic – opening half sinks in the film’s midriff as Turteltaub loses focus and overwhelms his conceit with water-muddying twists. It’s a pity but doesn’t entirely derail the film from a status of solid Saturday afternoon entertainment.