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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 7.69%
Pretty Bad: 15.38%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 7 user ratings

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Meg, The
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by Jay Seaver

"A fair movie about a huge shark."
3 stars

Folks have been trying to make Steve Alten's novel "Meg" into a movie since it came out twenty years ago, and you kind of have to wonder what took so long, because it doesn't seem that complicated - there's no piece of it that doesn't come from basically every B-movie about a sea monster ever made, and it's not like you've got to create a whole new monster. Every special effects house probably already has a shark model in their files, after all. That "The Meg" is kind of an assembly-line monster movie is okay - it's fun to apply the latest technology to these old standards every few years - but what exactly got this stuck in development hell?

It starts, give or take a flashback, with a theory Professor Zhang (Winston Chao) believes that the bottom of the Philippine Trench is actually much deeper than it appears, and that the previously mapped bottom is actually a thermocline layer whose abrupt change in temperature reflects radar and sonar, and he's convinced a tech billionaire (Rainn Wilson) to pay for an underwater research lab. The good news is that he's right; the bad news is that the first submersible sent down gets damaged. Zhang and the station's chief of operations (Cliff Curtis) are able to marine-rescue expert Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) out of retirement - though Zhang's marine biologist daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) attempts to mount a rescue first - but all those vehicles punching through the thermocline has created a hole that the previously-unseen life in that isolated environment can swim through. Like, say, a megalodon, a sixty-foot shark thought to be extinct for two million years with an insatiable appetite and no predators in today's ocean.

Though the giant shark is obviously the main attraction, the filmmakers pull a nifty trick in that the first act, before "The Meg" even shows up, is kind of the most fun. It introduces a nice ensemble of smart, capable people who can bounce off each other without it all seeming snippy or making light of a situation, right down to Statham not actually winking at the camera as Jonas recites the expected way for a situation to play out. More importantly, director Jon Turteltaub and three credited screenwriters have ample opportunity to go the "this stuff was hidden from us for a reason!" route, but they almost never do, and there's real delight found in exploration and adventure: The submersible crew (Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, and Masi Oka) are upbeat, the undersea landscape looks cool (although it could use a few more obviously bizarre species), and there's great fun to be had in both the flashy equipment Morris's money has paid for and the decidedly manual techniques Jonas uses to get past a damaged hatch. There's even a couple good action sequences, and you don't see the megalodon until the climax of the that leg's last one..

Eventually, it turns into a shark hunt, and while that's done fairly well for a lot of the same reasons - a sequence involving a next-generation shark cage, for instance, is a slick twist on how these scenes usually go - there are times when it becomes a bit underwhelming. Sharks are dead-eyed eating machines, and while both the practical and digital effects crews do a lot to make Meg a worthy adversary without actually giving it something like human cunning - plenty of knicks and scars to mark it as a survivor, POV shots that seem to hesitate just long enough to make it unpredictable but not thoughtful - the middle section's open water feels kind of low-stakes despite how much the audience likes the cast, and by the time the action is moving to a populated area, it feels like a massacre would be a tough tonal shift to pull off.

It's the sort of thing that highlights just how brilliant <I>Jaws</I> was - while most movies, including The Meg, escalate the immediate threat throughout, the greatest shark movie of all was at its most vicious early on and then was able to focus like a laser with the audience knowing stakes were high in the last act. There is nothing inherently bad about being conventional, but its frantic last stand feels a bit crowded and distracted. The action is nevertheless solid - Turtletaub and company are quite good at not just setting up and executing, but quickly explaining why something is out of the ordinary and thus requires fast lateral thinking - and a creative bit of action - without a lot of chatter to slow things down. It's got just enough enjoyably gross moments to not lose the PG-13 rating but still let the audience squirm a bit.

And it's got a solid ensemble that works together well, though admittedly that comes at the expense of making The Meg a genuinely nerve-wracking movie. Jason Statham is in a generally cheerful, laid-back mode, only scowling when the scene calls for it, and both he and Li Bingbing seem to enjoy the obligatory flirting the script has them do, aided by Sophia Cai Shuya as Suyin's precocious (but, thankfully, not insufferable) daughter. They're surrounded by a good group, although one where pretty much everybody is just likable enough that they'll be missed if the fact that they're also expendable rears its ugly head. There are jokes and sight-gags aplenty, although not actually enough to make it the comedic movie the previews implied.

Instead, it's a solid giant-shark movie, a bit more well-assembled than average but probably not quite the result of twenty years of refinement. But that's okay; it's fun to watch sharks terrorize the ocean every once in a while, and the people in charge of that this year didn't screw anything up.

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originally posted: 08/14/18 09:00:05
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User Comments

7/19/19 Jonathan Jason Strhan saved this movie. Without his camp, it wouldn't have been the same. 3 stars
5/10/19 Anne at times tedious and boring 2 stars
3/24/19 morris campbell decent has its moments 3 stars
11/02/18 Loopy Solid enough shark film 3 stars
9/03/18 Bob Dog Pure average - it's just not funny enough. 3 stars
9/03/18 Sharky McSharkster it was above average 4 stars
8/22/18 Action movie fan Biggest shark but also biggest disappointment 2 stars
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  10-Aug-2018 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2018

  10-Aug-2018 (12A)

  16-Aug-2018 (M)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2018

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