Ever since, as a kid growing up at the beach who loved seeing Jaws, I have had a soft spot for cheesy shark (and other undersea monster) movies: The Deep, Deep Blue Sea, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Finding Nemo, even Full Fathom Five. (I do have my limits; Sharknado? Please.) It’s not that they are all so good, but that they are — or can be — scary fun. Most of the earth is covered in water; how can we really know what’s out there?
So keep in mind: I attended the screening of The Meg with full knowledge of its limitations… but also its potential to be a fun ride. And I didn’t get a good watery thriller… I got about six pretty bad watery thrillers that somehow exceed (or at least equal) the sum of its parts.
It begins as Deep Blue Sea: A massive, isolated research facility in the water studying the ocean floor. When a submersible gets stranded below an historically deep thermocline populated by unusual creatures, it becomes The Abyss. That’s when hero Jason Statham — who is a disgraced rescue diver and also coincidentally happens to be the ex-husband of the sub’s pilot — is brought in. You expect the film will be about that. It’s not — the crew is (mostly) rescued. Then the facility is terrorized by a prehistoric megalodon, a 70-foot shark, and it’s Jurassic Park at sea. They stalk the shark using a cage (Jaws). Their boat is capsized (Titanic). They find ways to combat its size with smaller forces after a dog is threatened with being eaten (Independence Day).
The Meg reinvents itself so much, you almost don’t have time to focus on how terrible it often is. The dialogue can be cringe-worthy. Large swaths of plot make no sense. (My favorite: When the adults hear a rumbling on the facility, which we know is the meg ramming it, they pause, and the first words said are, “My daughter!” What, they though a 9-year-old was bringing it down? Or did it not occur to them that having a little girl on an fancy oil rig was a dangerous situation?) The special effects are largely hokum.
And yet, its terribleness is part of its appeal. I don’t believe in clapping at the end of movies (who’s there to appreciate it?), but I know why the audience cheered at all the right moments: They were enjoying themselves in the cool a/c of the Texas summer, seeing a still-fit Statham repeatedly jump unprotected into the ocean to combat a fish the size of a 737. That’s so insane, you shake your head, smile, make a wise-crack to your seat mate, and continue watching. Pass the popcorn.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Opens today in wide release.