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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Meg movie review: shark lark

The Meg yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Jason Statham versus a giant prehistoric shark. It’s never less — yet also never more — than you expect, and never more suspenseful or scary than it is cheesy. But whatev. Go, and enjoy.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

It’s Jason Statham versus a giant prehistoric shark.

Go and enjoy, dear reader.

What, you need more?


Jaws’ reputation as the best shark movie ever is safe, but yes, they’re gonna need a bigger boat. Jurassic Park’s reputation as the best ancient-creature-in-the-modern-world movie ever is safe, but yes, the scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. Oh, they’re not genetically engineering enormous extinct ocean predators here, but there’s definitely some meddling in realms that humans were not meant to blah blah blah.

“Just spitballin’ here, guys, just tossin’ around some ideas, but should we, I dunno, maybe close the beaches?”

“Just spitballin’ here, guys, just tossin’ around some ideas, but should we, I dunno, maybe close the beaches?”


Are you ready for this?

Stath goes hand-to-fin with the giant prehistoric shark.

If that is not enough for you, then you needn’t bother with The Meg. You are not among those being pandered to with this movie, which is very ecumenical in its pandering:

• There’s the literary crowd: Statham’s (The Fate of the Furious, Mechanic: Resurrection) deep-sea-rescue diver is haunted by the spectre of the monster that killed his crew — his best friends! *stifles manly sniffle* — five years earlier. A creature that no one believed him when he said it existed. But now! Vindication and revenge shall be his — maybe — Moby-Dick style.

• There’s the classic-sci-fi crowd: The Megalodon, the giant shark, has been disturbed from its hidden underwater realm, a place cut off from time or evolution or whatever, just like The Lost Continent, except on the ocean floor.

Totally and pointedly gratuitous male nudity? Thank you, The Meg.

• There’s the “Chinese production money must be acknowledged” crowd, so we get significant sequences set in Shanghai, and a cast that also features the awesome Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age of Extinction) — as the scientist who knows sharks, and whose offshore research station is ground zero for the shark havoc — and adorable little Sophia Cai as her daughter.

a Seriously, Statham has found a terrific niche for himself starring opposite badass little girls; see also 2012’s Safe and 2013’s Homefront. He and Cai together onscreen here are non-shark highlights. He is thoroughly charming with little girls. So there’s another crowd being pandered to: the one that likes to see tough guys softened by kids.

• There is the crowd that is grateful for totally and pointedly gratuitous male nudity, a crowd that is sadly almost never appeased onscreen. Statham doesn’t even do anything for me, and yet I was delighted to be pandered to in this way. Thank you, The Meg.

“Ugh with the hoomans, always tossing their garbage in my ocean, and I don’t even have opposable thumbs to clean it up, I have use my mouth, gross!”

“Ugh with the hoomans, always tossing their garbage in my ocean, and I don’t even have opposable thumbs to clean it up, I have use my mouth, gross!”

That said, the crowd that appreciates cheesy movies — I count myself in this one — may be just a tad disappointed. The Meg is certainly more cheesy than suspenseful or scary, but even cheesier still would be better. The script — by Dean Georgaris (Tristan & Isolde, The Manchurian Candidate) and Jon and Erich Hoeber (as a team: Red 2, Battleship) — leans on so many clichés of action melodrama and disaster flicks. But it never leans quite hard enough. You’re never really sure if the movie intends to make you laugh at the terrible and often histrionic dialogue, or if it’s genuinely offered as would-be serious and emotional drama. I laughed out loud quite a few times. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether the movie wanted me to or not. But I think if it wanted me to, it would have done it more often. Director Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) seems to want to tightrope between comedy and horror, and so the movie doesn’t totally satisfy in either direction. (This is based on the bestsellling novel of the same name by Steve Alten, which doesn’t seem to bear much resemblance to what ended up onscreen. The book also doesn’t sound like it is meant to be funny.)

The Meg isn’t quite as much big dumb ridiculous fun as Rampage, from earlier this year, in which the Rock and his giant gorilla pal fight a giant croc and a giant wolf. (There’s only one species of big bad here, alas.) It’s never less — yet also never more — than you expect. But as big dumb ridiculous action movies go, this one… well, The Meg will do until the next one shows up, though it will probably already be forgotten by then.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.

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yellow light 3 stars

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The Meg (2018) | directed by Jon Turteltaub
US/Can release: Aug 10 2018
UK/Ire release: Aug 10 2018

MPAA: rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, occasional bloody moments, action violence)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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