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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • LJS

    Yes, indeed the book is not meant to be funny. Bear in mind that it was the author’s first book, and written in the 1990s, but it’s a typical strong-jawed hero is vindicated against all who doubted him. The male characters range from cardboard to wooden. The two female characters are the hero’s treacherous wife who’s having an affair and alternately trying to sabotage or mooch off his reputation (and gets eaten by the shark for her troubles) and the male scientist’s reckless daughter who ends up sleeping with the hero for “reasons”. There’s a couple of good action sequences, but they drag the Nautilus out of its Groton museum and send it into battle against the Meg (Captained by one of the guys what doubted our hero), where it is sunk off Oahu. Probably the best thing for this movie would be not basing it tightly on the book.

  • RogerBW

    I tend to feel that Statham has underappreciated comic chops (the first thing I noticed him in was the remake of The Italian Job), so I’m looking forward to this. (But I recently watched Shark in Venice, voluntarily, so nobody should use me as a guide)

  • On the fence with this one. Wife wnats to go to a movie this weekend, and it’s between 2 bad/mediocre movies. This or Slenderman. We see all sorts of bad horror movies that would be typical, but a giant shark. Hmmm…

  • Bluejay

    The Meg is certainly more cheesy than suspenseful or scary, but even cheesier still would be better.

    Heh. That reminds me that I recently saw this teaser, and that I’d really like to catch up on the Sharknado movies. :-)


  • hoover2001

    Movies like this are usually better served to be rated R in order to lean into the raunchiness and cheesy gore a la Piranha 3D (of course the sexiness should be all inclusive.)

  • Tonio Kruger

    Hey, back in my younger days, I actually paid good money to see Deep Blue Sea — the shark thriller with Saffron Burrows and Samuel L. Jackson — at the local second-run theatre. And I did so not just once, but twice.

    * Hangs head in shame.*

  • I haven’t seen *Slender Man* — it doesn’t open here in the UK till the end of the month — but at the moment, it has that rare 0% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m surprised it was even screened for critics!

  • I wish this was rated R for intensity and suspense. :-/

  • Chloe

    No shame required; I’m looking forward to Deep Blue Sea 2 (SYFY).

  • Chloe

    Not sure what else I’ve seen him in but he was glorious in Spy.

  • Slender at 20% and Meg at 50%. Ugh. Giant Shark it is.

    Too bad I can’t convince her to go see MI: Fallout, but she just doesn’t do those kinds of movies.

  • bronxbee

    he was so hilarious in Spy. i like manly heroic types who don’t mind sending up their onscreen image (see, also, Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters 2016)… they kind of hark back to guys like Burt Reynolds and/or James Garner, men who didn’t take their on screen persona seriously. their jobs yes, their image, no.

  • bronxbee
  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’ve been leamenting since I first heard about this, “It’s Jason Statham vs. a giant shark? How is Jason Statham supposed to punch that? What’s the point of Jason Statham if he can’t punch things?”

    You seem to be saying The Meg found a way for Jason Statham to punch the giant shark? Color me intrigued.

  • David_Conner

    I really enjoyed this movie, for most of the same reasons as MaryAnn (seriously, I’d happily watch a sequel movie that’s just about Statham dating Li Bingbing and getting into adorable shenanigans with Sophia Cai.)

    But the comparison to *Rampage* is apt, and *The Meg* doesn’t come off as well. Both movies deserve a lot of credit for being what I call “the right kind of stupid” – i.e., a stupid movie that knows it’s stupid, and asks the audience to join it in the fun, as opposed to the “eh, the audience are all morons who don’t know the difference.”

    Pulling that sort of movie off is trickier than it looks – walking the Tapsian line between stupid and clever, basically. I think *The Meg* would have worked better if it was about 15% more stupid.

  • Chloe

    Add Dwayne Johnson to that group; nothing is more attractive than someone who has a sense of humor about him/her self.

  • Chloe

    Netflix has them.

  • *Spy* is the first time — and so far only time — that he has ever hinted that he has a sense of humor about himself.

  • I saw a few of those, and they were just dumb.

  • That’s what I’m sayin’. :-)

  • a sequel movie that’s just about Statham dating Li Bingbing

    Stath has a lot more chemistry with the kid than with her, though. He should just make a sequel with the kid.

  • LaSargenta

    I’ve gotten the vibe from a couple of interviews that he is funny and has a sense of humor about the action roles; but, yeah, no other films where we see this.

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