How to best describe The Meg?
Fun? Yes, but not as fun, frankly, as a movie featuring a giant prehistoric shark should be. Unforgivably, I was asked to endure half an hour of footage before the megalodon appeared to start chomping people, submersibles, and scenery; in this half hour, I was asked to believe that a character played by Jason Statham was keeping up with cutting-edge marine biology research, so I felt pretty sorely tested. Fortunately, the megalodon does eventually appear and even has the decency to be succeeded by a second, still larger megalodon. It’s like, how much more big could this possibly be? And the answer is none. None more big.
In short, if you are patient, the movie will eventually give you the only thing it ever promised you, which is a really big shark doing really big shark-type things.
It did not, thankfully, promise you a keen ear for naturalistic human dialogue, because we get the following gems, all delivered very seriously:
- “Meg versus man isn’t a fight… it’s a slaughter.”
- “That living fossil ate my friend.”
- “It’s not about the people you lose… it’s about the people you save.”
When writing a script, you have to decide your cap on lines that are going to have ellipses in them, and the bold screenwriters of The Meg decided the sky was the limit.
Also at one point a guy falls in the water for no dramatic purpose except, seemingly, to establish that he is capable of falling in the water when something pushes him off a boat, a plot point that I suspect the audience could have grasped without this crucial bit of foreshadowing.
So—all of that.
But despite the entertainingly bad and the genuinely mediocre and the unpardonable running time, there are actually a few bits here I find charming. A lot of the characters have a natural, lived-in chemistry, and their friendships feel believable without being oversold. The movie also veers away from having Statham get back together with his amiable ex and instead gives him a cute, winning flirtation with scientist Suyin (Bingbing Li), who even sort of gets her own plot. And in the middle of all the clunker lines, there are occasional bits that are actually, intentionally funny, at least if you get a kick out of Rainn Wilson, as “the guy who paid for all this,” summarizing Jason Statham’s general vibe thusly: “You know, he looks heroic and he walks fast, but he’s kind of got a negative attitude.”
I mean, you still shouldn’t spend two hours of your life this way. But I’m glad that we as a society have gotten to the point where even our bad, stilted, uncreative blockbusters have reasonable diversity in their casting, a couple good female roles, and some bits of weirdness that remind you all this was made by man, not meg.