1.5 stars (out of 4)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theater and enjoy old-fashioned summer entertainment. The Meg is closing in fast — and we’re all hapless victims of its D-level ineptitude. Somewhere in Clearwater, Tom Cruise is maniacally laughing.
Look, it’s a shark. Specifically, one 75-foot medieval shark that makes Jaws look like a guppy. Dubbed a “Megalodon,” it can penetrate a submarine for lunch then slurp up humans as a side course. After the Meg attacks a submarine located six miles at the bottom of the ocean off China, only one bulked-up man can save the crew. That man is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Unfortunately, he wasn’t available. Jason Statham gets the call instead.
We’re told he’s psychotic. He was part of a sub crew five years ago and put everyone’s lives in jeopardy. Now he’s out of the game and tells officials that even if they appeal to his good nature, guess what? “I don’t have one!” Empty threat: Seems his ex-wife is trapped underwater. He rescues them, and in typical action movie fashion, they escape with a nanosecond to spare. Alas, that’s just the Act One. Now they must figure out how to kill the beast. A listless discussion about destroying nature ensues.
Big scary shark, dumb people, cool special effects, boom, call it a movie. Actual effort is required to foul up a premise this brainless. The Meg manages to defy expectations thanks to a hackneyed screenplay — credited to three men — likely scribbled on a beach lounge chair. It’s not silly enough to be considered a guilty pleasure or smart enough to keep bored audiences from sneaking glances at their phones. Not a shred of originality is to be found. You don’t have to be well-versed in Action Movies 101 to predict that the greedy billionaire (Rainn Wilson) will be fish food and the cute girl in pigtails will live to see tomorrow. She’s nearly eaten six times and her entire family is in jeopardy but she shows no visible signs of PTSD. Also, Ruby Rose is some kind of architect/scientist? Sure.
The action is a prime example of CGI gone awry. For all the breathless hype, the Meg resembles a typical shark on steroids. What a wasted opportunity to render it a true sea monster. Maybe a low budget is to blame, but director Jon Turteltaub films the underwater scenes as if seaweed got caught in the lens. The literal murkiness hinders the only thing The Meg really has going for it. Again, that would be a Big Scary Shark.
Statham, usually reliable, acts as if he’s unaware that he’s in a farce. The earnest performance is pure parody, harkening back to the time he deliberately spoofed his image in Spy. “I jumped from a high-rise building using only a rain coat as a parachute, broke both legs upon landing, and still had to pretend I was in a f—king Cirque du Soleil show!” he growled to Melissa McCarthy’s agent in 2015. For Spy 2, he can boast of his work in The Meg, “I dived into the mouth of a medieval shark to rescue a dying woman trapped in a plastic cage, brought her safely to the surface and still had enough energy to flirt with my ex!” At least we get to see him talk strategy dripping wet, wearing nothing but a towel around his waste. Confirmed: Statham lifts weights at the gym.
But he can’t lift a stinker that sinks to the lowest of movie depths. (I promise the writing in The Meg is even more of an eye-roll.) Watch out, world: Suddenly Sharknado 17 seems like a masterpiece in the making.
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