‘The Meg’ Review
The Meg is about a giant shark escaping from the nether regions of the ocean’s floor in order to kill a handful of people before itself being killed.
The Meg is also about the growing dominance of China as a movie marketplace to flood with semi-literate slop that relies on moderately impressive computer-generated imagery and the most basic, elemental emotional impulses in order to marginally raise your pulse for a couple hours before sending you back to your dull, boring life.
And, finally, The Meg is about Jason Statham’s abs.
The shark is a megalodon, long-thought extinct, and it has escaped detection these last two million years because it has been trapped under a [checks notes] thermal thing that covers the real floor of the ocean and is [checks notes] really cold or something.
The film takes place off the coast of China, where a pleasingly multicultural, multinational crew works on an underwater research base funded by a callow billionaire predisposed to wearing sneakers and ball caps and being your average ugly American. It’s like the cast and the setting were designed by a screenwriting algorithm set to “juice global bo.”
Jason Statham, 51, has pretty amazing abs.
The megalodon is dangerous because it’s big. It’s way bigger than a normal shark. It’s so big that it can eat humpback whales! Man. That’s a big whale. It’s hard to overstate just how big it is. Imagine the biggest shark you’ve ever seen and, like, quintuple it. The meg makes Jaws look like a little bitchshark.
The Meg is the second movie in recent weeks to be set in, and marketed toward, the Chinese market, following Skyscraper. It is not entirely clear to me that this is a winning strategy, given Skyscraper‘s modest domestic returns (at $65 million so far it probably won’t make more than $75 million total) and its modest Chinese haul ($94 million thus far, good for 18th best on the year). The Meg is tracking poorly domestically; we’ll see how it does overseas. It’s enough to make one wonder if foreign audiences aren’t particularly interested in the portrayal of their homes by outsiders.
Jason Statham’s abs will certainly impress the Chinese market, if costar Bingbing Li’s reaction to them in The Meg is any indication.
The problem with making a giant shark your villain is that it’s been done before, and better, so all you can really do is make him even more giant. But size and scale doesn’t really matter on a movie like this: it’s not like Mission:Impossible — Fallout, where the stunts are real and an IMAX screen heightens the tension. A really big CGI shark isn’t really all that more impressive than a somewhat smaller CGI shark. There’s no tension. Who cares?
The drawback of making a film intended to work for audiences in every language is that language itself quickly becomes unimportant. But this can be a boon, too, and The Meg actually does a pretty solid job of mixing standard physical comedy with basic human relationships (mother, daughter, grandpa, potential new suitor: you don’t exactly need cue cards to follow where this is going) to tell what little story needs to be told in order to move us from shark attack to shark attack.
There’s also no need to translate Jason Statham’s abs. They speak the universal language of badassery.
The Meg is undoubtedly dumb but it’s a fun sort of dumb as most types of fun involving giant, murderous sharks tends to be.
The Meg is a reminder that the reliance on international film dollars only encourages dumbness from our big budget movies, and it’s not like they really needed much of a shove in that direction.
Most importantly, The Meg understands that Jason Statham’s abs are an underutilized natural resource.