by George Wolf
You didn’t think Great White-invested tornados meant the pool of shark movie premises was running dry, did you? Not so long as someone is just conscious enough to mumble “Statham fights a shark” in a drunken pitch meeting!
The Meg brings that premise to 3-D life, with Statham wet-suitting up as Jonas, the reluctant hero with a haunted past. After a tragic encounter with a giant underwater beast, Jonas hangs up the scuba mask to drink away his days in the bars of Thailand.
But five years later, his ex-wife is part of an undersea research team at the mercy of the legendary Megaladon, a 70-foot long “living fossil” of a shark thought to be extinct for over 200 million years. Jonas, of course, knew it wasn’t, and now he must tell everyone “I told you so” with his most steely glare, go back on his vow to never dive again, and take everything much too seriously.
And that’s the biggest misstep weighing down the entire film. You get the feeling that with a knowing, “Kong: Skull Island” type of monster vibe, this could have been fun, but director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) can’t settle on one charted course.
Turteltaub and his team of writers adapt the first of Steve Allen’s “Meg” novels with a host of changes, presumably meant to bolster Statham’s damaged hero quotient. The dramatics are overdone by nearly all involved (though Rainn Wilson, as the billionaire behind the research, finds a mark), and when a nicely subtle hat-tip to Jaws opens the gates for all out scene stealing, The Meg becomes a water-logged mess.
A Chinese co-production with a clear eye on international markets, the film has moments of promise that are quickly snuffed out by exposition that’s neither needed, wanted or interesting. Where’s the fun, sharky nonsense promised by the trailer? That movie might have been a guilty pleasure.
The Meg is just guilty.