By MONTE YAZZIE
FILM CRITIC –
When you think shark, you think “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg’s iconic film that was responsible for making audiences scared to go in the water; it’s a masterclass of suspense and ingenuity, a film that somehow ages better as years continue to move forward.
“Jaws” is also historic as one of the first summer blockbuster films, spending 14 consecutive weeks at the top of the box office. It changed the way films and filmmaking were done and continues to influence it today. The summer blockbuster has continued to grow since the days of “Jaws,” with films boasting bigger budgets and bigger spectacles.
“The Meg,” directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Jason Statham, takes the most superficial quality of “Jaws” and exploits it. The great white shark is replaced for IMAX screens with an even bigger monster, a prehistoric water beast known as a Megalodon.
A team of researchers are working in an underwater facility exploring uncharted depths of the ocean. During their history making dive, the team encounters a gigantic beast that leaves the crew in the voyaging submersible stranded.
With time running out and a monster stalking their moves, the research team calls rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) to save the day. As Jonas ventures to help the stranded team he comes face to face with the ancient monster.
I enjoy a film that embarrasses its B-movie qualities, especially when it comes to creature features. “Deep Rising,” the 1998 cruise ship caper starring Treat Williams, and “Piranha 3D,” the ridiculous 2010 go-for-the-gore fish film are two examples of genre films embracing simplistic, silly premises and turning them all the way up. “The Meg” tries to do the same but never fully commits to embracing its outlandish qualities.
Yes, the shark is bigger, way bigger, but the carnage and suspense that should go along with a beast of such magnitude is never accomplished. Mr. Turteltaub tries to make things suspenseful, but the execution feels so cliché and the payoff fails to have the satisfaction you’d expect from a big shark movie.
Part of why “The Meg” doesn’t work is because of the script. The story succumbs to predictable setups and stiff characters. Even the usually charismatic Jason Statham, who saved B-movies like “The Transporter” and “Crank” isn’t given much opportunity to make the role his own.
There are other talented actors being hampered with paper thin roles in the film; Rainn Wilson plays an annoying billionaire and Cliff Curtis is stuck playing the sidekick role. Any suspense that the film could build when these characters are in peril is lost because of their composition.
But some viewers aren’t here for character development or story structure, some are simply here for the shark. The pure summer movie escapism factor may be the biggest reason for some to seek out “The Meg.” If that’s the case, you’ll probably have a good time watching the computer generated shark chase super-charged submersibles, or stalk a crowded beach where hundreds of people are wading in the water.
Still, even with that perspective in mind, it seems like there is something missing. The charm that the film should wear proudly on its sleeve is seldom appreciated. Instead the film lingers somewhere near the surface, never pursuing the depths of the genre that it feels like it was aiming for.
Dir: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, and Jessica McNamee
1.50 out of 5.00