Main cast: Jason Statham (Jonas Taylor), Li Bingbing (Zhang Suyin), Rainn Wilson (Jack Morris), Ruby Rose (Jaxx Herd), Winston Chao (Dr Zhang Minway), Cliff Curtis (James “Mac” Mackreides), Shuya Sophia Cai (Meiying), Page Kennedy (DJ), Robert Taylor (Dr Heller), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Wall), Jessica McNamee (Lori), and Masi Oka (Toshi)
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Thank god The Rock isn’t in this one. That’s my first thought as I watch The Meg, the latest big-budget monster chomper that stars this many Chinese and Japanese actors mostly because China is footing a big part of the production bill. Jonas Taylor is a generic action hero character that will suit any muscle-bound beefcake actor, but I suppose it’s not grand enough for you know who. This is a good thing as I’d rather watch Jason Statham’s tight pectorals over Dwayne Johnson’s overexposed lowly-sagging manboobs any day.
Basically, a giant megalodon, reportedly the biggest shark thought to had been extinct all this while, is back to chomp on everyone. Okay, a bit more detail: billionaire Jack Morris has funded Mana One, a high-tech underwater research base with a crew led by Dr Zhang Minway. Their plan is to plumb the depths of the Mariana Trench. You see, the theory is that the “base” of the trench, which is the deepest known point on Earth, is actually a thick layer of hydrogen sulfide, and the trench goes on for much deeper beneath this layer. In fact, they think that there is a completely viable ecosystem down there, and they want to see what they can find.
Hence, a submarine thingy crewed by Lori, Toshi, and an idiot known as The Wall go down. They find lots of sparkly jellyfish and glowy things… and then, ooh, a giant monster that attacks the sub and causes it to be stuck down there with heat and oxygen fast running out.
Dr Zhang and general operations guy Mac decide that the best course of action is to recruit Jonas Taylor, the only surviving diver who had attempted to conduct a rescue mission at such a depth. Alas, Jonas has retired to live a life of a glorious drunken expat in Thailand – you see, there are three divers who had attempted such a rescue, and two of them were Jonas’s buddies whom he had to abandon to their deaths when their rescue mission went horribly wrong due to what Jonas described as an attack by a colossal monster. No one believes Jonas about that monster, and hence, he has a reputation of being a cowardly fellow who let his paranoia got the better of him. Still, Lori is his ex-wife, and even if they aren’t together anymore, he can’t just leave her down there to die. So off he goes.
The Meg starts out pretty good, and I am actually entertained by it. Mr Statham is always a reliable action hero, and he has the physical presence and enough deadpan machismo to carry off his role well. Li Bingbing is solid as Dr Zhang’s daughter who wins her way into Jonas’s heart by constantly needing rescue while asserting that she is a capable and independent woman throughout the whole thing – she has some decent chemistry with that man. And the monster is pretty good for such a big fake thing, and there are some decent scares to be had.
However, the stupidity just keeps piling and, by the time the movie ends, I am far less charitable towards The Meg. Seriously, which research facility will allow an eight-year old girl to keep wandering to all kinds of area all on her own? Worse, why bring her along on a mission to hunt down the big bad Meg? Are these people crazy? I know having a kid in danger is a cheap way to get the audience all worked up, but having that girl keep showing up even ON A BOAT IN WHAT SEEMS LIKE A SUICIDE MISSION TO TAKE DOWN THE MEG is insane. What kind of abusive piece of crap parent will do this kind of thing? Meanwhile, the adults start doing all kinds of dumb things, like playing around in the sea which they know is infested with sharks. Ruby Rose and especially Page Kennedy exist here solely to bug me with their inappropriately timed quips and one-liners that just won’t stop and ruin any scene that has even a little gravitas. And by the time credits roll, I feel exhausted on poor Jonas’s behalf as he has to scramble all over the place to rescue all these idiots.
The first half of The Meg is good, the second half is excruciatingly cringe-inducing to watch. I suppose three oogies will be a fair score then, but even then, oh my god, that obnoxious little girl and Page Kennedy’s even more obnoxious character should have been erased from this movie. Hopefully someone wises up and does this for the director’s cut edition.