Synopsis: After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible (Adapted from IMDb).
Review: Everyone wants to make Jaws but few will succeed. I spent a year of my life working with fossilized shark teeth and learning about prehistoric shark hunting behaviors. Laying aside scientific reasoning and accepting pseudo-science in the movies takes a lot of effort. In this case, the pseudo-science did not make logical sense and cardboard has a stronger personality then any of the forgettable characters in this film. However, as a mindless monster film, The Meg lives up to its promise: lots of cheesy action and a shirtless Jason Statham.
The Marianas Trench is the deepest known point in the world’s oceans located in the western Pacific Ocean about 124 miles (200 km) east of the Mariana Islands. This crescent shaped trench is roughly 1584 miles (2,550 km) long, 43 miles (69 km) wide, and 6.8 miles (36,070 ft or 10.9 km) deep. For an idea of scale, if we dropped Mount Everest (29,029 ft) into the Trench, the peak would be more than a mile beneath the surface. Instead of ocean floor, what if part of the Marianas Trench’s floor was actually a layer of gasses and silicon created by hydrothermal vents. If another layer of ocean existed even deeper than the Trench, what kinds of aquatic life would exist?
This is the question the fictional underwater research facility, Mana One, seeks to answer. Spearheaded by the visionary Chinese oceanographer Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and his brilliant daughter, Suyin (Bingbing Li), Mana One uses state-of-the-art high-tech submersibles to dive into the Trench. They hope to discover an ecosystem filled with unique species and an ancient world hidden for millions of years. Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), a brash American billionaire, funds Mana One and stops by the facility to watch the inaugural dive.
Without any contingency plan in place, the team dives into the Trench, discovers a layer of gas instead of a real floor, and then experience trouble. Funnily enough, the unseen ancient world includes more than cuddly fish. In fact, the Trench hides a Megalodon (the titular “Meg”), 75 feet of dark, angry, pre-historic shark that no one thinks could possibly still exist. Unfortunately, the submarine’s bright lights attract the Meg and the trapped researchers find themselves clinging to survival in an area of the Ocean with little hope of rescue. Jessica McNamee plays Statham’s characters ex-wife, who happens to be the captain of the submersible.
Enter Jonas Taylor (Statham). Statham takes on the role of Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea rescue diver haunted by a complicated rescue five years earlier when he had to leave a submarine full of sailors to die. Doctor Zhang goes looking for Taylor as he is then only diver capable of making such a deep dive and rescue the crew from the Megalodon. One problem, Taylor gave up diving and not sits on a beach in Thailand drinking beer every day. Of course the excessive beer consumption has no effect on Taylor’s physique, he still sports a rock hard eight pack and 9% body fat.
Regardless, Taylor has no interest in helping Dr. Zhang. Until Zhang reveals that Taylor’s ex-wife is one of the research members. Because Taylor and his ex-wife had the most amiable divorce in history, he comes to China to rescue her from a watery grave. Suyin, Zhang’s single daughter, strikes up a romantic flirtation with Taylor based solely on seeing him shirtless. The rescue mission goes as smoothly as possible. Naturally, the shark escapes the Trench and the research team must race against time to keep the Megalodon from wreaking havoc in the modern oceans.
Two things really dragged the narrative down, terrible dialogue and no character development. The dialogue felt like a bad facsimile of how the screenwriters thought scientists talk. A heavy-handed amount of exposition made all the characters seem significantly less than intelligent than their professions would imply. Taylor communicates in typical Statham grunts and menacing glances.
Development wise, all the characters lack depth. When a major character dies, no one bats an eye. Taylor and his ex-wife interact more like brother and sister than former spouses. None of the supporting characters stands out in any way; they just exist in the background until the plot requires their death or scientific expertise. Stronger dialogue and more thoroughly developed characters would have elevated this movie from run-of-the-mill popcorn flick to an exciting deep-sea thriller that happens to include a shark. You end of cheering for the shark because the narrative does not make you care about of the characters.
Jaws can keep swimming; The Meg works as a lightweight summer blockbuster but will soon fade into television movie obscurity.