It’s hard to describe The Meg as anything other than stupendously forgettable. There’s nothing it does that is particularly heinous (unless you revile tofu-level dialogue), but even the non-speaking, blood-filled bits that are designed to dazzle seem only interested in doing so by flashing lights and banging pans. In the litany of summer action blockbusters, this one seems content with being tucked squarely in the middle.
Some might say that’s the intention, but the thought is hardly what matters as you start to get distracted by ceiling tiles whenever the titular shark isn’t on-screen. It’s a somewhat surprising result considering this is the strongest foundation director Jon Turteltaub has had to work with since National Treasure. We have action hero stalwart Jason Statham fighting a prehistoric shark the size of a bloated school bus as people we recognize from other things on TV make poor decisions regarding survival. What more could we need?
It turns out a lot. At no point does The Meg feel like it involved anyone interested in doing their job, though they have the occasional flash of capability. For starters, the story is structured in such a way that describing it as cliché feels insulting to other clichés. Statham’s Jonas Taylor gave up on his deep sea rescue job after he sacrificed some of his crew to save dozens more civilians, a boastful and eccentric billion is financing a scientific endeavour with little understanding of consequences due to greed, and something everyone thought was extinct actually is very much alive and very hungry.
From that, you can probably write down what you think will happen in an envelope, seal it, and mail it to yourself in the future after you’ve endured this glacial 113 minutes and spend your remaining life attempting to travel back in time for wasting your afternoon on this fruitless exercise. There is no romance in the romance, there is no menace in the malice, and there’s certainly no drama to the action. It’s perhaps on par with Baywatch for completely misunderstanding in how to foreshadow consequences.
Jonas, for instance, traded in his career as a rescue swimmer to be a drunk in Thailand. But then he’s roped in for one last op because he’s the only one in the world that can do it as the Mana One’s crew is stranded at the bottom of the Marianas trench. And then through a remarkable lack of self-restraint, his character arc is given the ability to show, load, and fire its Chekhov’s gun within a total of four scenes. It’d be amazing if it wasn’t so stupefying. (Also, the name Jonas? Yep, you’re right there, too.)
None of it is propped up very well by the performances, either. Rainn Wilson as the billion Jack Morris feels like he’s being Saving Silverman‘d through being a dick. Ruby Rose as tech expert Jaxx Herd reminds us that Rose isn’t a particularly deft actor. And Bingbing Li’s Suyin Zhang continues Li’s career of Western directors unsure of how to use her talents. With only two noteworthy action sequences, there’s a lot of time for the audience to ponder how anyone thought this was going to pan out.
That’s partly shocking, in some respects, because Turteltaub has made a name for himself by directing schtick-filled films with overly earnest characters. (In fact, the way the relationship between Jonas and Suyin develops is incredibly reminiscent of Gates and Chase in National Treasure.) But rather than embracing that saccharine nature, it feels like everyone is at arm’s length, which is one arm’s length more than that sort of story can take. And it’s all for the sake of throwing character after character into the chipper as a shark movie is required to do.
But it never does that one thing the best shark/beast movies do: turn to horror. (Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom even had the wherewithal to make that transition in its only redeeming act.) Or at least make moves to be something other than a showcase for obscenely large creatures with lots of sharp teeth. At no point in my exceptionally full and exceptionally quiet theatre did anyone laugh at a joke or yelp in terror or otherwise react to this celery-flavored movie.
Admittedly, Shuya Sophia Cai as Suyin’s daughter Meiying is pretty good, regardless of how much she is exactly that stereotypically too-aware-for-her-own-good child. But as the credits roll and your mind reels at just what you spent upwards of a dozen dollars on, it’s hard to think about anything except that The Meg is boring. It’s not offensively mishandled or remarkably rote. It’s just…boring.
Final Score: 4 out of 10