The Meg proves that there's always a bigger shark

By Leigh Monson

   If you've seen a trailer for The Meg, then you know exactly what you're getting in this giant shark movie. This is essentially a big budget version of the schlock that the Syfy channel become infamous for, a giant aquatic monster movie that is ridiculous on its face and meant to entertain with that ridiculousness rather than as a piece of serious drama or speculative science fiction.
   But what that big budget affords is better special effects, better actors, a more talented director, a competent production staff, and writing that doesn't feel phoned in from a foreign land and funneled through Google Translate. Does that make The Meg some form of higher art? Of course not; it's a giant shark movie. But it's a hell of a lot of fun.
   Although, you would be forgiven for thinking the first act of The Meg plods along a bit too slowly for its own good. The film is frontloaded with a lot of technobabble scientific explanation for why a giant shark would suddenly appear off the coast of China. While this time is equally spent introducing our large cast of chums (both in the friendly and fish food senses), it drags on a little long for a premise that at its core is as simple as Giant Shark vs. Action Scientists.
   It's a good thing then that our protagonists, as stock as their character archetypes are, are portrayed by a collection of charismatic and talented character actors, including Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, and Masi Oka, who all invest their otherwise forgettable roles with enough bantering personality to provide the illusion of depth.
But once the giant shark becomes a threatening fixture of the plot, The Meg kicks into full gear, becoming an action bonanza that continually pits action deity Jason Statham against the prehistoric Megalodon in gradually escalating spectacle.
   The general beats of the scientific team's successes and failures are pretty standard for a giant monster flick, but the sharp editing and refusal to let downtime between setpieces linger too long makes that predictability secondary to the excitement of watching Statham snarl and do battle with a CG monstrosity that refuses to die. Also impressive is co-lead Li Bingbing, who displays just as much of an attention-grabbing bravado as Statham, and the pair have a remarkable chemistry that makes their cooperation and potential for romance worth rooting for.
   You're definitely not getting the second coming of Jaws with The Meg, but you are getting a schlocky, mindless late-summer spectacle thriller that delivers on exactly what it promises. Check your brain at the door and get ready to laugh at just how absurdly over-the-top things are about to get, because what The Meg lacks in depth it makes up for in sheer enormity. It takes a little while to get there – don't feel bad if you arrive a little late to the theater – but the latter ninety minutes of this frenzy is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen for the simple pleasure of watching a giant shark wreak havoc.

3.5/5 stars

Leigh Monson is technically a licensed attorney but somehow thinks being a film critic is a lot more fun. Leigh loves both award darlings and hilariously bad films, does not believe in superhero movie fatigue, and calls it like he sees it.