Shark movies have to live under the shadow of one of the greatest of summer blockbusters, Steven Spielberg's Jaws. Few films can match that film's mix of character and thrills, suspense and adventure. With each new entry into this sub-genre, it becomes clear how unique and special that film is.
The Meg is dull, tonally flat entry that doesn't take enough advantage of Jason Statham's charisma nor the fantastical nature of its plot. Instead, the film borrows heavily from previous shark films and rarely generates tension of suspense.
Based on a 1997 novel by Steve Allen, the film follows a research station who is under crisis when a submersible gets attacked and trapped at the bottom of a newly discovered sea floor. Enter is Jonas Taylor (Statham) to rescue the team. He has been out of the deep sea rescue game for a while after getting blamed for letting his two colleagues die during a submarine rescue mission. We quickly learn that the same thing that caused that disaster is causing this current one. They soon realize they are dealing with a giant shark, the megalodon, and will have to stop the creature from killing lots of innocent people.
The Meg is a Chinese co-production and therefore utilizes major landmarks from that area as set pieces. The uninspired climax of the film is set in Sanya Bay to appeal to the Chinese market this is aimed at. Statham's co-star is Li Bingbing who plays one of the people he is trying to save. Rounding out the cast is the station's boss Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Jonas's ex-wife played by Jessica McNamee. Rainn Wilson provides the comic relief as the investor of the research lab that is now under attack. Statham never really vibes with any of them. His only chemistry is with the little girl on the station, played wonderfully by Shuya Sophia Cai.
Jon Turteltaub directs the film in workmanlike fashion but the real issue here is the script. The dialogue is stiff and driven purely by the plot. The film is filled with supposedly smart character and yet they routinely do really dumb things. While the cast is an offbeat collection with potential, the script never gives them any meaningful interaction, the dialogue lacks wit.
The Meg is also surprisingly free of any terror. It is something that Jaws was PG and so capable of scaring people out of the water. The Meg is PG-13 and yet feels like a far tamer film. There is never a moment of suspense or fear. The result is an joyless adventure through the cliché beats of this genre. This is a real shame as I was really up for a fun, bonkers ride that pitted Statham against a giant shark.