The Meg Swims to Ineffectuality

The Meg features a fearsome villain, the playful Jason Statham and Hollywood resources to make a memorable horror movie. Christian Tesfaye thought the film was unable to live up to the size of its villain, awarding 4 out of 10 stars. 

Steven Spielberg did to outdoor swimming what Alfred Hitchcock did to showering in a sequestered motel. Hiding in the depths of a blue ocean could be one of the most relentless predators that swam or walked this Earth, a shark.

A shark can sense one part blood in a million parts of seawater, have electroreceptor organs to help detect electromagnetic fields that all living things produce and can sense vibrations in water. The dead eyes and expressionless face, if they can be called faces, of a shark are not heartening either.

The Meg reminds us that it could have been worse. There were sharks millions of years ago that were bigger than sailboats and would have whales for breakfast. Sometimes, I cannot but feel admiration for animals of that era. They braved dinosaurs and sea monsters that were petrifying, and did it all by knowing how and where to hide. It is usually the cowards that get the last laugh.

The Meg stars Jason Statham, one of the most promising British actors to have nonetheless failed to appear in a single good movie for over a decade. He plays Jonas, a rescue diver called on a mission to rescue scientists trapped in the deep sea after an underwater exploration goes awry.

Researchers at an underground facility named Mana One have figured out that there is a layer beneath the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the world’s oceans, hidden by a layering of hydrogen sulphide that has formed a thermocline. The discovery leads them to species of fishes taught to have gone extinct millions of years ago.

One of these is the Megalodon, which was believed to have reached 18m in length. Its jaws could span up to two meters and had 250 teeth. Evidently, beginning with its grand-sounding name, this shark existed to one day become an awe-inspiring villain in a Hollywood movie. I really would not mind watching a flick called “The Meg Vs The Terminator.”

Jonas succeeds in rescuing most of the stranded researchers but in escaping through the thermocline, opens a temporary hole that allows the giant shark to escape from its cocoon. The crew devises a way to put down the Megalodon before it wrecks havoc in parts of the ocean where humans concentration. The fish proves more resourceful than anticipated.

The movie is full of plot holes. It makes little sense that the researchers would descend below the Mariana Trench, while having no clue what lies beneath or were not even sure if the thermocline was hiding anything.

In most scenes there are also decisions by characters that make little sense. In the third act, when they decide to kill a megalodon by baiting it, they bring a child that could not have been over 12 years old.

There are certain funny moments in The Meg, and some of the set pieces are interesting. However shabby the plotting and one-dimensional the characters, one has to admire the design of the giant shark. It is every bit terrifying and awe-inspiring as a true predator should be.

Statham is fun as always. Like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, he is yet another actor that has wasted his talents playing characters written to appeal to a mainstream audience. Unlike Johnson though, he has been a part of memorable films.

The best movies he has appeared in are Guy Ritchie’s wonderful Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Unsurprisingly, these are the movies where he puts on his best performances. It is downhill from there on though. The Meg is not the worst movie he has appeared in, but it is undoubtedly a film that must have reminded him of the artistry and joyfulness of Ritchie’s two hits.

The man behind the camera is Jon Turteltaub. The Meg is not a good movie, but it is one of the highlights of his career. He is one of those Hollywood filmmakers that are comfortable to exist on the precipice and spend their whole career making commercial movies few people care about and disappear from the collective memory the sooner they leave theatres.

With his two previous movies being Last Vegas and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it is because of people like Turteltaub that we know months in advance of the release date that a movie would be bad. With The Meg, he proves to us that, indeed, filmmaking is not for everyone.

By Christian Tesfaye
Special to Fortune

Published on Aug 18,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 955]



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