The Meg is the latest cinematic collaboration between the United States and China, as they continue their search for a movie which will satisfy the disparate tastes of both Western and Eastern audiences. While The Meg is a long way behind the most successful films of the year, it does appear to have achieved multinational appeal with a strong opening at the global box office, easily outpacing previous co-production, 2016’s The Great Wall. That’s hardly surprising given its simple premise which is easy to explain in any language: muscly man fights big shark.
The muscly man in question is possibly one of the UK’s finest exports: Jason Statham. Here he plays disgraced rescue diver Jonas Taylor, but you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for any of his countless other bald-headed action men. Despite only having two acting personas (stern Statham and snarky Statham) he was the perfect choice to lead this feature. Not only does he fulfil the archetypal action hero role, but he also has a self-aware sense of humour which is clear to see in the film’s wackier moments.
Despite how ludicrous The Meg may seem, it’s worth noting that the characterisation among its supporting cast is a cut above other films of a similar tone and genre, such as Transformers. While you cannot call any of them richly developed, each has a clearly defined personality anchored by good performances across the board. The mother-daughter relationship between Suyin (Li Bingbing) and Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) is particularly strong and succeeds in adding some emotional stakes to the film.
But of course, The Meg’s main draw is its ridiculous action set-pieces, and they do not disappoint. Director John Turteltaub shifts between boating mishaps (think Jaws on steroids) and high-tech underwater chases where the film takes on a more science-fiction feel. The former is often the more effective – the image of someone floating anxiously in open water is far more unnerving than any amount of computer-generated action.
Perhaps the greatest downfall of The Meg is the level of competency it displays. The film is good enough to be classed marginally above the level of B-movie but isn’t sophisticated enough to be thought of as a legitimately great blockbuster. This distinction is clearest when examining the film’s abundance of expository dialogue, which isn’t bad enough to provide unintentional comedy but is so heavy-handed that it simply wouldn’t appear in a genuinely good movie. To truly succeed, The Meg requires a decisive shove in either direction, and by falling square in the middle it ends up feeling a little flat.
Image Credit: Movie DB.