It pretty much goes without saying that The Meg was never going to be this generation’s Jaws (1975) and quite frankly, it was never trying to be.
So is it the fun tongue-in-cheek ride we were all expecting? Sadly, it falls somewhere in-between and for the most part, it leaves the viewer sitting on the fence.
The main problem is that The Meg just plays everything too darn safe. Jason Statham fits into the movie more comfortably than you might expect as Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea-diving rescuer who encounters and survives the Meg at the beginning of the film. After losing crew members to an ill-fated rescue attempt, he drinks himself into isolation until he is summoned again five years later when his ex-wife gets stranded at the bottom of the ocean with the Meg closing in on her.
This is about as dense as the plot gets and that’s fine, as we the audience are really just here to watch some giant shark action. Whilst there are some entertaining set pieces (one scene literally involves using Statham as shark bait), you just feel like it could’ve gone a few steps further into real carnage territory. And at one stage, it almost did.
Before the film went into production, horror filmmaker Eli Roth was attached to direct, then exited right before production began, which is a shame because, given his previous efforts, he would’ve been a better fit as surely his take would’ve been a little bloodier and nastier. And of course, when you make a giant shark movie, that’s what is to be expected right?
It’s quite clear the studio decided to go for a more family-friendly approach to appeal to a wider audience, but ironically, doing that has undone what should have been a more destructive affair. The supporting cast is also a mixed bag as some are knowingly winking at the camera whilst others are playing it straight. The pedigree is quite strong considering the material with the likes of Cliff Curtis, Rainn Wilson and Robert Taylor. Fairing less, however, is Ruby Rose (recently announced as Batwoman), who seems to take it all a bit too seriously.
Director Jon Turteltaub does fine with the big action scenes and it’s easy to see why he was hired to replace Eli Roth as his resume includes many family-oriented movies. But is this what the audience really wants? An all-ages giant shark movie? One scene in particular involving a large crowd of beachgoers is a huge opportunistic waste, as it could have been as ridiculously over-the-top as Alexander Aja’s awesome killer fish movie Piranha (2010), but ultimately holds back on any sort of bloody carnage.
When all is said and done, The Meg isn’t a total write-off. The pacing rarely lets up and as far as popcorn-munching blockbusters go, there’s enough here to keep you entertained and even second-guess about dipping your toes into the water this summer. Maybe what it really needed was to ‘jump the shark’ in order to fully exploit the Meg as a monster to keep you awake at night.
In the book ‘MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror’ (of which this film is based on), the megalodons are pure white, almost luminescent, from living in an environment with virtually no light. This colouring was too difficult to render in CGI and still look realistic so instead the megalodons were coloured like great whites.