'The Meg' review: Bigger isn't always better

In a beach resort in China that is dotted with vacationers, a woman is about to get married, guys on a floating platform are flirting with girls on another platform not too far from them, and a little boy with a lollipop just wants to have a swim to his mom’s chagrin.

Underneath all of them is a prehistoric oversized shark who still has room in its stomach for more meat despite spending nearly half of the movie entitled after it voraciously eating.

Limp monster movie

The cheeky and comedy-drenched beach-set sequence, which happens more than halfway through Jon Turtletaub’s slog of a movie, is perhaps its most vibrant part. It is that delayed breath of oxygen after almost an hour of being submerged in CGI and stereotypes.

It is just that most of The Meg is just nearly bereft of any real humanity, that the sight of a very colorful frame full of enjoying tourists who are about to be victimized signals that the movie is sort of still in touch with how sharks are terrifying to humanity.

Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking Jaws (1975) made it very clear that the shark didn’t need to be a visual spectacle. What is essential is that the monster is relatable in the sense that its dangers can transcend fiction and creep towards reality.

BIG SHARK. A giant shark is spotted at the sea.

BIG SHARK. A giant shark is spotted at the sea.

Turtletaub’s film, however, seems too intent on enormity that all the suspense feels shoved out of the entire picture. Just when the movie shows promise of merging its fetish for bigness and a sense of real danger, it decides to stay stubbornly safe, resisting the allure of going all out by painting the bay blood red and peppering it with severed limbs.

Clearly, The Meg is a limp monster movie, one that has all the rotten teeth to be so bad, it’s terribly good, but doesn’t have the will to bite. Its novelty just doesn’t stick when it should.

DANGER. The giant shark circles around a crowded beach.

DANGER. The giant shark circles around a crowded beach.

All very simple

The thing about The Meg is that it really is all very simple.

Steve Alten’s novel from which Turtletaub’s movie is adapted from has been reduced and morphed into a showdown between a fish of gigantic proportions and a man of brute force. Statham, an exhilarating performer most especially when performing the most impossible of stunts, is underused here.

He, like the titular shark, is all for sheen and show. He jumps. He dives. He throws a bunch of jokes. However, his talents are pretty much wasted since his opponent is nothing more than pixels conjured from an empty green screen.

Yet the funny thing here is that Statham still manages to be the most watchable element of the movie. Turtletaub and his screenwriters populate The Meg with a host of other racially and morally diverse characters but they really don’t add any layers to the movie.

They only distract from the action, which sometimes surprise with its sudden escalations. They only take precious time from what the movie is heralding as its centerpiece which is to see how Statham will manage to defeat an opponent a thousand times more primal and ferocious than him.

READY TO FIGHT. Can they fight the giant shark?

READY TO FIGHT.

Can they fight the giant shark?

Goes on a tad too long

The Meg goes on a bit longer than it should.

It struggles to find its rhythm with its introduction of the monster an exhaustive letdown with all the sci-fi nonsense that ultimately leads to nothing. When it starts to get exciting, what the movie throws are just the most generic of spectacles.

In summary, this shark movie’s a dud.  Rappler.com

 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.