It’s hard to imagine getting mad at a movie like The Meg. Jon Turteltaub’s adaptation of Steve Alten’s novel is pretty much what’s been promised by the trailers: a blockbuster B-movie featuring a gigantic shark. There’s no bait and switch here, and while the movie does become perilously slow at some points to build unnecessary tension, when it unleashes The Meg, it becomes a giddy ride thanks to the premise and Jason Statham operating a Maximum Statham. If the movie were just a little leaner and a little meaner (the PG-13 rating hamstrings the chaos), The Meg could be an action classic. As it stands, it’s still an enjoyable, albeit bloated, ocean adventure.
Jonas Taylor (Statham) is a deep sea rescue diver who quit the biz after he lost his friends in an operation five years ago and no one believed him that a giant sea creature was attacking the submarine they had gone in to rescue. Cut to the present day, and a research operation is looking to go even deeper in the Marianas Trench, the deepest point in the world’s oceans. When a submarine crew succeeds, they awaken a megalodon, a giant, prehistoric shark, that uses the breach to come up and start devouring everything in sight. Taylor is called back into action and must work alongside researcher Suyin (Bingbing Li) and her crew to defeat The Meg.
It’s a pretty simple premise—humans versus giant shark—and yet the movie still stumbles in how to make it happen. It takes about 40 minutes for The Meg to really show up, and during that time Turteltaub isn’t really building tension as much as he’s teasing out a reveal we’ve already seen in the trailers and on the poster. There’s no real point to hiding The Meg because it’s not like The Meg is portrayed as some ancient, mythical, fearful creature like Godzilla. It’s a giant shark. Think of a shark, but make it bigger, and you have The Meg, so just give the people what they want rather than spending forty minutes with people diving into the trench.
Thankfully, the movie takes off once Statham and The Meg are in the picture, and it makes for a fun bit of back-and-forth as the crew tries to figure out how to stop The Meg and The Meg keeps almost devouring the crew. Somewhere along the way, there’s a tighter, more interesting version of this movie, but for some reason the filmmakers decided to keep drawing it out. That works well enough for the set pieces, but when you get to the scene in between, it can start to make The Meg feel like a chore.
You can feel that drag again as the movie gears up for its big climax, which unfortunately falls a little flat. The movie takes a detour that isn’t particularly exciting, doesn’t make a lot of sense, and just delays us from getting back to the shark action. Then when things finally pick back up, the movie is a little too tame to really make the most of its premise. I don’t know if a major studio would have backed an R-rated The Meg, but you really don’t want to have half-measures when it comes to a movie featuring a giant shark. You go for broke, and the only times when the movie really achieves that feeling is when Statham is battling the shark.
The Meg is good for what it is, and yet it also feels like it should be more. Granted, it’s a bit odd to ask for more from such a straightforward premise, but the execution is just a little off and it makes for a frustrating experience. There are some glorious highs in The Meg, and yet you always feel like it could go a little further, be more bonkers, shave off some of the runtime and go a little grislier with the chomping. As it stands, The Meg still works as a solid B-movie for the end of summer, but maybe it’s okay to ask for a bit more from a giant shark movie. Just because it’s good for what it is, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a little bit better.