Nothing completes the summer movie season like a fun shark movie and this weekend we have one coming to theaters. It’s a little bit ‘Lake Placid.’ It’s a little bit ‘Jaws.’ It’s ‘The Meg’ starring Jason Statham and a 70-foot prehistoric shark called a Megalodon. The story in this one is on the formulaic side, but it does try it’s best to appeal to a very wide audience. It follows a former Naval Captain and expert diver, played by Jason Statham. Who reluctantly is tasked to head a rescue mission when a research project goes wrong. A team of scientists have been stranded in the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench, and soon find out they are not alone down there.
Who really cares about the story though? I know I didn’t going in. I surely wanted something serviceable and not completely absurd. I hoped for at the least, a plug-and-play story that would serve its purpose of implementing some fun visuals of a massive shark wreaking havoc, and Jason Statham saving the day. I didn’t have the highest amount of expectations, but I always enjoy shark movies that aren’t called ‘Sharknado,’ so I was optimistic for at the very least, some summer movie fun. And despite some flaws, it did deliver enjoyable action with a collection of wild sequences that had me up in my seat, and on edge at times.
Let’s get the issues I had with this movie out-of-the-way. The premise is completely unrealistic. The science that serves as the foundation, is flimsy even with a high amount of suspension-of-disbelief. There is nothing wrong with that though, and for the most part it was enough of an engaging plot to generate some mild interest in the story-line progression. But this one takes a while to get going. It took its plot too seriously for what it was delivering. We all know where the story is going after the first ten-minutes. So, the many moments of added development, that took the scenic route, hinder the pace on more than a few occasions.
The run-time is just under two-hours, and with a plot progression that is very easy to forecast, the added twenty-minutes make the film come dangerously close to wearing out its welcome. The collection of characters, Statham included, lacked substance that make you care about them at all. This group of characters felt like it followed the ‘Deep Blue Sea’ model. You have a team of scientists, a splash of comedic-relief, and your rogue outsider. All once again, more than serviceable for a fun summer movie with a massive shark as the antagonist.
Yet, as absurd as the plot to ‘Deep Blue Sea’ was, you subconsciously cared about the characters. LL Cool J was charming and likable with some charismatic scenes. Thomas Jane captured the pure annoyance and frustration of a man knowing he was right all along, but still determined to save the day. Saffron Burrows was able to portray the desperation of a person on the eve of achieving a goal, and the ramifications it can have on decision-making. These are all things that made you care about those characters and their outcome in the story. Something this film was missing. They all felt like blank pieces of a puzzle, delivering their own personalities. With seemingly the only difference being the names they called each other when the camera was rolling.
Despite all of that though, I still had a good time with this movie. It does get going, and once it does it delivers all the ridiculously fun action I had hoped for. There are some fun underwater scenes that for the most part are as harrowing as intended. It delivers loads of fun visuals of the gigantic shark and the team trying to stop it from killing anything in its path, and it does so with some creative sequences that brought a smile to my face.
I did say the cast felt like recycled characters, but there still was a genuine chemistry between them. There are many familiar faces filling out the cast. Ruby Rose and Page Kennedy both left their imprint on the story by adding personality and energy to blatantly surface-level material. Cliff Curtis was also a nice reliable addition to anchor a handful of scenes with his naturally likable personality. Rainn Wilson was relentless with his attempts at humor, but he lands many of them, so it worked. Even though they still could have added all of these elements to the film with twenty-minutes shaved off the run-time.
As for Jason Statham. First, I will say I generally love his films. He’s a solid action-star with a surprising amount of range, and I think he hasn’t gotten some of the roles he has earned over the course of his career. But in this one, it kind of felt like he was going through the motions. He was charming and commanded the screen. He landed some laughs and certainly showed effort in the action sequences. But something about this role and his performance in it, was lacking creative energy. It was a version of Statham I have seen before, which did work for carrying the film. I think he just felt out of his element during some sequences when he was in his submersible, and he was without question much more engaging when he was free to move about and do things.
Overall though, it was a fun summer shark movie. It gets going and delivers some of the familiar shark movie scenes we all know and love. The special-effects for the most part are all crisp and detailed despite a couple noticeable green-screen moments. The ensemble cast make the generic progression of things a little more interesting. It does take its story a little too seriously, and it would have served much better hovering around the 90-minute mark. But it was still an adventurous film to turn your brain off and enjoy on the big-screen with a big bag of popcorn, just maybe during a matinée.
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