Film Corner with Njal Heddle: The Meg

FilmMega-Shark vs. Uber-Statham.

If you have ever found yourself trolling through the TV on a boring, lonely night, you may have come across the SyFy channel, and, most likely, some of their low-budget, low-quality cinematic offerings which usually consist of large creature-features. Such examples include 2-Headed Shark-Attack, Mega-Python vs. Gatoroid, and of course the cult “classic” Sharknado series.

If you are well-versed in this cinematic output, then to say The Meg, an adaptation of a tongue-in-cheek novel about a megalodon wreaking havoc, BELONGS on the SyFy channel is not a cruel depth for it to sink to.

Directed by John Turteltaub (whose career seemingly peaked early on with Cool Runnings), The Meg follows a group of marine investigators exploring the Marianas Trench, but in doing so release a prehistoric megalodon upon the oceans. And only they, lead by grizzled rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) can stop it.

The Meg is an odd film. Not odd in terms of plot, but odd in terms of the premise being so entertainingly nonsense and the script so poor that it’s astounding that it attracted enough big names and financial interest to warrant a near $180 million budget. And from that abundance of resources, the execution is, for the most part anyway, so bland and uninteresting that the best anyone can say is that it’s merely serviceable.

The film clearly knows that it is ridiculous, yet the tone shifts from what appears to be an attempt at large-scale wonder to tongue-in-cheek camp but always retaining surprisingly a wholesome core. Which only begs the question of why didn’t they stick to camp, as these moments are some of the film’s best (“just keep swimming, just keep swimming”).

That said, there is something hilarious in itself during the “serious” moments when the film clearly doesn’t know what it wants to be. Midway through the film they establish that the shark attacks boats, so instead of using the helicopter at their disposal, THEY USE A BIG YACHT. It’s these moments of ridiculous stupidity that keep the film just watchable.

But the cardinal sin The Meg makes is that the shark action just isn’t enough. In Jaws, the grandaddy of all shark-movies, the lack of a shark was used to build up tension and establish human characters. The Meg’s characters aren’t nearly as sympathetic enough, and the shark is too damned big to go the subtle route. When the shark is onscreen, it’s as if the filmmakers simply didn’t know how to implement the beast to its full use. The titular meg itself just swims about and occasionally attacks for the sake of the plot, which, it slowly becomes evident, is a bizarre hybrid of Jaws: The Revenge and Deep Blue Sea.

Simply put, no matter how much money has been thrown at it, nor how many big names are crammed in, there’s no escaping the fact that the SyFy channel, which thrives on its low-budget crapfests, could have done this one better. The Meg is too wholesome to be schlock, and not smart enough to be dumb. Big shark, no teeth.



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