First off, I love sharks. Sharks are key to ocean ecosystems and most are very endangered, due to climate change and poaching. They are beautiful, amazing, fantastic creatures, and if you want to learn more, or help in conservation efforts, go to Sharks.org to visit the Shark Research Institute to see how you can help.
Now, there have been countless shark movies over the years, starting with Jaws, and continuing all the way through Sharknado and Deep Blue Sea (“deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark fin!”). In fact, Sharknado 6 will be on the SyFy network this coming Sunday night so they are running all kinds of crazy-shark nonsense movies all week (I haven’t watched Santa Jaws yet, but it is on my DVR).
Side note - A megalodon (“big tooth”) is a prehistoric shark, currently extinct (or are they?!?). Living 23 to 2.6 million years ago, Megs looked like a great white with a slightly blunter and wider jaw, but were much larger, getting near 60 feet long (double side note, the one in the movie is listed at 75 feet).
The Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, was published in July 1997. I promptly bought it and read it, and have also read several others in the series (yes, there are seven books in the series). In the book, paleontologist and marine biologist Jonas Taylor is working in the Mariana Trench with the navy, when he believes he sees a Meglalodon attack and kill a compatriot. See, there’s a warm water layer way down in the depths of the trench, heated by volcanic vents where the Megs and other previously believed-to-be-extinct creatures can stay. No one believes Jonas, and years later he teams with Masao Tanaka to go back, resulting in a Meg getting killed and dragged upwards, as a large pregnant female follows it up through the gap in the warm layer, protected by the blood streaming from the dead Meg. Chaos ensues – including the Meg destroying a helicopter.
In this movie version, Jonas Taylor is a rescue diver, and opens the movie trying to save a group of scientists in a submarine. He’s pulling out one of the men, while two of his crew are still trapped, something attacks the sub. He makes the decision to save the 11 men he has, and leave behind the two others. Haunted by that decision, and branded a crazy man, he retires to drinking in Thailand.
Years later, billionaire Jack Morris goes to research stating Mana One so that Dr. Minway Zhang, his daughter Suyin, and their crew can show him their discovery that there is a gas cloud at the bottom of the Mariana Trench protecting a warm water layer and ecosystem at the bottom. Sure enough, a sub with three of their researchers gets attacked and goes down. Conveniently, the sub’s pilot is Jonas’s ex, so they are able to convince him to come go after them. He does rescue them, but not before everyone can confirm that there is, in fact, a Meg down there. As they swiftly ascend, they burst through the barrier, allowing time for the shark to follow them through. This allows for that shot you’ve seen in the trailer of the Meg sneaking up on the little girl in the station. Even though that was in every trailer, it was still thrilling in the movie.
Chaos ensues, including the Meg not destroying a helicopter (how is there a helicopter in this movie and the Meg does not destroy it?), chasing beachgoers, Statham tagging it and narrowly getting eaten, and a tiny dog surviving (bonus points for the dog not getting eaten).
The movie is directed by Jon Turteltaub, who also did The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and both National Treasure movies, so I am a little surprised that Nicholas Cage is not in this movie, imagine if he had played the Jack Morris role! The movie is well-aware of what it is, and most of the cast is completely on-board for the type of movie they are making. Turteltaub is great at making action flicks, and the joint Chinese/American production benefits in terms of location and budget. The shots along the beach and of boats racing through the ocean are beautiful. The cast is large and diverse.
- Jason Statham is wonderful in this, well aware of his role here. Personally, I love a Bacony-Jason Statham, and he’s at almost full Bacon here. He finally gets to use some of that Olympic-level diving skill as he is constantly diving into the water to save someone or get aggressive with the Meg. Statham is exceptional at comedy-action (go watch Spy again), so he is perfect in this with the partial wink to the camera. Also – bonus points for the gratuitous shirtless scene.
- Li Bingbing plays Suyin, and she was also great as the head scientist on Mana One. She knows a lot about sharks, and her first instinct is to find a non-lethal option for dealing with the Meg. Until, of course, the Meg starts eliminating her friends. Her chemistry with Statham was fantastic and their flirting scenes were fun.
- Shuya Sophia Cai plays Suyin’s daughter Meiying, and she was surprisingly charming for a kid actor! Her scenes with Statham were particularly entertaining.
- Rainn Wilson plays billionaire Morris, and while he was very annoying, he was effective. He’s there to make money by whatever means necessary.
- Cliff Curtis is underused in this, but at least he gets to use his own New Zealand accent, and seeing him joking around with Statham is so much better than watching him mope around on FearTWD. He’s there to convince Statham to help, and to coordinate the team. He gets to do a lot of looking at screens and yelling both orders and questions into headsets.
- Winston Chao plays Zhang the elder, happily running the station with both his daughter and granddaughter on board (why is your granddaughter on a station in the middle of the ocean? Surely that violates some safety rule). He seems to be the one taking the movie a little too seriously.
- From that point on, the other crew members are less well-defined, and just work together to do various tasks. Batwoman-to-be Ruby Rose plays Jaxx, who designed the station. Page Kennedy plays DJ, Robert Taylor (Longmire) plays Doctor Heller (who has a past with Jonas), Olafur Darri Olafsson plays The Wall, Jessica McNamee plays Lori, and Masi Oka briefly shows up to save the cheerleader – I mean, the Wall and Lori. They are a really wonderful, international group, so I do wish there was a little more character definition as to what each of them do.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie, it delivered exactly what it promised – but I wish it had actually gone a little further into the silly realm. There was a scene that briefly commented on the brutality of shark finning and poaching – and that the Meg evened the score. I wouldn’t have minded that message getting hammered home a little harder. Shark conservation is getting more and more important, plus nothing makes me happier than seeing poachers get what they deserve. The final sequence with all the swimmers on a very popular beach was just hilarious, and all the Chinese extras were amazing. Plus, the fact that various regular sized sharks got a hero moment was lovely.
7 out of 10 – perfectly acceptable summer fare, taking a big bite out of the weekend. Lost a point for using “Fin” as the closing credit – very funny and a cute nod, but Sharknado already did that 6 years ago.