THE MEG *** USA / China 2018 Dir: Jon Turteltaub. 113 mins
Steve Alten’s best selling Peter Benchley-influenced monster-shark novel MEG (1997) is so old that it’s already had multiple paperback sequels and helped spawn two decades worth of cheap megalodon movies, from SHARK ATTACK 3 (which has the greatest line in cheap shark movie history) to The Asylum’s MEGA SHARK series.
This huge Chinese-American co-production is a relatively rare big-budget, major studio shark movie that’s played straighter than Dimension’s self-consciously trashy PIRANHA movies but mutes the gore of the book for a family-friendly rating. It’s around half-hour longer than most of its straight-to-DVD counterparts, resulting in a mediocre opening stretch establishing a surfeit of cardboard characters and endangering an overly precocious eight-year-old child whose survival is as guaranteed as a late-appearing terrier named Pippin. Rainn Wilson has fun as the obligatory doomed American billionaire bastard and Jason Statham enjoys an amusingly gratuitous towel-clad interlude as the only man who can rescue a submersible stranded at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. In the process, the 70-foot Megalodon shark (thought extinct for two million years) decimates half the crew and eventually heads to the Thai coast in search of holidaymakers. This balances knowing humour (Statham singing the theme from FINDING NEMO) with undeniably suspenseful set pieces involving swallowed shark cages and delivers a rousing riff on JAWS’ 4th of July tourist massacre, with excellent CGI shark FX of the kind SHARK ATTACK 3 would love to afford. Statham gets to say things like “Chew on this, you ugly bastard” to the shark like a far buffer modern Roy Scheider and there’s even a wise Chinese scientist on board to lament the human race’s typical callousness when discovering hitherto hidden ecosystems.
Review by Steven West