There’s a game we play when we talk about movies. You watch a movie, then, you, trying to represent the movie reasonably, tell people the things that actually happen in that movie, and you see how long it takes for the audience to stop believing you. It’s great. We’ve all done it, surely.
Anyway, so in this movie, it opens by exploring the ocean that’s hiding under the ocean.
Now imagine me stopping and taking a drink.
Before we go on, some content warning points; this is a movie that does stuff with submarines and containment and holding your breath, so if you think you’re going to hate a movie about being sutck in submarines and small chambers, yeah, this is absolutely going to be upsetting as hell.
The Meg is a giant monster movie, it’s a shark movie, it’s a crossnational production between China and Hollywood, it’s a Jason Statham action movie and it is fantastically brainless. It’s a big special effects blockbuster built around a laughable let’s-be-nice-and-call-it-science-fiction premise about a totally nonsense vision of a historical thing, the megolodon, and how one of those things might suddenly be brought into contact with our world, as it exists.
Summarising the story would be a waste of your time and mine because you don’t think you’re going to see a Jason Statham movie where he introspectively mourns the environmental destruction that the Meg is responding to, or a political discussion about the economics of constructing containment procedures for this exciting new discovery, do you? Of course it’s not. It’s going to be about an impossibly musclebound diver man who has a jaw like a lamp who somehow finds a preposterous way to fist-fight a shark the size of a bus, and you know what, you kind of have to know ahead of time whether you’re here for this.
Sometimes I think that this kind of movie exists in as much because it’s actually kind of easier for the people who do 3d and practical effects to make ridiculously big forms of these animals, because there’s no delicate detail to worry about and you’re dealing with types of creatures we don’t actually interact with on a day to day basis, meaning that it’s so much easier to make a gigantic crocodile or a gigantic shark or gigantic squid or gigantic dinosaur so much more conveniently than you could make something that’s actually meant to emote or react to a person’s expression. We sort of got our way through muscular movement animation technology and realistic looking lighting textures back in the 90s with Jurassic Park and everything since then has just been an attempt to make sure that the things we’re rendering are in some basic way interesting enough to look at rather than whether or not they’re any kind of technical challenge.
The thing that this movie builds itself around is a big big shark and a big big shark is mostly going to be compared to the big big ocean (which is extremely big), and big big boats (which are comparative to the ocean, really kinda weedy) which overall means that you could be dealing with something of varying sizes (and you obviously are based on the posters) that it doesn’t really matter. But in the end, we’re not here for a real spectacle, you’re not going to see detailed animations of this massive shark chonking something into pieces and it’s so big that when it deals with a human it’s basically just going to swallow them whole, so it’s instead the spectacle of watching it bash into things or threaten to eat things whole. There’s an extended sequence of someone in a diving cage being dragged around by the shark and that makes for an extremely uncomfortable, tense kind of minute or so, until you remember you’re watching a Jason Statham movie, and he does too, and suddenly you’re just waiting for Scientist Hero Man to come in and save the day.
Probably the most ridiculous thing in this otherwise unbelievable movie is the women in the movie, particularly because Ruby Rose is in here (hi Ruby Rose) and she’s basically not doing anything of note or interest, because her day job description is ‘hacker’ and it turns out you don’t actually get to hack a shark. But the other major woman role is Jason Staham’s
Hang on, I can say it
It’s Jason Statham’s love interest, a woman who is so important and relevant to the plot I can remember only the scene where she walks in on Jason Statham in the near-naked altogether (but in a very PG way) and almost manages to successfully convince me that she’s finding what she’s seeing some kind of attractive. Very impressed, very well done, go you lady who is so meaningless to the story otherwise I can’t remember her name. She is Chinese, which is another one of those hat-tip-nod to the fact that this movie was absolutely being marketed for an audience of consumers who like to see Hollywood meat chops as much as they like seeing Chinese people getting paid to stand near them.
Anyway. When you get this kind of movie, you’re treated to a 90 minute nudging ‘hey, can you believe we made this shit?’ kind of experience, which was part of why I never wrote about Snakes on a Plane or Pirahna 3D (though that’s a movie that’s maybe better in ways than you necessarily expect). The thing with The Meg that amazes me is how stuffed this movie is with what I would call in other contexts as lore. They actually try to explain this nonsense, then they try and explain the related nonsense and then there’s a description – as much as you can call it that – of the potential harm of the Meg being loose, which is honestly pretty impressive because really for the most part a gigantic single fish is going to wander around ruining the lives of a lot of whales, then die of loneliness or old age or some modern virus.
I understand that this movie is based on a book series, which is also fantastic, because it shows that nobody’s dreams of having your work turned into a brilliantly stupid movie is too silly, because this one, I want to restate, starts with ‘there’s an ocean under the ocean.’ The books are very silly, and don’t think they’re very silly, which makes them some of the best kind of very silly.
Anyway, I bring this movie up because this is actually a really good holiday family movie for a family of a particular age, because unless you have kids of a particularly sensitive disposition floating around, this movie is going to give some interesting spectacle someone can watch and pay attention to, but not really miss anything if they get called away to serve up some prawns or something. It is of course, not perfect for this space because, again, if you have kids around, there are people being scronched by sharks, and having people mill around probably isn’t great for your overall aesthetic of a holiday party, but trust me, this isn’t a movie that’s actually going to build real tension.
I mean c’mon, it’s a Jason Statham movie, and we all know Jason Statham doesn’t really exist.