Sharks! America loves sharks. We basically have a week long holiday for them every year. A lot of us studied them as a child and learned all sorts of fun facts that we remember to this day, despite the fact that we really should be remembering where we left our keys or our kids. Sharks are terrifying. We worry about getting eaten at the beach, even though we’re much more likely to die from a mosquito bite, a dog attack, or the trampling of a horse or a hippo (likely only the latter if you hang out on the Nile river). And, of course, we love to immortalize them in film.
Enter The Meg, a Jason Statham vehicle based on an old book that I’ve never read. It has a shark. A prehistoric one that’s 90-feet long and can eat blue whales for snacks. It has happily been swimming at the bottom of the ocean beneath a… climatherm? I don’t know. It’s not important. It’s been hiding way down deep until we humans think it’s a good idea to go beneath the… climatherm?… and stir up some stuff. Stupid humans.
That’s really the whole setup. There’s not much more to know. There are characters. They are distinct, diverse, stereotypical, and strangely charismatic. There is a love story that you really just have to accept, rather than feel, and an adorable kid that has absolutely no business being on a trip in which giant aquatic monsters might be involved. But did I mention she’s adorable? It’s fine. No movie is stupid enough to kill an adorable kid with a shark.
You might read all of this and take it to mean that this movie is stupid… and you’d be right. It’s very stupid in all of the very best ways. If you watch the trailer for The Meg and you think to yourself, “oh I know what kind of movie this is going to be” then you will get exactly the movie you expect. Unless you watched the trailer and felt that it really captured the zeitgeist of the moment and would present a commentary on society that would stand the test of time. If that was your takeaway from the trailer, then you are very bad at judging movies based on their trailers.
Seriously, this movie is awesome. I loved it. It is full of joy, and self-aware, referential humor. It is ridiculous and impossible, but also exciting and suspenseful. There are times when you know EXACTLY what’s going to happen, and you’re still curled up in a ball on your seat trying to brace yourself for what’s to come. I call that effective film-making. To deliver what everyone expects while still making it entertaining is hard work. Just ask Marvel.
Statham is really great in this, too. He manages to play the role seriously, while still somehow subtly letting us all know that he realizes this is stupid. Some of the other actors get to directly address the inanity with some quips, but Statham has to play it straight the whole time. I also liked the performance of Bingbing Li, and I hope we see more of her in the future. Perhaps more than anyone, though, Rainn Wilson played his role to perfection, understanding that he was in a movie about a prehistoric shark and that every good movie needs a lawyer on a toilet to be eaten by the monster.
I can’t go on at length about the artistic merits of this movie, but I can say that I had an excellent time and I would watch it again in a heartbeat. It’s a well-executed version of the type of movie that it is, and thus, a wonderfully good time. The critics are being pretty harsh, but sometimes I think they forget that movies should be fun! And this movie is fun. Enjoy it!