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The Meg Movie Review

The Meg (2018) movie poster The Meg

Theatrical Release: August 3, 2018 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon Turteltaub / Writers: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber (screenplay); Steve Alten (novel Meg)

Cast: Jason Statham (Jonas Taylor), Li Bingbing (Suyin), Rainn Wilson (Morris), Cliff Curtis (Mac), Winston Chao (Zhang), Sophia Cai (Meiying), Ruby Rose (Jaxx), Page Kennedy (DJ), Robert Taylor (Heller), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Wall), Jessica McNamee (Lori), Masi Oka (Toshi), Raymond Vinent (Dive Control Technician), Mai Hongmei (Mother), Wei Yi (Awesome Kid on Beach)


If you're a shark movie, it's kind of a rule you have to open in theaters in summer. Jaws, basically the first modern film to wear the label "blockbuster", opened in late June 1975. Its three sequels followed suit with mid-year openings.
It just makes sense to tell a story set in the ocean water in the season that Americans are by far most likely to swim in it.

The shark movie has become a fixture of summer cinema in recent years. Summer '16 offered Blake Lively in the suprisingly well-reviewed The Shallows. Last summer, 47 Meters Down gave Mandy Moore the biggest live-action hit of her career. This summer's offering is The Meg and it looks to dwarf such low-budget fare with its $150 million price tag and super-sized visual effects.

While no shark movie really aims squarely at critical acclaim, The Meg certainly seems to have its sights set firmly on commercial value. It's got a release date that gives it little direct competition, a cast of international appeal, and a giant prehistoric shark. The title is short for Megalodon, a species that went extinct millions of years ago.

Though he gets top billing as the hero Jonas Taylor, Jason Statham is really the second biggest attraction of "The Meg."

After a tense prologue set five years ago, we settle on our primary setting of the Mana One, a state-of-the-art underwater research facility presently stationed off the coast of China. The facility's bankroller, eccentric billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson of "The Office"), shows up to get an update on the facility's findings, which are substantial, when they unearth a level of ocean even deeper than the Mariana Trench long believed to be the planet's nadir. In breaking through a level of hydrogen or something, researchers have created a pocket of warm water which these ocean floor dwellers can use to travel up to higher levels.

One such creature is the eponymous Meg, which is said to measure 75 feet long. It's a threat to everyone aboard the Mana One and the small crew that runs into the giant beast on a dive. Naturally, in comes Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), the hero of the prologue who rescued others with quick thinking and bravery. He's kind of become an all-day alcoholic in Thailand who vows never to return to the water, but his old pal Mac (Cliff Curtis) is able to convince him to try to save his colleagues.

Once Jonas clears his physical from Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), his biggest critic, he is ready to take whatever actions necessary to save other characters who have been introduced including Jonas' ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), the facility's number one in command (Winston Chao), his fetching swoony daughter (Li Bingbing), her precocious 8-year-old daughter (Shuya Sophia Cai), and a hip hacker type (Ruby Rose).

The titular role of "The Meg" is filled by a 75-foot-long computer-animated megalodon shark.

Adapted from a 1997 Steve Alten novel by veteran scribes Dean Georgaris (2004's The Manchurian Candidate, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life) and brothers Jon and Eric Hoeber (Red, Battleship), The Meg doesn't take itself too seriously.
It's not quite a comedy on the order of Piranha 3D, but it knows you're not meant to receive this story with a straight face, and accordingly sets out to draw more comparisons to Deep Blue Sea than Jaws.

With accomplished director Jon Turtletaub (the National Treasure movies, Cool Runnings) at the helm, The Meg manages to divert on a fairly consistent basis. This is not a Jason Statham vehicle and we're the better for it. He finds the tone the movie needs and has never been more tolerable then when he's singing Dory's song from Finding Nemo to himself as he just keeps swimming. Everyone else supplies humor and hubris where needed. When our sympathy for characters begin to flag, you can bet they're not long for this world. Of course, a number of them do die. And when it seems all wrapped up within an hour with the giant Megalodon carcass hanging, you can be certain it's not. There's nearly another hour left.

The Meg doesn't run too long or grow tiresome. It doesn't abuse audience trust with an excess of jump scares. It's perfectly adequate brain-off, popcorn entertainment, something that always has a place in Hollywood, especially in summer. Despite the epic budget, it's a B movie to be sure, but a palatable one at that. It's the kind of movie that MoviePass was meant for.

Related Reviews:
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Directed by Jon Turteltaub: The Sorcerer's ApprenticeNational TreasureNational Treasure: Book of SecretsPhenomenonLast Vegas
Jason Statham: The MechanicThe Fate of the Furious | Cliff Curtis: SunshinePush
Ocean Thrillers: JawsShark NightKon-TikiPiranha (2010) • In the Heart of the Sea

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Reviewed August 9, 2018.

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