Review: The Meg
Bigger isn't always better
Over the past few years we’ve seen two smaller-scale shark-thrillers. 2016’s The Shallows and last year’s 47 Meters Down focused on the individual trapped by sharks, hoping simply to escape. Breaking the trend, The Meg takes a different route, on the offence instead of the defence. The film depicts a group of scientists who have found that the bottom of the ocean is merely a layer of cold gas which conceals a warmer lower level. In their exploration of the new territory, they are attacked by a megalodon, who is released from the prehistoric depths during the rescue mission. Diver Jonas (Jason Statham) joins the researchers in their fight to kill the megalodon before it can hurt more humans.
Where 47 Meters Down and The Shallows created an agoraphobic atmosphere, with a fear of the open sea blending with a sense of being trapped, expressed well by the individual protagonists who battled for their lives, The Meg is far more expansive, trying to grasp everything and spreading itself too thin. The ocean is too wide, and the hunt for the giant shark feels too broad, where a focused adventure would be more impactful. The film fails to realise that being bigger doesn’t mean scarier. The threat is too nebulous to be specified, with the shark moving so fast and so far that our conception of it feels too exaggerated to be actually frightening. And with black-and-white stakes, there is no danger of the bite, the injury that weakens and tips the scales more in favour of the monster, or heightens the fight for survival. Instead, bland casualties are swallowed whole, forgotten immediately, and it is as if nothing happened. Setting up a dichotomy of staying alive or being eaten, the suspense is blunted.
The Meg is nevertheless semi-entertaining (that is to say, there are worse ways of spending two hours). But in what it tries to do to make the shark film original, supersizing what worked isn’t enough to generate interest.