I prepared myself for this film by watching Deep Blue Sea (which if you haven’t seen, stream it immediately because it delivers ultimate Samuel L. Jackson realness) and Alexandre Aja’s remake of Piranha. I was ready for some sea monster ridiculousness. I should have given more thought to the implications about this film being rated pg-13, as opposed to the aforementioned films, and that it might not deliver the bite (I couldn’t resist the pun, sorry) that they had. My guess is that given the production budget of $150 million, the studio had a very strong thumb on the scale to bring this in at an MPAA ratings-friendly level in addition to some box office insurance. As I write this, the Jury is still out as to whether or not this is a winning combination. I have a hunch, though.
Starting from the beginning, The Meg, was originally based on a book that turned into a screenplay and was tossed around in development hell for years before ultimately being picked up by Warner Brothers. In the past decade there have been a myriad of films produced (with generally very low production value) that feature the enigmatic Megalodon. I’ll have to do some research, because to this day, I’m not entirely sure if its existence is either lore or documented fact. The Meg centers its story around our hero, Jason Statham, whose character’s name I couldn’t even remember, so I just refer to him by his actual name. We are shown a pre-credits sequence in which events go disastrous for him and then flash forward a few years where he is (shocker) “out of the game.”
Except, wait, we need him again. It turns out that some scientists have discovered a way to get through even the deepest part of the Mariana Trench and have found themselves stuck after a series of unfortunate events and some mysterious and foreboding biolife. This is really all the setup we need. We have our obligatory action hero, some ambiguous love interests, a nerdy scientist, a narcissistic billionaire, and one adorable child. Saying this is formulaic is an understatement. It has the exact balance of cliched ingredients equivalent to baking a souffle.
Here’s the thing: I really wanted to like and have fun with this. A film I very much enjoyed was Snakes on a Plane, which by no means was great, but it was fun (heyo another Samuel L. Jackson pic). That film was incredibly self aware, yet it didn’t break the fourth wall to prove it (Deadpool does it, but at least they are good at doing it.) And that makes me bummed on a few different levels. For starters, if I’m going to a film with this premise, I want over-the-top. I want the F bombs to be frequent and I want the blood to be gushing. You will not get that here. Second, the amount of cash poured into this project is egregious considering how lackluster the effects are. The Shape of Water had a budget of $20 million, and those effects were considerably better. Seriously, did all that money go to amazing craft service?
We will find out in the coming weeks what is in store for the box office and profitability prospects are for The Meg. My guess is that Mission Impossible: Fallout will hold strong, while this sinks quickly (I’m so sorry for these puns). The good news is that this is a very southeastern Asian-focused film, somewhat like Skyscraper which has a healthy dose of Cantonese (for the record, Skyscraper is a much more fun journey). This will most likely make big bucks in that market and will probably bring it into the green. Good for you Warner Brothers. I am going to go watch Deep Blue Sea again. Or Deep Rising. Or even Jaws. They all had balls.