Film: The Meg
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Winston Chao
When someone first hears about a film titled The Meg, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for them to assume it to be a romantic comedy centred around the journey of a woman named Meg. While one can actually call The Meg a journey story, this Jon Turteltaub directorial that is set off the coast of China deals with yet another done-to-death genre that desperately needs a makeover. Adapted from Steve Alten's 1997 book titled Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, the film is about a prehistoric shark, a Megalodon, that wreaks havoc in the lives of a few marine biologists and technicians, who decide to present an episode of Man vs Wild. The Bear Grylls equivalent in this film is Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who plays a deep sea rescuer fighting a few past demons, both literally and figuratively.
A deep-sea exploration facility, led by Dr Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li), and funded by American billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), is close to discovering a place that could be deeper than the Mariana trench. Exploring hitherto unexplored territories gets the research facility into trouble as the Megalodon, a creature believed to be extinct for 2 million years, is brought back to our world.
And what happens next is that the makers tick, with varying levels of aplomb, all the requisite boxes that shark-based and Man vs Monster films since Jaws have formulated. For a film directed by the maker of the National Treasure series, Cool Runnings and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, this sci-fi thriller is an attempt at a genre outside Turteltaub's comfort zone. While he has made a bunch of adventure films laced with quick wit and action set pieces, The Meg doesn't exactly have shining moments in either of those departments.
There is very little to write home about in the action sequences, which are relegated to providing cheap thrills in an attempt to rattle audiences watching the film in 3D. Even the humour portions that worked smartly in Turteltaub's earlier films miss the beat quite frequently here. However, the scene where the Indian censor board decides to blur the entirety of a beer bottle instead of just the label can be filed under the unintended comedy section.
The Meg is also a case study of how Hollywood has decided to capture the burgeoning Chinese market. Following the Dwayne Johnson action film Skyscraper that came out last month, The Meg also features prominent Chinese actors and is set in Shanghai, China. But while the makers seem to have invested time in figuring out trends, it is a downer that this concern wasn't extended to the writing of the film. When Steven Spielberg made the iconic Jaws in 1975, he cast relatively unknown actors in major parts to portray the feeling of fear and nudge the audience into believing that such impending danger could happen to any of them. However, by casting a bonafide action star like Statham in the lead, the entire thrill factor is negated, and from there, The Meg is left with just one way to go: Down.