BR: Meg, The (2018)

November 20, 2018 | By

Film: Weak

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label: Warner Bros.

Region: A

Released: Nove,ber 13, 2018

Genre: Horror

Synopsis: Marine scientists unexpectedly release a mega-shark into the world’s oceans, and attempt a hunt before beaches are littered with human chum.

Special Features: 2 Featurettes: “The-Meg-Blu-Chomp on This: The Making of The Meg” (12:08) + “Creating the Beast” (10:25) / “New Zealand Film Commission” (1:52) / DVD + Digital Copy.

 


 

Review:

In spite of the hype, the decent box office gross, and inherent B-movie elements, The Meg is an incredibly dumb film, which wouldn’t be an issue if the script had been crafted with skill, and the direction wasn’t hack-like.

Attempts to make The Meg date back to 1996 when Disney / Hollywood Pictures sensed a doable thematic follow-up to their 1990 banality Arachnophobia, and bought the film rights to Steve Allen’s novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (1997). Malcontent with scripts by Tom Wheeler (Puss in Boots, The Lego Ninjago Movie) and Jeffrey Boam (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Phantom), the rights lapsed back to the author, after which New Line acquired them in 2005, but director Jan de Bont, producer Guillermo Del Toro, and writer Shane Salerno (Armageddon, Shaft) saw their efforts dissolve when the studio canceled the $75 million production. When Warner Bros. snapped up the rights in 2015, Eli Roth was supposedly interested in directing Dean Georgaris’ script, but the helm was ultimately given to Jon Turtletaub, best known for a series of successful comedies (Cool Runnings, While You Were Sleeping) and the middling National Treasure diptych.

How much of the scrip by Georgaris (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, The Manchurian Candidate) survived the rewrite stage by Jon Hoeber and Eric Hoeber (Whiteout, RED, Battleship) is unknown, but if Turtletaub’s National Treasure films are indicators, scenes were tightened to their most essential purpose, violence was toned down, profanity outright nixed, and edits timed for pacing than dramatic weight. In other words, a hack job that makes The Meg neither a good bad movie, nor an outright bad movie, but a waste of talent.

The story is delightfully absurd: below the Marianas trench lies a sub-ocean with a temperature layer that’s kept prehistoric fishies locked away for millions of years, but the visitation of an experimental sub attracts the attention of a mega-shark that’s able to flee when an aberrant temperature spike from a geothermal vent creates an opening.

As with 2018’s equally disappointing disaster entry Skyscraper, the lead character is dragged into action years after he stepped away from a career when a split decision resulted in the deaths of several men. For Jonas Taylor (a slumming Jason Statham), he cites a big fish attack for his move to sacrifice a few men for many. The reappearance of a mega-shark 5 years later at an oceanic science platform validates his claim, and allows him to regain the respect of Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), who excoriated him during the investigation, and sent Jonas into a drunken downward spiral, albeit PG style, with a wide hat, lots of chilled beer, and light cynicism.

Like Skyscraper, The Meg is a U.S.-Chinese co-production, and although the Chinese cast of scientists is more proactive and less daft than Skyscraper‘s clueless S.W.A.T. team, their roles are as underwritten as the American and New Zealand leads; all actors are forced to utter perfunctory dialogue, none of which deepens the hero, the love interest, the blue collar crew, and evil money man Morris (Rainn Wilson, in what feels like an editorially truncated role), who wants a sexy prize after blowing billions on an unproductive exploration project.

Unique to the story is a developing relationship between Jonas and Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing) and her daughter Meying (Sophia Cai), which deepens after Jonas has rescued his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) from the trench. Lori’s another truncated character who vanishes from the narrative after she’s brought to the base for medical care, and pops up way later in one brief scene to give formal blessing to Jonas’ blossoming romance.

One suspects Lori’s scenes were deliberately reduced because an ex-wife hovering around a rival romance cluttered the drama, yet her near elimination from the movie’s lengthy midsection reflects the hacksaw edits that give each scene a 1-2-3-Next! Pacing. When Turtletaub does slow things down, it’s for the bathos-drenched goodbyes to and demise of Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao), but happily for the film’s only clever sequence: as excerpted in the teaser trailer (see end), Meiying pilots a robotic ball through the base’s underwater tunnels; when she tracks down the errant toy, the mega-shark slowly appears behind her like the ultimate boogeyfish, and leaves its maw imprint on the protective glass.

The rest of the drama is wholly predictable, unfolding with the same hastiness and lack of finesse as National Treasure; unlike the bloodless NT franchise, however, some gore exists in The Meg, but as with Arachnophobia, the end results are an uneven attempt to make the horror safe for kids, and offer a bit of edge for genre veterans. The Meg also includes sequences that pay ‘homage’ to better killer fish movies – namely the genre’s granddaddy Jaws, and the super-dumb but well-crafted Deep Blue Sea, which courtesy of home video. has evolved into a guilty pleasure and genre classic.

What’s shocking is how Turtletaub, a director who cut his teeth making comedies, wasn’t able to make any single moment or lame joke funny; it’s expected he’d rely on incoherent ADD edits to give action scenes some bite (the opening teaser in which Jonas loses his men in a submarine rescue is badly cut), but none of the characters’ kidding around nor smart-ass & smarmy reactions work. Meiying’s cutesiness is forced and insipid, and although Statham and Bingbing have onscreen chemistry, the actors can’t transcend the limits imposed by the hack direction and dead script. (In what resembles theft rather than a homage, Wilson tells his rifle-toting goon in a helicopter to ‘hit the Meg again’ and fire a second deadly salvo, much like Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber orders his fellow German thieves to ‘hit’ the LAPD’s RV ‘again’ with a bazooka.)

If more graphic violence existed in an early edit, it wouldn’t have helped an already long film that struggles to push characters from the science base to a beach where happy, neon-coloured sunbathers will become aperitifs.

Even on Blu-ray, the visual effects vary in quality, Harry Gregson-Williams’ score is banal, and the lighting design by cinematographer Tom Stern (Letters from Iwo Jima, The Hunger Games) is very peculiar: either the base’s interiors were overlit to convey a harsh, sterile work environment, or the actors were shot with hot spots on their faces to compensate for the slight dimming in illumination that happens when donning 3D glasses. Both Skyscraper and The Meg were post-rendered in 3D, but actors in the latter have hot levels on faces and craniums that make Stern’s work look sloppy. (Note: a Region B 3D Blu-ray is available in Australia.)

Aside from a few clever moments and solid surround sound design, The Meg is a creative dud, but its box office success and cheeky tone will likely spawn a sequel.

 

 

© 2018 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

 


 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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