The journey to the big screen for The Meg, adapted from the 1997 Steve Alten novel, has been a rather long gestating one, as this project has been in development since the late ‘90s. No doubt the vision for the film has undergone a number of changes over the course of this period but this summer The Meg is here and nearly 45 years on from Steven Spielberg creating the summer blockbuster as we know it with Jaws, it is refreshing to see giant sharks back in midst of the summer season.
Director John Turteltaub (National Treasure) had originally envisioned his Jason Statham vs. Megaladon actioner as an R-Rated picture but despite being moved down the rating scale, thankfully the end result avoids the watered down neutered territory of Shark Night 3D and ends up as Jaws by way of Deep Blue Sea (the strongest influence), with the biting self-awareness of Piranha 3D – only replacing the gore and nudity for the badass antics of “The Stath”.
Some reviews have already blasted the film for its ridiculousness and plethora of big set pieces taking over the story but frankly, what were they expecting? The Meg is precisely the film it was marketed to be: a big, aquatic spectacle of cheese, self-awareness and boat breaking action. Admittedly you can predict where things are going and tick off the nature attacks tropes (the typical ‘dog in peril’ scene here is a good ‘un) but, like this years fun as heck monster mash Rampage, everyone involved knows what they are making and this avoids falling into Geostorm or Sharknado territory by providing the audience what they actually paid to see.
The Meg may not have the harpoon head sharp suspense of Spielberg’s classic or films like The Shallows, 47 Meters Down or The Reef but like Renny Harlin’s aforementioned deep-sea thriller, the Jurassic World films or Luis Llosa’s Anaconda, The Meg conjures up some genuinely edge of seat thrills and big screen friendly nature carnage with some great special effects and visuals throughout, as well as an appropriately balanced soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams, capturing both the intense moments and the fun. Not to mention, again like Rampage, an unexpectedly conservational stance in the film’s digs at the repulsive shark fin soup and whaling industry.
The performances pretty much hone some of the atypical characters of such genres but there are some standout supporting acts within, especially in young Shuya Sophia. Although, naturally, it is Statham that leads the human show with his “don’t mess with me” screen presence and rugged charisma (and yes, the sweater makes an appearance). Mind you, as with all shark-themed flicks you are probably here for the title beastie and the 75-foot prehistoric opponent does not disappoint all you big fin enthusiasts, with an effective chills-worthy introduction onwards.
Ultimately The Meg is precisely what it says on the tin and fulfils all its promises as another ‘tail’ of man unleashing a terror that nature has worked hard to keep at bay. Only, y’know, with added Stath. Great fun.