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16 Aug 2018

Shark Snark: 'The Meg' Is Doomed by Messy CGI, a Boring Story and a Complete Lack of Blood

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Bingbing Li and Jason Statham in The Meg. Bingbing Li and Jason Statham in The Meg.

It’s been more than two decades since author Steve Alten released his big shark story Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, the first of many Meg books. From the moment the book hit stands, producers have been attempting to make a movie out of it.

Many directors have flirted with the movie, including Jan de Bont, Guillermo del Toro and, as recently as 2015, Eli Roth. It eventually ended up under the directorial guidance of Jon Turtletaub, the guy who made Cool Runnings, the National Treasure movies and 3 Ninjas.

The result? A movie as misguided, sloppy and boring as you would expect from the guy who directed 3 Ninjas.

Let’s get the obvious problem out of the way: The Meg is rated PG-13, and as it was made, it probably could’ve pulled a PG. This is not a horror film; it’s an undersea adventure with a big, messy CGI shark and sci-fi twist. Roth left the project because they wouldn’t let him gore it up, and they wouldn’t let him star as deep-sea diver/adventurer Jonas Taylor.

Instead, we get Jason Statham as Jonas, and not much of a need for makeup artists on the set due to a lack of bloodletting. Heck, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial had more blood in it when Elliott pricked his finger on that saw blade. Like I said, this thing could be PG. Jaws, the mother of all shark movies (and the greatest movie ever made, thank you very much), had a shit ton of bloodletting, and it was also rated PG. It also had nudity, and a constantly palpable sense of dread.

Come to think of it, how the hell did Jaws get away with a PG rating? Oh, how the times have changed.

When a submarine from a huge underwater-exploration facility goes deeper than any expedition has gone before, it gets attacked by something big and winds up trapped on the ocean floor. Enter Jonas, who, in the film’s prologue set years before, failed to rescue some of his friends when a big something or other also attacked something and caused a mostly bloodless death toll.

Much of this movie consists of long, drawn-out sequences during which submarines dive around and get swatted about by a at-first-mostly unseen 70-foot shark. Other long, drawn-out sequences involve Jonas and his crew floating around at sea while the CGI menace circles them. You’ll be pretty damned surprised how not scary a 70-foot shark can be.

The rushed finale features a lot of those shots you saw in the trailer, with tons of swimmers in the shark’s path, including a little doggie named Pippin. (The black Labrador that got eaten in Jaws was not named Pippin. That dog’s name was Pippet. So the attempt at an Easter egg here is a little off.)

The trailer is very misleading; for 75 percent of this almost-two-hour-long movie, the shark terrorizes a very small group of people. When it finally does go after beach-goers, the vast majority of them get out of harm’s way, although the guy in the big, bouncy ball like the one Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips uses to surf concert crowd gets eaten … bloodless PG-style.

The movie brings along the usual stereotypes, including Rainn Wilson as the hipster billionaire who funded the underwater lab thing and wears lots of Nike products. Statham himself is one big action-hero stereotype. The movie also makes a few too many Jaws references. You shouldn’t constantly remind people of a genre film far superior to yours.

If The Meg could’ve found a way to be campy fun—like, say, the very bloody Piranha 3D or Deep Blue Sea—I’d be looking forward to the inevitable sequel. Instead, it’s about the equivalent of the terrible Jaws 3-D. It’s not as bad as Jaws: The Revenge, though: If that were the case, I wouldn’t have been able to write this review, for that surely would’ve killed me. Bloodlessly.

The Meg is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

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