It feels like Jason Statham’s whole career has been building towards the moment in which he goes mano a mano against a massive, prehistoric shark. But when the time comes, when his not unshark-like eyes gaze into those of the beast – two ageing giants staring each other down, each one perhaps suspecting that their time in the limelight will soon be up – it’s a monumental letdown.
It begins with Statham, playing some kind of underwater rescue man, being heroic on a nuclear submarine. He saves a bunch of people, but nobody believes his tall tales about a giant fish, so he retreats to Thailand to drink beer and run a small fishing company. Then some scientists get stuck at the bottom of the ocean, and there’s only one man who can save them. That man is Jason Statham.
What follows is a monster horror along the lines of 1999’s Deep Blue Sea. It’s all very knowing, every line delivered with an enthusiastic wink, every cliched character and telegraphed plot reveal practically begging for a wry smile. But being knowingly bad doesn’t stop it from being actually bad.
While The Meg has pretensions towards the B-movies of yesteryear, its $150m budget places it firmly within the parameters of the Hollywood blockbuster. Given this, the visual effects leave much to be desired, with shaky-cam attempting – and often failing – to mask some pretty low-rent CGI. For a 25m predator, the megalodon itself lacks weight and presence, never feeling particularly scary. That said, some of the set pieces are good, silly fun, with every character spending as much time as possible bobbing around in the ocean waiting to be devoured.
Statham plays his part as well as you can expect. His main task is to look good in a wetsuit, which, as anyone who’s ever worn a wetsuit will know, isn’t as easy as it sounds. To his credit, he pulls it off, zipping through the ocean like a beautiful red and black dolphin. But in the end, The Meg never commits to either the monster horror of Jaws or the outright parody of Sharknado. It wants to have its Jason Statham and eat it, and the result is more forgettable than a movie about a 25m shark has any right to be.