MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) vs. MMA (Massive Marine Animal).
Marine biologists unwittingly unleash a prehistoric Megalodon shark from under the Mariana Trench, and only one thing can stop it – Mixed Martial Arts. Well, not really – this movie is not the finesse of opening a bottle-cap with a spinning side-kick, it’s much more big and blunt.
In the stupid but fun THE MEG, our boy Jason Statham can’t really bring his jutsu disciplines to bear on this aquatic titan, so must float around doing other heroic things instead, like pinning a bell on it like Sylvester, piloting a submersible around it like James Cameron, and being snide towards it like Martin Brody.
Marine biologist Zhang (Winston Chao) believes the Mariana Trench “floor” (the deepest point on Earth) is nothing but a layer of mist, like a 70’s Alice Cooper concert, and the submersible he sends to explore it just dives right through, proving him right! Three supposed scientists onboard (I call them “supposed” because they giggle like grade schoolers at the word “insertion” [into the lower layer] – thank you, American “humor”) get stuck just below Alice Cooper’s dry ice. And something BIG attacks them…
Zhang can’t be that desperate to rescue them, because instead of sending down a rescue team, he takes a chopper with his fellow biologist Mac (Cliff Curtis) to go find the One Man who can do the job, rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham – why not just name him Jonah and get the biblical whale analogy over and done with?). Jonas had once been attacked by a giant mysterious sea creature in a deep Philippine trench, so apparently he’s now an expert on giant mysterious sea creatures.
This scene is the exact point the movie gets idiotic: instead of Zhang and Mac actively searching for Jonas on his tropical isle, they just hang out in his room (what if he’s out with a drunken ho? Do their trapped divers run out of air while they wait?). When Jonas arrives, drunk and disorderly, bantering about how they could never get him to deep dive again, they don’t open with the news of the trapped divers (one of whom is Jonas’s ex-wife – Jessica McNamee, looking like Adrianne Palicki) – instead, no less than 20 lines of dialogue go by before Mac reads the headline.
The filmmakers (screenwriters Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, and director Jon Turtletaub, NATIONAL TREASURE) are so intent on making Jonas a Flippant Hollywood Hero Trope that they throw all credibility out with their integrity. It’s no surprise to learn that THE MEG was in development hell since the story was bought in 1997 (from novelist Steve Alten, The Meg, Doubleday 1997). I’m guessing the producers were waiting for the stupidest script they could find that didn’t follow Alten’s story, which would appeal to the widest demographic of idiots. They found it.
As soon as I hear Jason Statham’s accent in a movie, I can tell what kind of movie it’s gonna be. For example: if he’s a hardcore Brit, it’s quality street. If he’s being forced to do one of his hybrid American-IndoEuro accents that he can’t quite pull off – like here – then it’s one of his “stupid” movies; the level of stupid depends on how much dialogue he has.
Big Chinese presence (well, we know where the main investors are from), with Zhang, his daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li) and granddaughter Meiying. With the megalodon eating its way through a Chinese beach. There’s also a Chinese dog named Pippin (named after the poor dog from the original JAWS – proving these filmmakers know their heritage). There is an uninvolving flirtation set up between Suyin and Jonas, with no chemistry, no callbacks to their in-gags, no union, just a watery subplot that dries up (didja see what I did there?). Other scientists include Ruby Rose, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Robert Taylor, Rainn Wilson as an investor, and Page Kennedy – a black guy who is not the first to die, but has so much zero personality and bad acting to contribute to the movie that he should have been.
Even though we’ve grown inured to big fish effects, after JURASSIC WORLD’s mosasaur, the giant shark effects here are excellent. Due to the mosasaur being oversized, we might shrug and consider the meg “not that big,” but it is represented as its reported fossil size of about 65-70 feet.
THE MEG likes to think it is lauding scientists and being scientific. Of course, the one thing the movie lacks is – ACTUAL SCIENCE. The reason a gargantuan animal from the deep cannot rise to terrorize us surface dwellers is because of the physics of water pressure. Mac even tells Jonas not to descend too fast in the sub due to depressurization; they even show Jonas trying to blow out his ears to equalize the pressure as he submerges too fast – in this same movie that is acknowledging the massive pressurization at the ocean’s depths, they have a sea creature from those depths rise up to the surface without any pressure ramifications.
A deep-sea creature ascending to the surface from 2 miles below would blow up from the inside, at the least making all its expanded organs dysfunctional. It’s why the poor “blobfish” looks the unfortunate way it does. Us surface dwellers haul it up from its livable environment, where the pressure is up to 120 times higher than at the surface, then laugh at it being bloated due to depressurization. Imagine if the blobfish dragged you uncharitable pricks down to 2000 meters, and then laughed at your intestines being squeezed out through your rectum.
Now I don’t know the rationale in the novel, on how the megalodon survived the ascent, but the biologists here give us a cockamamy excuse on some pocket of hot water allowing the shark to rise blah blah. Which means it’s no excuse at all, and this thing should’ve turned back as soon as it reached a height where it felt its stomach turning inside out, instead of joyously dining off the China coast.
But I guess everyone likes going out eating Chinese.