Here’s a movie about Jason Statham fighting a gigantic killer prehistoric shark. That’s all it is. The Meg spends not much time setting up its premise (lifted from Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger), with Statham’s washed up deep-sea rescue diver being pressed back into service after an on-the-job tragedy. We’re barely 20 minutes in before he’s had his first encounter with the movie’s namesake (short for Megalodon, a thing wikipedia tells me is real but not nearly as big as this stupid movie claims). The rest of the film plays out as if on a stopwatch; about every 15 minutes, the characters devise a plan to either kill, track, or escape the big shark, and then something goes wrong and one or two people get (bloodlessly, sad to report) eaten. Repeat with increasingly elaborate stakes until, by the climax, the shark is threatening an entire water park with hundreds of tourists.
Pretty exciting when it wants to be, and its best quality is that it walks a very thin line of self-awareness.
Nobody’s going to make the case that The Meg is intelligent (there’s maybe one good twist in this narrative, and you’ll see it coming), technically much more than competent (its director is Jon Turteltaub, of the National Treasure films), or in the least bit meaningful. But it’s pretty exciting when it wants to be, and its best quality is that it walks a very thin line of self-awareness. Although at no point does this film expect to be taken seriously, it also refuses to slip into irony or winking. It’s here to do a job, and it succeeds efficiently and unpretentiously, as opposed to recent fare like Skyscraper or Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which could barely be bothered to conjure some halfhearted action sequences. Faint praise, for sure, but The Meg is an acceptable jolt machine in a summer of disappointments.