“The Meg”

 

            Not all movies have to be Academy Award winners, or even favorite designees of avant-garde film festivals.  Sometimes it's OK to know in advance that it's not the greatest ever, but it's still a decent summer popcorn movie.

            Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea explorer who famously ran into difficulty and didn't return with all of his crew.  He's now lounging in a tiki bar somewhere, beer in hand, pretending he doesn't care anymore that nobody believed him, about the really big shark that messed things up for them.  Meanwhile, the latest deep-sea expedition is about to make a remarkable discovery:  the ocean floor actually isn't a hard surface, but instead a hydrogen layer, and there's more underneath it. (OK, never mind about the fuzzy science, we're trying to get to the scary part here.)

            Enter “The Meg,” short for megalodon, a giant, 70-foot long creature thought to be extinct, but has now disabled the sea bed rover, along with its intrepid crew, and who do you think they call for rescue?  Oh yeah, we need your help, and sorry we didn't believe you before. 

            But it isn't all grim adventure scenes.  They say about Jonas Taylor that “he walks fast, and seems to know what he's doing, but he's got a bad attitude.”  Well, there's a place for humorless heroes here.  Let's see, we also have a cute little girl, who's about seven, and her very brave scientist Mom, and the close bond between them.  We have a couple of sexual innuendo jokes, but then a disclaimer about those being too immature.  There's some cool little gadgets, like a personal underwater craft, that looks like it would be really fun to drive.  All this is some intentional counterpoint to the rather grisly scenes of losing crew members to the dastardly giant shark.

            Everybody gets scared.  Everybody gets thrown in the ocean, as boats capsize and get pulled under and smashed up by the rampaging Meg.  They tease us with a beach scene where hundreds of swimmers are oblivious to the peril, until they all panic at once.  But they thankfully avoid a big body count just to show us more blood and gore.  And yes, we even have to have a cute little dog in there, happily attached to a blushing bride.  He's also in danger, in the water, but don't worry, it's easier to pick off random crew members than one stray terrified terrier.

            “The Meg” doesn't quite achieve suspension of disbelief.  But it has distinct little charms that prevent it from being overly formulaic.  Yeah, there are enough shark movies in the tank already to make this one sort of ironic and redundant.  But if you're looking for a little mindless entertainment, slightly scary but not overwhelming, this one is both watchable and forgettable.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association