In Jaws, Roy Scheider ad-libbed the famous line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
In The Meg, a trio of screenwriters hacked out these classics: “That living fossil just ate my friend” and “You’re the guy who leaves people behind.”
Even if the prehistoric megalodon is three to four times the size of the 25-foot great white shark from Jaws, there's no competition between the killer shark movies.
Jaws crushes it.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Screenplay adapted by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber from the book by Steve Alten. A Warner Bros. release playing at Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Cinemark Woodlands, Mall of Monroe, Sundance Kid Drive-in. Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images, and some language. Running time 113 minutes.
Critics rating: 1/2★
Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson
The Meg is based on Steve Alten's 1997 novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, which spawned six more books and was supposed to be another Jurassic Park film franchise. Why not? If science can bring back dinosaurs, surely a shark as big as 75 feet (the film adds another 25 feet) that went extinct 2 million years ago still could be lurking in the deepest ocean waters?
While Michael Crichton relied on some intriguing though questionable science involving DNA and cloning that seemed just plausible enough to audiences, Alten suggests these deep-sea behemoths have been trapped and isolated in an unexplored trench, swimming in a warm water cocoon, as it were, along with other ancient aquatic life, but never able to leave because of a layer of cold water.
That layer of protection, which nature apparently put in place to protect the modern world from the prehistoric fish, is punctured by a submersible deep-sea craft sent down with a trio of crew members from an international oceanic research facility that wants to explore the trench, where no one has been before.
Well, except for Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who led a deep sea rescue team to the floor of the ocean to save the crew of a disabled nuclear sub several years before. Turns out a megalodon attacked the sub — so clearly the sub must have broken through the protective barrier first, right? Jonas escaped the sea monster, though he has to leave two friends behind (hence the line about being the guy who leaves people behind). He has since retired to a beer-soaked life in Thailand, until he's recruited to save the trapped crew.
Through most of the first half of the film, director Jon Turteltaub (the National Treasure films) keeps his megalodon in the briny shadows, save a few closeups of the massive jaws seen moments before the shark strikes. Then the meg escapes its confined space, and swims to the surface, which provides humans as food and better lighting.
That's what audiences really want, anyway: seeing a giant shark eating people. Perhaps in The Meg's sequel they'll have their wish. The shark dines on people, but more often the creaturel chases after and attacks boats or swims around prey in a confused state, as in one scene where a popular beach presents so many dining options the shark is paralyzed by indecision; the buffet of all-you-can-eat swimmers is apparently overwhelming.
When The Meg isn't treating us to the shark's not-so-voracious appetite, it gives us the levity of an eccentric billionaire (Rainn Wilson from The Office) who is funding this operation; the flickering romance between the grizzled smart-aleck Jonas (does Statham play anything but a grizzled smart aleck?) the beautiful scientist daughter (Bingbing Li) who tag teams with him to take down the shark; the snarky and wise-beyond-her-8-years girl (Shuya Sophia Cai), and an expert crew who spend most of the time making wisecracks.
The marketing behind The Meg pitches its shark as Jaws times 50, with trailers showcasing CGI eye candy of a massive man-eater swimming just below hundreds of unaware swimmers. They’re terrifying and mesmerizing, and the only time The Meg lives up to what it should be. Otherwise, the shark swims in confused circles of identity: Is it a silly monster, a rampaging monster, a cheeky monster, or an homage to other monsters? Turteltaub can’t decide, either, though he features enough Jaws references, obvious and obscure, that his obsession for the white shark rivals that of Captain Ahab and his white whale.
Still, for all the nods to Jaws he did include, Turteltaub resists including the obvious line about the shark being too big for the boat.
Perhaps even the director of Three Ninjas has his standards.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.