Movie Review: The Meg

themegposterIt doesn’t get more quintessentially end of summer than a scary shark movie, and The Meg hopes that by upping the size of the shark, the size of the audience thrills will increase proportionately.

Welp . . . we’re gonna need a bigger shark.

While the film delivers on some basic scares, its ridiculous premise (ancient megalodon escapes from previously unexplored area of the ocean and wreaks havoc) and over the top action don’t make for nearly as thrilling an experience as the filmmakers would like. But, it’s slightly smarter than a Sharknado, and its effects budget are equal to at least a half dozen Sharknados, so it’s not unwatchable. But it’s as big as it is stupid. That doesn’t mean it isn’t at least a little fun.

A lot of that fun comes from the main cast, with Jason Statham as the action hero and asian cinema mainstay Li Bingbing as a marine biologist. Funding her research is a rebel billionaire played by Rainn Wilson, who brings some comic relief to the story.  And supporting cast like Ruby Rose and Masi Oka do a good job of being story/character chum in the water. While not used to their full potential, they do their job.

Let me take a moment and address the news that Ruby Rose will be playing Batwoman on the CW crossover event later this fall. She is great in this film — as she is in most things — and this is an opportunity to check out what you’re likely to see. She’s not in the film much, but enough to enjoy, and possibly is even the best performance in the entire thing, or at least in a close contest with Li Bingbing.

This movie is best when it embraces being a big, dumb shark movie. It is at its worst when it veers from that. Yes, there’s a romantic subplot. Yes, there’s an adorable child. There’s even a scene late in the movie with an adorable dog in peril! It has plot holes as big as its prehistoric antagonist. But the worst is when it takes a few moments to give us a very special public service announcement:

While tracking our eponymous Meg, they come upon wreckage from a fishing boat, and are surprised to find dead sharks floating in the water. One of them notes the sharks have had their fins removed — The Meg didn’t do this, evil fishermen did. “All this for a bowl of soup,” one of them laments. All we need is the rainbow flying across the sky to tell us “The More You Know!”

I understand that this message was not meant for me, per se, but for the audiences in China that this film was, evidently, largely made. That’s fine. They’re the world’s largest movie market, and not everything has to be made for US consumption. But it specifically takes us out of the film and out of the moment to remind us that what we’re seeing is fake. For those who complain about “SJWs” “ruining movies/tv shows/comics” with “social justice messages,” here’s a reminder of what that actually looks like when it’s done badly.

There’s a certain type of person who needs to see every shark movie, and for those people this will likely check off a number of boxes of what they want to see. It isn’t Jaws, and it isn’t even Deep Blue Sea, but it has its share of fun. If you’re looking to escape the summer heat in an air-conditioned theater and munch through a giant bucket of buttered corn like a feeding frenzy, you could do worse. (I mean, convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza has a new piece of propaganda out there deifying his man Trump, possibly in return for issuing him that crooked pardon, so that goes without saying) But in order to even attempt to enjoy this movie, you will have to de-evolve your brain to prehistoric shark levels.

2.5 out of 5