Not only are bigger boats needed when setting out to hunt really large sharks but so, perhaps, are bigger scriptwriter panels.
After all, it isn’t just a huge predatory beast you’re going after; making a shark movie also requires filling, or at least matching, a mighty big set of Jaws.
It has been 40-odd years since Steven Spielberg’s shark pic to rule all shark pics, and also 21 years since the source novel for this movie, Steve Alten’s Meg, came out.
The book spawned several sequels, but its success also inspired schlockmeisters like The Asylum to thrust cheese-fests such as the Mega Shark flicks upon us.
So, is the world going to be receptive to a “properly done” giant shark movie after all the cheapies that have preceded this?
I’d like to think we are all suckers for good shark tales, something to stoke primordial fears in us and remind us why our ancient (and very distant) ancestors crawled out of the water.
And nothing touches genetic memory like something from those times – in this case Carcharodon megalodon, or “Meg” for short, a giant prehistoric shark that grew to around 25 metres in length and could swallow today’s Great White Sharks whole.
But, hold that thought.
Deviating significantly from Alten’s book, Movie Meg stars Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor, similarly named from his print counterpart.
Here, however, he is no navy diver who turns palaeontologist after encountering the Meg, but is a deep-sea rescue expert throughout the story.
Jonas comes into the picture when some marine researchers poking around in the depths draw the attention of one of these still-living (in the fictional sense) prehistoric sharks.
He also gets a shot at redemption, since it was, bafflingly enough, probably a Meg that cost him his reputation in a tragic incident that we witness in the film’s prologue.
(Yes, book fans, you will NOT get to see that awesome Meg vs T-rex Cretaceous-Period slaughter that opened the novel. A lot of the effects budget already went to the Thunderball-inspired submersibles on show, presumably.)
Accompanying Jonas on his mission to terminate the Meg – again, a considerable swerve from the capture-not-kill approach favoured in the book – are a motley crew of competent as well as not-exactly-smart types.
Sporting names like Jaxx, DJ, Suyin, Toshi, The Wall and Minway, they sound more like the character selection screens from Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat than folks in a serious adventure-thriller movie. Or at least one that seems to want us to take it seriously.
Before you can say “I’ll have what she’s having”, the Meg has tired of these oceanic research types and heads for a bigger buffet, namely your mandatory crowded beach resort. Mmm, holidaymakers.
The problem with The Meg is this: it just seems too lighthearted most of the time for these situations to have any kind of urgency – even its shark attack scenes.
There is no shortage of those, although director Jon Turteltaub does take a leaf out of Spielberg’s book by keeping the Meg from full view until we’re well into the movie.
Jaws, however, built up a mounting sense of terror while getting to that point, and worked humour organically into the story to help us breathe now and then.
It isn’t really clear what Turteltaub and his writing team were aiming at, because the script is peppered with so many cheesy lines and hit-or-miss attempts at visual and verbal gags that you end up sympathising with the Meg as it gulps down one disposable stereotype after another.
Sadly, it does so without any character of its own. You would expect a story about a living fossil – possibly the most fearsome predator the planet has ever seen, next to us – to spend some time building up its “rep” so we appreciate just what a terrifying killing machine it is, and have that deep-rooted primal subconscious wrung out of shape.
But no. We are left with a one-dimensional movie monster because the downtime between action scenes is filled either with inane banter among the minor characters, or large and pace-deadening doses of the forced budding romance between the lead male and female characters.
And I thought we came to watch a shark flick. Heck, there’s a far superior movie starring a very different Meg if we were looking for lovey-dovey stuff.
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Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Masi Oka, Page Kennedy