The difference between a good/bad and a bad/good movies is well documented. Just because a film is bad, it isn’t necessarily unenjoyable. This summer’s trailer for The Meg is a study in the art of crafting the gem that is a good/bad movie. However, with the delightful looking creature feature finally hitting theaters, does it live up to the promise of the trailer? 

The Meg follows disgraced military rescue expert Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham). He’s called in to save the day when an exploratory vessel is crippled by an unknown creature and stuck at the deepest part of the ocean floor. However, it soon becomes clear that this is going to be more complicated when the team learns unseen creature is actually a long thought extinct “Megladon”. Jon Turteltaub directs the film from a script from Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber.

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The Meg burst on the scene earlier this summer with a delightfully awesome marketing campaign. The trailer plays with a definite sense of humour about itself. It is fun and catchy. unfortunately, the trailer is better than the actual film. The sense of fun is there, just a lot less exaggerated. Some of the more delightful moments are tweaked, lines are adjusted and winking music cues are missing. This isn’t the same movie. The movie needed to be what we saw in the promotional materials. 

Fans of SyFy original movies will likely be the biggest fans of this movie. (There’s no shame in that!). The Meg is a SyFy original movie with a blockbuster budget. However, the movie finds itself trapped in a vague no-man’s-land between a Sharknado like sense of fun, and some of their a bit less… watchable fair. 

Most disappoingly, The Meg struggles mightily with visual effects. The computer generated work ranges from everything relating to the titular shark to scenes involving fire, underwater sequences and even a Jason Statham shower scene. While you can ignore some of the quicker shots, if anything needs to be well rendered in a movie about a Megladon, it is going to be the super-sized shark. The narrative plays up the suspense for about half the movie, attempting to craft a Jaws like mystery (that shark notoriously didn’t work either). There are also jump-scares a plenty. However, once the shark is seen on camera, it looks rough. The flaws were made even more apparent in an IMAX screening of the film.

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In a cast of largely unknowns, Jason Statham is the acting bright-spot of the movie. The usually overly stoic action star shows a likability and charisma he hasn’t explored very often in his pervious works. As the narrative plays out, it is more than apparent that the actor is having an absolute blast with the material. This enjoyment shows, and the movie is that much more enjoyable. 

Statham is particularly fun opposite Shuya Sophia Cai, the young actress cast as Meiying, Suyin’s daughter (Li Bingbing). The two performers share a delightful chemistry. The young girl is perfectly comfortable egging on the rather imposing Statham, calling him “Crazy” for much of the movie and orchestrating (in usual, plucky child-star fashion) the love story between Jonas and her mother. These two are a lot of fun together, and very much carry the brunt of the movie on their shoulders.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers ended up with their hands in the script while writing The Meg. The biggest structural flaws are with the film’s often paper thin characters. While the actors do fine in their respective roles, very little depth exists beyond the occasional quirky line and a fairly obvious stereotype. In many cases, it is difficult to even remember their names (apart from Jonas that is, that name is awesome).

Unfortunately, the film’s character development is very much like The Meg itself, obscured under a gaseous layer. A number of the players show some fascinating arcs, but the script never quite stops to expand on it. Actress Jessica McNamee is particularly weighed down by weak writing. While some interesting character back-story is hinted at, including a stint with an environmental protest group, the brunt of our knowledge about her is that she’s Jonas’ ex. How many times do we have to go over this, Hollywood. A woman’s relationships do not define who she is. Li Bingbing also struggles with this as the brunt of her character arch stems from her relationship with her father (Winston Chao).

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Ultimately, The Meg is weighed down by a sense of what could have been. The aquatic monster movie is buoyed by an incredibly strong marketing campaign. However, it doesn’t live up to the promise laid out in the trailer.  However, it is still a fun movie, as long as your expectations are appropriately laid out. 

The Meg opens in theaters around the country today. 

 

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