A big screen adaptation of Steve Alten’s 1997 novel Meg had been swimming around Hollywood for over a decade, with names like Jan de Bont and Eli Roth attached to direct. Having finally escaped from development hell under the direction of John Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure), this big fish sadly winds up dead on arrival.

When a deep sea research facility’s submersible is disabled by the Megalodon, a 70-foot prehistoric predator (Jurassic shark?) lurking in the Mariana Trench off the coast of China, the stranded crew’s best hope of survival lies with diving expert Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who’s dragged out of boozy retirement on a Thai beach. The fact that his ex-wife is onboard the stricken sub is an added cliché, err incentive, and he also has a history with the Meg from a previous dive that ended in disaster.

The Meg begins in the underwater monster movie tradition of Leviathan and Deep Star Six, but once the creature reaches open water the Jaws references kick in, including a doomed cage dive and a dog named Pippin – and yes, a bigger boat is required. It also features the stupidest bunch of scientists ever to staff a marine research lab in a genre film, who serve the story simply as shark bait.

Thank goodness for the Stath (in a role interchangeable with Dwayne Johnson), who’s no Quint but is the only one treating the whole thing like the big lark that it is. 

     

The Meg is a B-movie with a blockbuster budget that strangely – and disappointingly – fails to revel in its own schlock value. And when it does, the results are lame and cringeworthy, with the more earnest scenes getting the biggest (unintentional) laughs.

Even the money shot, with the Meg invading one of China’s most populated beaches, is a missed opportunity for some major mayhem in the spirit of the Piranha remake (think of what Eli Roth could have done here), with the M-rating mandating bloodless attack scenes.

The Meg should be big dumb fun, but lacks the last bit. What it really needed was a genre film veteran at the helm to bring some creative flair and black humour. Turteltaub does a workmanlike job and nothing more, content to simply point the camera and hope his CGI monster looks convincing (which it mostly does). Consequently, it’s all shark and no bite.

2 starsIn cinemas: August 16, 2018
Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson
Directed by: John Turteltaub