The film rights for Steve Alten’s 1997 novel “MEG” were purchased almost immediately, and spent years (decades!) bouncing between different screenwriter, producers, and directors. We’ll never get to see the Hard-R version Eli Roth was pushing for, but instead, we now have a PG-13 version by the director of “National Treasure” which gives us exactly what the trailer promises:
Jason Statham battling a giant prehistoric shark.
When said aloud, it’s actually kind of surprising this film didn’t escape development hell sooner. With a tagline like that, who needs a poster or even a trailer? Most people immediately know if they’ll be buying a ticket or not. It wasn’t until foreign investors stepped in that the ball finally started rolling. Not only did this get the movie finally made, but also help create more diverse casting and locations than we may have otherwise seen.
Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who vowed to never return to sea, after having witnessed a giant sea creature’s attack on a nuclear sub. It wasn’t fear that motivated this vow, but pride, as he was mocked for his “monster” stories. But when his Ex-Wife (Jessica McNamee) is stranded 11,000 feet down after a similar attack, he quickly snaps to action. Leaving his beer and straw hat behind, he is soon aboard a state of the art research facility funded by a moronic billionaire (Rainn Wilson) and begins saving all their asses. His heroic actions gain him not only the attention of Marine Biologist Suyin (Bingbing Li) but also unleash The MEG upon an unexpecting ocean.
The remainder of the cast is made up of a healthy combination of all the standard archetypes. It’s a great cast, but they aren’t given much to do except 1: spout techno-babble, 2: wax dramatically, 3: fall into the water. The astute will notice that #4: Get Eaten, is missing from that checklist. The biggest issue The MEG has is it doesn’t go far enough. There are a few gross-out gags, but they are played for laughs rather than fear or shock. Yes, characters die, and yes, they get eaten, but nowhere near as many as one would expect. Jon Turteltaub‘s direction is so desperate for the PG-13 rating that you can feel him pulling all the punches. This shark doesn’t have the teeth that it should.
Fortunately, the Fin-Flick still has plenty of fun for audiences. It gleefully utilizes every shark cliche it can, for better or worse. There’s even a brief moment where Statham sings the chorus to a delightfully fitting Disney song! It may be a bit too long, and a bit too melodramatic, but this silly shark showdown still delivers on fun.