Main Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Things have taken a bit of a turn for the worse. The producers of my glorious second national tour of Hello, Dolly! were apparently not as scrupulous and above board as I had expected, and they disappeared into the night after our show in Wytheville, Virginia with the box office, payroll, and the entire capitalization account. The company awoke last Monday morning to find ourselves stranded at the local La Quinta Inn with no money, no tickets booked to the next destination, and no teamsters to transport all of the glamorous sets and costumes to our next scheduled stop in Aiken, South Carolina. I immediately called Joseph, my manager with the whole sad tale. He called me back several hours later to inform me there was nothing for it but to abandon the production and head back home to Casa Maine.
As there was no money left for transportation, I put on a dainty chiffon frock along with my winter parka, trimmed with ocelot fur (it’s a bit nippy in the mountains at this time of year) and headed out to the interstate on ramp to thumb a ride to California. My shapely legs still have their charms and soon a Schneider 18 wheeler was screeching to a halt. I clambered up into the cab and met Harjinder, the Sikh trucker, who was taking a load of inexpensive armoires from the furniture factories of Hickory, North Carolina, all across the country to a chain of furniture stores in Long Beach. I figured that was close enough for my purposes and the two of us became acquainted and soon recognized a shared fondness for musical film. We soon came up with a thrilling new concept for a fresh new version of The Sound of Music resetting it to mythical India with Maria as Kali, the Captain as Vishnu and the children as various incarnations of Krishna.
We stopped for the night at a Pilot Truck Stop outside of West Memphis and Harjinder produced a portable DVD player and a stack of recent releases, so we could snuggle in the sleeper and watch a film before drifting off to slumber land. His selection was this summer’s entry into future Shark Week marathons, The Meg. I had skipped the film on its initial release as I had mistakenly thought it was some sort of postmodern take on Little Women. I saw the preview earlier this summer and was very confused by sleek metal and glass design and cartilaginous fish when I had been expecting hoop skirts and parasols. On actual viewing, the film owes nothing to family drama in the Civil War period but instead is a rather dim-witted remake of Jaws, only involving a prehistoric giant shark known as a megalodon, a species extinct for some millennia.
For conveniences of plot, a douchebro of a gazillionaire (Rainn Wilson) is funding a research station somewhere near the Mariana trench. It’s under the care of a scientist (Winston Chao) and his brilliant and lovely daughter (Bingbing Li). When a research submersible penetrates the deep through a thermocline of cold water to a hidden underwater ecosystem, something huge attacks it and damages it, trapping the scientists on the ocean floor. There’s only one person who can affect a rescue, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) who rescued the crew of a stranded nuclear submarine that had also been attacked by a mysterious entity some years before. Jonas succeeds in the rescue (minus the obligatory tragic self-sacrifice). As the submersibles have penetrated the thermocline, something has happened, allowing warm water to connect to warm water and something from the deep to come up to the surface. That something turns out to be a megalodon, a shark roughly the size of a blue whale which starts attacking the marine station, the evacuation craft, and eventually thousands of frolickers at a Chinese beach resort. Will the megalodon be killed? Will the ethnically balanced supporting cast be fish food? Will the cute little dog swimming in front of the giant shark be saved? It’s not hard to answer these questions fifteen minutes before they play out given the paint by numbers nature of the screenplay by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber.
The strengths of Jaws came from its relatively low budget and its inability to get the mechanical shark effects to work well. This necessitated Steven Spielberg minimizing the appearances of the shark and, without seeing it too well or too clearly until late in the film, the audience filled in the gaps with their imaginations. The Meg isn’t so inventive. We’re told too much and shown too much as CGI allows that to happen. This takes all the fun out of the film and it becomes a dreary collection of cliché set pieces that we’ve seen multiple times before in better films. There’s the trapped submersible borrowed from The Abyss; there’s the boat attack out of the original Jaws; there’s the attack on the research facility out of Deep Blue Sea. The climactic sequence when the megalodon attacks the beach looks and feels like a shot for shot remake of the attack on the bathers at Amity Island complete with a chubby Chinese Alex Kintner.
The actors are game, but they’re not given much to work with. Jason Statham gives his usual performance as a Bruce Willis manqué, running the gamut of emotion from A to F (awkward to failure). He looks good in a wetsuit and has the square jawed looks of an action hero, so you almost forgive his being unable to deliver a line in any sort of convincing manner. Rainn Wilson, abandoning his Dwight Schrute persona, knows what sort of picture he’s in and has some fun. The Asian cast are competent but given little to work with. Most of the supporting players are types that are only established so we can tell who is being eaten and who still lives. Jon Turteltaub, who is usually a competent director, tries to compose some interesting shots and ratchet up the tension through editing but he keeps being undone by the stupidity of the script.
Giant megalodons at the bottom of an abyssal trench. What have they been eating for the last three million years? How have they survived the enormous water pressures? What’s held the thermocline in place? How could it be disturbed by something as small as a research submersible? How do they all get the thousand or so miles from the Mariana Trench to the South China coast in a couple of hours? The plot holes come thick and fast. If you stop and try to reason any of it out, it all collapses in a farrago of nonsense.
This doesn’t mean The Meg cannot be enjoyed. It’s fun in a generic way and there are a few familiar faces among the fish food cast who are fun to watch in their few minutes of screen time. It’s probably a film that can best be enjoyed when it comes on during Shark Week in a year or two when you can have it on in the background while doing the ironing.
Angel wing knapsack. Heartfelt letter writing. Gratuitous Asian bridezilla. Teeth in plexiglass. Exploding whale. Gratuitous Icelandic giant. Huge Kuan-Yin statue. Raft towing.
Originally from Seattle Washington, land of mist, coffee and flying salmon, Mrs. Norman Maine sprang to life, full grown like Athena, from Andy’s head during a difficult period of life shortly after his relocation to Alabama.