Since the first time I spotted the poster for The Meg, it’s been a movie I’ve been itching to go and see. I wasn’t under any illusion about what it was going to be. In passing, I’d head comparisons to Jaws, this opinion was rife. But I knew the movie about a giant, prehistoric shark was going to be something closer to Sharknado than the masterful piece of Spielberg cinema.
Based on a 1997 novel, The Meg tells the story of a group of marine biologists who unleash a prehistoric Megalodon shark from the depths of the ocean during a botched research mission. Jason Statham is brought in to aid in rescue efforts and ends up sticking around to try and end the threat of the massive, 20+ meter long shark.
After the initial rescue operation, the team take it upon themselves to take down the shark before it can do any lasting damage. During a series of ill-advised capture attempts, and then plans to kill the shark we get to have a lot of nonsensical fun. You know what type of movie this is when Jason Statham literally does the “I don’t do this anymore” speech.
Despite having a schlocky premise, the movie is carried by its impressive visual effects and its very likeable main cast, lead by Jason Staham, who steals every movie he appears in for me. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is “by the numbers” in most ways. It won’t surprise you, but that’s not what it’s trying to do.
At a glance, The Meg would be considered a B Movie. It’s far from being high art, nor does it have anything important to say. It’s when you look at the effects and the cast you realise that what we would call a B movie has drastically changed this past decade. Earlier this year we got another creature feature style movie when Rampage came out with a similar approach: A silly, high concept movie with the star power and effects budget to make it a commercial success.
It’s a far cry from the images that come to mind when thinking back to the classic B-movies of the past. Flicks like The Giant Claw or Death Bed: The Bed that Eats. They’re movies that conjure thoughts of bad acting, worse effects and a “so bad it’s good” mentality. Today, while movies like this, Rampage and Kong: Skull Island are made with a similar, tongue in cheek approach, they’re heightened by the strength of their cast, along with their obvious budget.
The genuine B-Movie hasn’t gone anywhere though. The Asylum alone churn out a ton of cheap movies every year, including the Sharknado series. These movies, even more than the B Movies of the past, revel in their “cheapness”, intentionally trying to be bad while also saving a ton of money. But as funny as the concept of lava spitting spiders can be, they are always limited to their niche audience.
A movie like The Meg does the same thing, only better. It has a cast you enjoy spending time with, characters who, while still cartoonish to an extent, still manage to endear themselves to you. The romance between Jason Statham and Li Bingbing’s characters is sweet and genuine, even while Statham’s ex-wife is in the picture, their relationship is nothing but friendly. Even Rainn Wilson’s ass hole, business first guy character is a likeable dude.
Coupled with the cast, the movie is elivated through it’s impressive visual effects and art design. The underwater base is cool as hell, as are a ton of the movie’s underwater shots. Ultimately though, it makes The Meg a movie of all style and little substance. At its heart it’s still schlock. And do you know how I think we got to this point?
Like with most things involving movies at the moment, the Marvel movies are to blame. As the MCU delves deeper into the more bizarre aspects of its franchise and history, it’s shown that a movie doesn’t need to take itself remotely seriously to be commercially successful. So, as Marvel movies get weirder, other studios drop their inhibitions and start throwing their money behind projects they wouldn’t have dreamt of ten years ago.
Which isn’t to say these movies couldn’t have been made and been a success back then. But the Godzilla/King Kong franchise being built up right now shows that a silly premise is becoming less and less of a roadblock for investors when deciding what to do with their big name stars and money.
The downside is, as much of a kick as I did get out of the Meg, it is ultimately a pretty shallow movie. It’s the case for a lot of these kinds of movies. They’re entertaining, sure, but rarely have anything to say either. They’re pure entertainment and little else. The divide between popular movies and award winning movies has become wider than it has ever been before. When was the last genuine Titanic or Gladiator?
The days of the auteur director are a thing of the past, and while fantastic, important pieces of cinema are still out there, movies with messages and something to say, they’re becoming less commercially rewarding. We consequently, creep closer to style and flashiness replacing all substance to out entertainment.
As silly and lacking in depth as The Meg is though, it’s still a lot of fun. I’m not actually in the habit of trashing movies for being entertainment for entertainments sake. They’re my bread and butter to be honest. It’s just, with people who haven’t seen the movie, comparing it Jaws, I feel that many can’t comprehend the difference in what these movies are trying to achieve from the get go. The Meg was never trying to be Jaws, but the fact that they both contain a shark is enough for some people.
The Meg is a 113 minutes of chaos and destruction indulgence in open water. Lead by an affable and charismatic cast. It would be closer to the later Jaws movies than the originals, but nobody seems to remember those. It’s because, like The Meg, nobody will remember them in the years to come. In the end, they’re still just B Movies, there to make some money and be forgotten years down the road. So, enjoy it while you can. It’s a laugh.