Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Meg – the de-fin-itive summer disaster movie (from 10 August)

The makers of The Meg must have asked themselves what more could sensibly be added to the canon of shark films. It’s a well-established genre that regularly spills red blood into the blue sea and puts fear into the heart of nervous cinemagoers.

The Meg begins on the offshore marine research platform Mana One which has been independently financed by a bearded billionaire (played by Rainn Wilson). He’s flown in to visit the team as they plunge one of their fleet of Thunderbird-like craft into the depths off the shore of China.

“There’s something out there” is an apt if unoriginal line in the script which foretells the need to rescue the submersible’s crew. And who better to ride to their rescue than Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) once they find him “washed up on a Thailand beach”. He nicknames the underwater enemy ‘The Meg’, not short for Margaret, but instead referring to Megalodon, a presumed-extinct species of giant prehistoric shark.

Masi Oka (familiar from the role of Hiro Nakamura in Heroes) plays adolescent joke-cracking Toshi who is the early indication that any underwater doom will not be needlessly gloomly.

Jason Statham plays the hero whose name’s similarity to Jonah cannot be accidental and is given his own theme song Mickey. Jonas shifts from being diffident to cocky and finally altruistic, sparring and then sparking with Suyin (Bingbing Li), the plucky and head-strong daughter of the Mana One platform chief.

Her daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) steals most of her scenes, along with an accesorised Roomba that quietly slides down the underwater corridors, and a cute dog called Pippin (in a nod to Jaws).

The Meg doesn’t take itself at all seriously. Yet it stops short of knowingly becoming an Airplane! or Galaxy Quest spoof. If you walked out if the cinema after the first 40 minutes you’d be satisfied with a perfectly serviceable, complete, TV-length episode that could reboot Seaquest DSV (minus the talking dolphin). Stay for the next hour and a quarter, and you’ll begin to question why it’s taking so long to crack the jokes, kill off the bad guys, and hint at the prospect of romance.

While you may be unfortunate and have a ‘jumper’ in the seat in front of you, The Meg isn’t a scary film. The inability for the scriptwriters and the director (Jon Turteltaub) to find a conclusion creates a Bond-like series of false endings whose moments of peril are well diluted with wise cracks and a game of Pokemon where you’ve gotta to catch em all.

The Meg opens at UK and Ireland cinemas on Friday 10 August. A tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food would be the perfect snack to bring!

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