Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Shuya Sophia Cai
Written by: Dean Georgaris (screenplay by), Jon Hoeber (screenplay by)
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Studio: Warner Bos.
Run Time: 1hr, 55 min
In a world where a team of scientists unearths the once thought extinct Megalodon (a giant shark), only one man can stop it before it eats every beachgoer in the world, that man is Jason Statham. Yep, that is the plot and in a summer with a ton Marvel Superhero movies now over, a giant killer shark sounds pretty good. Is it? Hell yes, it is.
A movie like this, I liken to Snakes on Plane (2006). It has a batshit crazy premise that provides the very reason we go to the movies, to be entertained. From the get-go, the opening sequence sets up our hero's (Statham's Jonas Taylor) dilemma for the first act of the film. Jonas rescues a submarine crew but, loses a few people. Ridden with the guilt, he swears that he is done rescue diving. However, you knew what was coming. Five years later he is called to rescue his ex-wife who is trapped at the bottom of the ocean. Her research submarine was attacked and she is running out of air. Cliches are the name of the game and any moviegoer worth their popcorn is ready to add checks to their list of what will happen next. That's where The Meg is different.
Horror movies of this nature are riddled with tropes we can count on: the great white hope (Statham), the hot female scientist (there are several of those), the cute kid (Shuya Sophia Cai), the millionaire with all the money (Raiin Wilson), and one unstoppable killing machine (The Meg). Where director Jon Turteltaub steers the ship is exactly where the audience wants it to go. Each time we get there the wink and the smile is worthy of a high five and a fist bump, it is completely entertaining and satisfying. We wanted it, we get it, and it makes us all thirsty for more. However, in setting this film up to appeal to a greater audience (China) we avoid a lot of the too-typical cliches and it makes The Meg that much more enjoyable.
Setting the film in the South China Sea with Chinese scientists is that bridge that a lot of movies today fail miserably at (see Matt Damon's The Great Wall (2016)). First and foremost, casting Bingbing Li as Suyin (single mom, team leader, scientist, and love interest) was brilliant. Not only can she hold her own with Statham in a scene, but she actually turns the table on Statham's character by making him the cheesecake. Ladies, there is a post-shower scene after a rescue, and you will not be disappointed. The second edge to this sword is Suyin's little daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), who steals every scene from every adult on screen. It's never in the "aw shucks manner" either. It's completely within character and honest to an 8-year-old in such a situation. The Captain Bubbles scene that she shares with Statham might be the best of his career, all because of her.
I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Everything from the subtle Jaws (1975) references to Statham quoting Dory from Finding Nemo (2003). With all the hype and pressure of Summer movies competing for our attention, it was nice to go in and turn off my brain. What I never expected was to be entertained by a cast of characters that had a chemistry you wish all movies had. All I wanted was to see Statham fight a giant shark. I got that and a whole lot more.