"It's a Megalodon. A massive, pre-historic killing machine."
Jaws knockoffs can be a lot worse than The Meg, based on Steve Alten’s 1997 bestseller, simply titled Meg. The titular Meg is a Megalodon (it means “big tooth”), an enormous prehistoric shark that scientists believed was extinct until an unlucky submarine and her crew ran into her. However, no one believes the only witness, deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who has been officially diagnosed as crazy. Jump ahead five years, when an impressive, billion-dollar underwater research laboratory loses one of its prized subs to what appears to be the thought-dead Meg. Enter Jonas for a whopper of an “I told you so” opportunity, so long as he can save the victims, including his ex-wife (Jessica McNamee), trapped at the bottom of the ocean with a 70-foot shark.
Like July’s Skyscraper, The Meg has its sights set on global domination. Statham’s chaste love interest is played by Chinese star Li Bingbing, the setting has been moved to the South Pacific rather than the West Coast, and Chinese family drama gets shoehorned in near the end. Audiences both home and abroad should find The Meg to be a thrilling, if not quite scary, adaptation of a 20-year-old novel that was itself an imitation of a 20-year-old movie and novel.
No one is expecting a new Jaws from this material—the script resorts way too quickly to cribbing from the last act of Spielberg’s classic—or a creative team headed by Jon Turteltaub. (It’s looking more and more like his career peaked with National Treasure.) Fortunately, Statham is a believable uber-hero who grows stubble like it is his job and has good chemistry with Li, as well as the little girl who plays her daughter. Modern escapism rarely possesses this much ’90s-era positivity, even if it is spread around a giant shark eating lots of people.