Is ‘The Meg’ a Classic Monster Movie or a Typical Jason Statham Action Flick?
With the current trend of “bad” B-Movie shark films being released over the last several years, The Meg struggled in it’s advertisements to set itself a part from the ridiculousness of The Asylum and other independent films. Personally, I even made the assumption that this was an Asylum film, until I noticed the film’s fairly big cast and higher than normal production value.
The real question came down to asking if this was a serious classic monster film, or just another cheesy Jason Statham action flick?
The premise of The Meg is about a deep-sea submarine that is exploring what may be a deeper section of the Marianas trench, concealed by a thermocline cloud of hydrogen sulfide. The submarine is struck by something large, leaving it disabled and trapping the crew at the bottom of the Pacific. A rescue diver with a record, Jonas Taylor played by Jason Statham, is recruited to save the crew. What he and the crew discover is a whole new world of giants and a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon that is allowed to escape through the thydrogen sulfide cloud due to the heat from the submarine’s exit to the surface. The crew must now catch and put down this oversized shark before it eats everything in and on the ocean.
The film starts off, not as a horror film, but more as a fascinating exploration film about the depths of our ocean. It takes place a little bit into our future as the submarine technology is a little advanced, but not too much so that it’s unrealistic.
Diving beneath the thermocline cloud of hydrogen sulfide to find a whole other world under our sea, almost seems reminiscent of a chapter from Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was actually surprised to find out in my research that The Meg was an adaptation of a book by Steve Alten. It’s the first in a series of six, so we may see Statham returning in some sequels.
Interestingly enough, in its comparison to 20,000 Leagues, Disney originally owned the rights to the film adaptation in 1990, but the project was trapped in development hell. I think it’s safe to say that we would have seen a very different movie if Disney had completed production in the 90’s.
The adaptation doesn’t seem to deviate from the book too much, and what was changed seems for the better. There are some minor location and character changes, such as having the facility run by Chinese and not Japanese, but nothing really impacted the original story. In fact, what was omitted only helped to make the film feel more realistic.
In one sequence in the book, the Megalodon jumps out of the water and eats a helicopter. I actually kept expecting this to happen, but quickly realized that this was a giant monster movie cliche. Instead, the helicopter is successful at scaring the shark away from the victims it is in pursuit of. I appreciated this modesty in the film, because it portrayed the Megalodon as an animal and not a mindless killer.
The film continues to get a little crazy, but not action hero crazy. I would compare the film’s pacing and style to the 2014 Godzilla film. In fact, it’s several minutes before we first get introduced to the Megalodon, and several more before it proves to be a threat. It’s more about a marine biology discovery and how releasing that discovery on the world is critically, damaging.
The film, unfortunately, isn’t really as scary as past shark films. Jaws does a better job at terrifying us, but that may also have to do with the fact that we all know Megalodon are extinct. Or at least we think they are. The other major factor is that past shark films have probably ruined all jump scares for us, allowing us to predict them before they happen.
Other than the fact that this giant creature can hide amongst the ocean’s murky waters, the scariest part of the film for me was when the frightened whale was attacked shortly after the Megalodon tried to eat the little girl.
The film has it’s ups and downs and begins to falter slightly toward the end. We finally get a true Statham action moment in the final showdown, but we’re built up to it gradually, so it doesn’t feel over played or too unrealistic. In fact, it allows for that satisfying explosive ending without being over-dramatic or ridiculous.