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Movie Review: The Meg

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...”

I wish I could tell you that I don’t know how it happened that I watched The Meg, or that there was some form of coercion involved. But I made the choice willingly: during my recent return to the cinemaplex, I saw a preview for The Meg 2: The Trench, and it looked so stupidly fun that I decided I should check out the first one. I paid $3 to watch it. It’s not bad.

It’s not good, either. That’s the biggest flaw of this 2018 wannabe monster flick. It isn’t good at being good, and it’s not willing to try to be good at being bad.

The plot is exactly what you would expect: scientists accidentally unleash a megalodon, giant prehistoric shark with more lives than Rasputin from deep in the ocean, and chaos ensues. There’s an amoral tech-bro (Rainn Wilson), a beautiful love interest (Li Bingbing), Ruby Rose (a nice surprise!), wisecracking sidekicks (including Masi Oka, from Heroes), and a child actor who is really quite charming. I am always so impressed by child actors who actually charm; it's a high bar to clear, and Shuya Sophia Cai does it well.

Jason Statham joins this team to solve the problem of the Meg. He’s a deep-sea rescue expert, or whatever, with attachment issues, a mild drinking problem, and a cocky attitude. He is exactly who you expect Jason Statham to be. He solves the problem after the requisite number of deaths both in open water and on a very populated beach.

This is one of the first movies I’ve seen where the influence of Chinese funding, and the attempt to appeal to Chinese audiences, was noticeable. I really liked that element, although I know it drives some critics mad: it’s so nice to see Americanness decentered, even just a bit, in a big-budget film, and Winston Chao, as the lead scientist on the expedition, who is also Li Bingbing’s dad and Shuya Sophia Cai’s grandfather (in the film, that is) came across as the most reasonable character.

(Yes, all these characters have names. But this is the kind of movie where it’s easier to forget them.)

The Meg is, as I said above, not a good movie. And it’s not quite pleasing, either, since it so clearly wants to be good while resisting the urge to be silly. Some of the silliest moments, like Jason Statham quoting Dory (from Finding Dory) with the mantra “Just keep swimming” were pretty good. A little gag involving a tiny dog in peril wasn’t as charming as it wanted to be, or as charming as I wanted it to be. The sequel looks promising, with a megalodon more humor, and I’ll see it soon.

So, if it’s a movie that doesn’t even justify the “it does what it sets out to do” (since its mission is confused), why bother to review it?

Well, there was this moment, just a random moment, in which Jason Statham dives from a boat into the water. It’s not a flashy dive. It’s exactly the same dive—the only dive I know—that I would do back in my competitive swimming days, in middle school and high school. I was a swimmer, not a diver, but I do think my off-the-block racing dive will be, for the rest of my life, the most graceful physical action I have ever performed.

Statham’s dive was shockingly elegant, demonstrating a captivating sprezzatura. (Yes, I realize how odd it is to be so taken with this dive. I don’t even watch competitive diving during the Olympics.) It got me interested enough in Jason Statham that I looked up his bio, and was unsurprised to see he used to be a competitive diver.

I mention all of this because, for me, just watching that very simple dive so perfectly—such unexpected perfection!—executed in such an unfussy way might just be worth the $3, with all of the other mediocre sarcastic asides, minor “oh, no, a shark!” thrills, and anti-tech-bro sentiments as just lovely extras. If this movie is trying too hard, that dive is a perfect example of not needing to try at all, and somehow still nailing it.

Should you watch it? You probably knew the answer to that question before you started reading this review. The Meg is a movie that does exactly what you expect it to do, in that it doesn’t quite do what it wants to do, but there is, of course, the appeal of a giant shark, and that's something.

Three out of four Jason Stathams, and I am actively soliciting recommendations for the best Jason Statham movie to watch next. Diving not required.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Movies like this are like evil catnip for me. I'll watch just to see how bad it is. And Statham tends to be entertaining no matter he's doing. I have never hard of the first film, and I'm pretty sure that doesn't matter.

  2. Josie, I went through a Jason Statham phase and, other than The Italian Job in which he only played a supporting character, my favorite is Crank. It's sort of like Speed but with Statham playing the part of the bus.

    1. Also, try "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy as desk support to a spy pushed into doing the real thing, Stratham plays an intense spy and perfectly sends up his whole career and is a complete hoot!

    2. I didn't like Crank as much as most people, but I must say "it's sort of like Speed but with Statham playing the part of the bus" is a genius description!

  3. Years ago I enjoyed the Transporter series - simple, uncomplicated action/crime movies, not great but satisfying if you're into that sort of thing. (If you're not then they probably have little to offer.)

    Operation Fortune by Guy Ritchie was a relatively fun spy action comedy but also a bit frustrating, because it wasn't nearly _as much_ fun as it could have been (and clearly wanted to be).

    I also liked Hobbs & Shaw (the Fast & Furious spinoff) with Statham and Dwayne Johnson (and Idris Elba). But be warned it's even more ridiculous than the main series, so it's certainly not something I could recommend to everyone.

  4. For movies with Jason Statham rather than him being the star, a second for "Spy"
    Also recommend the early Guy Ritchie movie "Snatch" where JS isn't playing an action hero

  5. Am I sensing a theme? As in Jason Statham is much better playing a supporting character than a lead? Or is there just more money and better actors when he's brought on as a supporting character?

    1. I think you're right, Billie, about better actors starring in better movies. Statham doesn't seem to have much range. He's good and funny in the one role that he plays over and over again, but maybe it's not enough to carry a whole (good) movie. I wonder if it's because he's not capable of more range, or if the studios won't take the risk of casting him in a different role, or if he's simply found his niche and he's happy in it.

    2. He's definitely better as part of an ensemble. Even in Snatch, where he's the lead, he's significantly sharing screen time.

  6. If you don't mind hot garbage, the Crank movies are a must-watch. Peak Jason Statham. Crank 2: High Voltage is probably one of the most unhinged movies ever made.

  7. This is an incredible list of suggestions!

    Spy: I watched this last night, for the second time! I think I want to review it.

    Crank: I just finished it. Review forthcoming. It was insane. Logan, I look forward to an even more unhinged sequel.

    The Italian Job: I really love this movie. Why don't we have a review of it?

    Transporter: Michael, I have tried to watch the first Transporter movie twice now, and both times I noped out when Statham and a bad guy literally threw a woman between them during a fight. It was just too much objectification for me. (Years ago, I got mildly trapped at a house party once [my ride didn't want to leave] and had to sit through three hours of those old viral videos of illegal street racing, with the camera mounted on the dashboard. I have never been so bored, and Transporter triggered those feelings all over again.)

    Snatch: I watched this around the time it came out, and all I remember is Brad Pitt's accent. I'll definitely give this another try. Should I watch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels first?

  8. So, guess what I just watched?

    I guess it was pretty good for what it was, and Jason Statham was his usual enjoyable-to-watch beautifully-diving self. I didn't get scared at any point, though, and I think that was supposed to happen.

    Twice during this movie, people were dangling at the end of lines with the meg trying to chomp them, and all I could think of was how much it looked like dangling cat toys.

    I absolutely loved the last frame. :) In case you missed it, it was "Fin."


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