The MEG (12A)

With a film such as ‘The Meg’ (short for Megalodon, i.e. a ginormous prehistoric shark), it’s a waste of time trying to critique it too much. Films such as this are supposed to be a blast of pure mindless entertainment, the kind of Summer fayre Dwayne Johnson would (and has, repeatedly,) put his name to.

This waterborne adventure is directed by the aptly-enough-named John Turteltaub, he of Nicolas Cage’s ‘National Treasure’ and it’s sequel, Nicolas Cage’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and 1996’s ‘Phenomenon’, which did not star Nicolas Cage.

There are two categories this kind of film falls into: Good-Bad (i.e. Piranha 3D, Rampage) and Bad-Bad (Sharknado, Battlefield Earth).

Fortunately, somehow, ‘The Meg’ falls slap-bang in the middle: it’s not bad enough to make you rue the day you left your house to watch it, but it also leaves the viewer with the sense that this is a film that is overblown but underwhelming, not the other way around, and is ultimately quite disappointing.

The film is a film of two halves (of course I’m not detailing the plot which takes up the first hour), with a one hour preamble which sets up the story before The Meg finally makes a full appearance halfway through, giving rise to the ‘main’ plot.

The locations are glossy and the CGI visual effects are impressive enough, particularly the submerged research facility, but really this is very much a by-the-numbers Summer monster action pic.

The characters endlessly fall off rafts, crafts, boats, jet skis, half-eaten whales, all to keep the body-count high and the cast is stuffed to the gills (pun intended) with racial-stereotypes of cliched characters: impossibly attractive Scientist? Check. Monosyllabic, surly action hero with a tragic past? Check. Motor-mouthed African-American comic relief? Ageing Chinese businessman? Check. Cocksure-but-clueless billionaire investor? Check (irritatingly and unconvincingly  played by Rainn Wilson, who inexplicably turns into a whole different character halfway through the film).

Hell, there’s even the former-colleague-with-a-grudge to doubt The Stath’s every decision before the inevitable push for redemption. And a dog in peril. And a cute kid to win over.

Yeeesh, the list goes on…

So in between all the shamelessly sentimental self-sacrifice, endless cliches, moments that are not nearly as funny as they think they are and fairly competently staged action set-pieces, lies a long-hyped piece of Summer fluff that is enjoyable enough but definitely could have done with two or three more drafts of the script to make it leaner, meaner and, crucially, much more fun (and funnier) than the finished results.

The entirely predictable third-act twist (ripped straight from 1999’s brilliant ‘Lake Placid’), was as obvious to see coming as the Meg’s enormous dorsal fin, leading to a largely forgettable and rather disappointing effort from The Stath which viewers won’t remember much about by the following week.

Catch it on DVD instead.

– Project Square Eyes, Wednesday 29th August 2018

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