It took five years for the makers of The Meg to make it unsafe to go back in the water, and for them to convince Jason Statham — a former pro diver — to go swimming with sharks again. I and many others can’t help but wonder if, in that time, they spent it wisely and made an effort at crafting a story as good as possible.
All they had to do was keep their hook in the same spot long enough for the muse to bite, and maybe the nets would overflow with ideas and ticket sales. Things didn’t quite turn out that way. Meg 2: The Trench is short on fresh ideas, but they have more than enough to throw at the screen to meet expectations.
Just to be clear, I don’t plan on judging the film based on who funded it or if that party (pun is accidental but noted) is taking a cut of the proceeds. If you don’t want to spend money on this for those reasons, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s up to you. I’m focused on Meg 2 as product — maybe art — and nothing more.
Fishing for Plot
Jonas Taylor (Statham) is out of retirement and acting as an ecowarrior busting illegal dumping in international waters. His cohorts and benefactors remain the same and he also helps them explore the uncharted depths of the Marianas Trench (hence the title) where the first Megs were found. They’ve had 26 dives without incident, so what could go wrong on the next one?
Everything — as you might expect. If it wasn’t bad enough that a megalodon held in captivity by his buddy Jiuming (Wu Jing) — brother of Li Bingbing’s character (deceased as of this sequel)— escaped, or that Jiuming’s niece MeiYing (the returning Sophia Cai), a surrogate daughter to Jonas, stows away on the dive, the expedition is left stranded by sabotage.
All the deep-sea-thriller and disaster movie tropes follow — from the deadly battle with prehistoric predators in the dark to shark attacks on practically everything. The sharks also serve as a convenient deus ex machina for villains built up as serious threats, for instance, when they’re eaten just like that. Don’t hope for other forms of payoff or closure.
That kind of stinks as far as plot goes — assuming you might go into this concerned about that sort of thing — but tonally, Meg 2 is much the same as the first despite Jon Turteltaub jumping ship to let Ben Wheatley (High-Rise, 2015) take over the helm. Stylistically, they are similar although Wheatley leans more into the genre cheese.
When he gets to Fun Island, which is a selling point of the movie for some people, he indulges in a lot of the cliches of Jaws sequels and ripoffs — your Last Sharks and Cruel Jawses — especially dumb extras getting devoured. This happens in the final act and everything goes off the rails by that point into chaotic action; too much to follow.
Meg 2: The Trench is at its best during its beginning and middle, when it can keep a smooth pace and build tension. My favorite part is when Jonas and his team have to navigate the luminescent Trench floor in hi-tech dive suits, and fight to survive in the pitch black. It’s a formulaic series of events but full of taut moments.
The rest of it becomes so silly to the point that logic is thrown completely overboard often. Statham is somehow able to swim in the Trench without a suit for 60 seconds and later holds back a 100-ton Meg with his foot. Again, it’s silly but it’s supposed to be that way. We’re not talking about an accident of budget or inexperience.
Most of the bad shark movies were so because they didn’t have money and used no-name actors, but they found audiences charmed by them nonetheless. Wheatley is probably among them as he pays homage to them by pulling off all the wacky ideas Italy and Jaws producers had in the ’80s at once on a bigger scale.
I know I sound like I’ve been dragging Meg 2 to the bottom this whole time, but it’s entertaining — that is to say “fine” although not “great.” You can see what I mean if you want to be patient and wait for it to make a splash on a streaming site. That’s not a bad idea.
- Statham is his usual bombastic tough guy self.
- Ben Wheatley basks in shark movie cliches.
- Meg design, FX, and man-eating mayhem.
- Throwaway characters.
- Much the same template, just bigger.
- Dumb people doing dumb stuff.