‘The Meg’ proves tooth­less


NOT­WITH­STAND­ING its ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties to a cer­tain sum­mer-of-’75 block­buster about a great white shark, the new Jaws-on-steroids thriller The

Meg – about a 23m shark – may re­mind you of a more re­cent and en­tirely dif­fer­ent movie: Skyscraper.

Both cen­tre on su­perla­tives: the world’s tallest skyscraper; the world’s big­gest shark. (In this case, a liv­ing spec­i­men of a pre­his­toric Me­ga­lodon, long thought to be ex­tinct.)

Both fea­ture bald ac­tion stars: the ge­nial Dwayne John­son in Skyscraper; a more brood­ing, stub­ble-headed Ja­son Statham in The Meg. And both are co-pro­duc­tions be­tween Hol­ly­wood stu­dios and Chi­nese-owned pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, and fea­ture Chi­nese co-stars and Asian set­tings.

They are also both merely pass­able en­ter­tain­ments, just too medi­ocre to jus­tify their slightly longer-than-nec­es­sary run­ning times.

Statham plays Jonas Tay­lor, a dis­graced deep-sea res­cue ex­pert who is still liv­ing down his de­ci­sion to aban­don sev­eral col­leagues in the mid­dle of a mis­sion af­ter their ves­sel was at­tacked by what Jonas claimed was a giant shark.

As the ac­tion of the film gets un­der way, our hero is drown­ing his sor­rows in Thai­land, hav­ing been di­vorced by his wife (Jes­sica McNamee) and gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a crazy per­son.

What he’s re­ally do­ing, though, is wait­ing for re­demp­tion, which ar­rives in the form of a re­quest to save his ex and two of her marine bi­ol­o­gist col­leagues from a sub­mersible re­search ves­sel that has be­come dis­abled while ex­plor­ing a pre­vi­ously un­known sec­tion of the seabed: a trench hid­den be­neath a ther­mo­cline, or cloud-like layer of su­per-chilled wa­ter.

But what fol­lows Jonas and the res­cued sci­en­tists to the sur­face – via the hole they have just punc­tured in the cold wa­ter – is the mother of marine mon­sters.

When Jonas gets back to the base, he dis­cov­ers that he has brought with him a sea crea­ture that threat­ens the lives of the crew, played by a sup­port­ing cast of mostly no­bod­ies, and a nearby beach re­sort filled with ex­tras.

A more fa­mil­iar face is Rainn Wil­son, who serves a dual pur­pose as the cyn­i­cal, money-grub­bing bil­lion­aire who has fi­nanced the sci­ence sta­tion on which much of the ac­tion is set (comic re­lief), and later, some­one to root against when the shark starts look­ing for hu­man chum. Di­rected by Jon Turteltaub

(Na­tional Trea­sure), from a screen­play adapted from Steve Al­ten’s 1997 book, The Meg takes its sweet time get­ting go­ing, and doesn’t re­ally start de­liv­er­ing on the ex­pected thrills and chills un­til a scene in which Jonas, teth­ered by ca­ble to a ship, dives into the ocean – with, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, no shark cage – to shoot a track­ing de­vice into the fin of the tit­u­lar beastie.

Af­ter the shark gets mad and starts pur­su­ing him, he be­comes a piece of de facto bait, be­ing reeled in as the Me­ga­lodon’s fin gets closer and closer.

What fol­lows is a se­ries of in­creas­ingly close calls, in­ter­cut with the afore­men­tioned com­edy – a lit­tle too much of that, if you ask me – and scenes cen­tring on the bud­ding ro­mance be­tween Jonas and a fe­male sci­en­tist, played by Bing­bing Li.

Li’s ap­par­ent dis­com­fort with her English di­a­logue lends her char­ac­ter an awk­ward stiff­ness (but then again, most of the char­ac­ters are card­board, mak­ing it hard to care who gets eaten and who doesn’t).

Un­like his ac­tion-movie ri­val John­son, Statham does not have the charisma to carry this film. He gets the job done all right, but makes it feel more like work than play.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.