Creature feature is no catch of the day

Rescue diver Jonas (Jason Statham) and scientist Suyin (Li Bingbing, both right) in The Meg.
Rescue diver Jonas (Jason Statham) and scientist Suyin (Li Bingbing, both above) in The Meg.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Awkward acting and a predictable formula drown shark-attack movie The Meg



113 minutes/Now showing/2 stars

The story: Rescue diver Jonas (Jason Statham) claims that a giant shark is the menace behind the sinking of a submarine. Years later, after he has left his career, a deep-ocean research team finds that he may have been right after all. Enormous creatures attack the craft overseen by Dr Zhang (Winston Chao) and his scientist daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), putting the lives of crew members of a trapped submersible in danger.

It is 2018 and shark-attack movies are still a thing. Fine, but at least put a twist on the tired genre, as The Shallows (2016) did by making the sharks clever, or 47 Meters Down (2017) did by making an escape-room movie, with sharks as the obstacle.

To be fair, this movie introduces one new element: It upsizes the maneaters. They are now whale-sized. Which leads to the question: Why stop there - why not have them Godzilla-sized?

Amazingly, in a film filled with fictional technology, the creators of this thriller somehow want to ground the animals in fact. The megalodon, who give their name to the title, are a long-extinct species that have somehow survived in a hidden spot on the ocean floor - in a Jurassic Park of the deep.

And here is the film's main flow: The megalodon are typical dumb movie villains. They have no logic and no purpose other than to munch. They are the classic get-out-of-jail-free card for lazy horror screenwriters - the sharks pop up from nowhere and leave when convenient to the story. It is the same problem that plagues the later Jurassic Park movies.

And as in this year's Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, there is gratuitous inclusion of a little-girl character just to raise the stakes.

Director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, 2004; National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, 2007) uses the sharks as Guillermo del Toro uses the kaiju monsters in Pacific Rim (2013), except that the kaiju have more brains and personality.

Like the kaiju, the sharks destroy buildings and boats and threaten swathes of unwitting Asians who look and point in terror, after one of the beasties chooses to have lunch at a crowded Chinese beach.

However, the prize for the most menacing creature here must go to Jason Statham.

He is a fine actor in the right part, but here, he is called upon to be Rambo underwater and a sexy beast to the women on land. Statham can be a lot of things, but a suave ladies' man he is not.

There is the usual awkward mix of acting styles found in America-China co-productions.

How awkward? Statham is caught coming out of the shower clad only in a towel and the sight of his moist torso gives Li's Suyin the flutters.

The flirting that follows strives to be saucy, yet chaste, but succeeds only in being much more distressing to watch than an attack by a giant shark.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2018, with the headline 'Creature feature is no catch of the day'. Print Edition | Subscribe