It takes old fashionedly long before The Meg shows its titular monster on screen. An unexpected throw-back to the days of Jaws, Jurassic Park and Alien. Movies used to build suspense by hinting but not showing, a trope also known as “nothing is scarier”. This is a mechanic that is used a lot less now; financial stakes are higher, movies compete with each other for the most media attention and don’t dare to do subtle. The Meg puts itself in a bit of an awkward situation. Because the movie tries to have us excited by a slow build-up and a sense of mystery but with its wild media campaign and spoiler-filled trailers, we already know everything. “There is something down there..”, uh yeah, it’s a megalodon. It’s in the title of your movie.
But despite that, The Meg is a surprisingly fun ride. It’s been in development hell since 1997 when the book came out, and in the meantime has been caught up by the likes of Deep Blue Sea, Sharknado and that aweful Discovery Channel fakumentary. That’s why upfront you can’t help but feel a little cynical: “Oh boy, another shark movie.” But once it gets underway, it’s an enjoyable two hour watch with just the right amount of cheesy tropes and self awareness. The Meg knows it’s a popcorn flick about big sharks but it doesn’t keel over in campy lollygagging like Sharknado. This is partly due to few excellent casting choices. Jason Statham is the badass veteran deep-sea diver, Rain Wilson the happy-go-lucky dot com billionaire and Li Bingbing the scientist-by-the-book. They all rock the hell out their performance though, exactly because they know they are cliched characters but give it their own swing. Especially Statham is visibly enjoying every minute of it. Ruby Rose meanwhile has a very small part as engineer Jaxx but with her natural chutzpah could definitely handle more.
A cynic might say that The Meg can’t choose between being suspenseful thriller and over the top action flick, ending up being neither. But it actually makes for a fun, lighthearted shark-show without numbing amounts of action. It has a group of likebale characters and a silly predictable plot that just put a smile on your face every time you guess what’s going to happen. The Meg knows we watched 1990s monster movies and doesn’t try to make a pastiche out of it or be bigger and better than that. I imagine it has potential of a comfort movie for those lonely rainy Saturdays.