The Meg

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   The Meg
 

No one believed deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) when he claimed to have encountered something big enough to crush a submarine's hull during a rescue mission where two were left behind. Five years later, when an international undersea observation program's deep-sea submersible is attacked by a large, unknown creature, stranding it and its crew on the ocean floor, he's controversially called in, joining forces with program head Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao)'s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) against "The Meg."

Laura:
Adapted from Steve Alten's novel by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber, "The Meg is a goofy melding of Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" and "Jaws" with a soupçon of "Finding Nemo."  It is also a prime example of Hollywood's dependence on the Chinese market given its Chinese speaking cast members and final location in Sanya Bay (the film was actually shot in New Zealand).  The film's brilliant trailer suggests a tongue-in-cheek approach, but director Jon Turteltaub ("National Treasure") mostly plays it straight and while the movie's situations are incontrovertibly silly, he's delivered a slick summer entertainment.  Jason Statham is a welcome reprieve from Rock fatigue.

After a rushed, somewhat confused prologue outlining Taylor's last rescue, we land in the present where billionaire funder Mr. Morris (Rainn Wilson) is about to receive a tour of his offshore oceanic research station, Mana One.  The overly gregarious American is a clash in style with the elegant Zhang, who submits to his bear hug, but Morris's enthusiasm is warranted.  Mana One is a multi-storied underwater facility with a transparent tubular observation level, the effect like being inside one of nature's own aquariums, the Pacific Ocean.  Led along one of its circular corridors by Suyin's daughter Meiying (Sophia Cai), we see something huge approaching, a benign foreshadowing featuring a whale and its calf, regular visitors of Mana One's.

Morris meets the crew, operations manager Mac (Cliff Curtis), engineer Jaxx (Ruby Rose), remote explorer pilot DJ (Page Kennedy) and staff physician Heller (Robert Taylor), just as the submersible Origin piloted by Lori (Jessica McNamee) with crew members The Wall (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and Toshi (Masi Oka) makes its first attempt to see if Zhang's theory that the Mariana Trench is not actually the deepest point of the ocean.  And indeed, they find a hydrogen sulfide barrier which, when breached, brings them to a startling new ecosystem.  But this thermocline level is the home of a prehistoric 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon, thought extinct for two million years, and it attacks the Origin, drawn by its lights. With potential tragedy mere hours away, Mac travels to Thailand, where his old friend Jonas has spent the last five years drinking, and convinces him to help save the Origin crew piloted by Jonas's ex-wife.  Back at Mana One, Heller, who assessed Jonas five years earlier, states that the man lost it in extreme depths, causing the loss of two men, and not knowing what she's facing, Suyin heads off alone in a glider on her own rescue mission.  Of course, she'll need saving too.

It's about forty minutes in before we catch a glimpse of the titular beast (after a couple of false starts), but it's not until Meiying sees it (looking just like the grinning shark of the "Finding Nemo" poster) that all hell breaks loose.  That's because Mana One realizes that their interference has allowed the meg to break free from its environment and it is up to them to stop it.  Jonas exhibits ludicrous levels of bravery, first attempting to tag it, then attempting to kill it, psyching himself up by singing 'just keep swimming.'  But just when they think they've won, defeat is snatched from their jaws of victory and hordes of tourists and a wedding party's bride's Yorkie Pippin begin to look like snacks (as well as some obvious homages to "Jaws").

Despite smacking of commercial considerations, the film is well cast.  Statham, whose sense of humor percolates beneath his steely surface, has a way with his ladies, including the precocious Cai. Bingbing proves a formidable action heroine while Chao and Wilson share elements of "Jurassic's" John Hammond, Wilson adding a dash of Wayne Knight's Nedry.  The production is impressive, its hi tech gadgets, including a shark cage designed like Hannibal Lecter's cell, the better to see the monster with, sleek.  Creature effects, including the bioluminescent fish of the deep, convince.

Grade:  B-

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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