There is one perfect shark movie.
“Jaws,” of course, is one of Steven Spielberg’s best films. Stories of the difficulties filming it are cinema legend, but all that led to a masterpiece no matter what the genre.
Why do people keep making more?
All right, anyone can make any movie they want. “The Reef,” “The Shallows” and “Open Water” and a few others were good. “Sharknado” was so stupid it was funny. And who knows, maybe someone will come along and make another great one.
“The Meg” isn’t it.
Oh, it’s kind of fun, in that big, giant, dumb way. Jason Statham is always good at running around and hitting and stabbing things and generally saving the day in a violent way. This time he swims a lot, too. Variety!
The film, directed by John Turteltaub, is a redemption story for Statham’s character, Jonas Taylor. It begins in flashback, with Taylor and his team performing a rescue on a submarine in distress. Suddenly something massive starts ramming it — something bigger than anything that should be in the depths of the ocean. Decisions are made, tragedy ensues and no one believes Taylor when he insists he had to make a split decision. The decision haunts him, and makes him plenty of enemies in the underwater-rescue business.
Cut to the present. Billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson, playing against type) helicopters in to a deep-sea rig that is the base for a high-tech research facility, home to a project he’s paying for: Scientists and explorers hope to prove that what has always been thought to be a shelf on the bottom of the ocean floor is instead cloud cover for a deeper level. Turns out it’s true, but the team’s undersea explorer vehicle is suddenly slammed by … something bigger than anything that should be down there.
Actually, that’s not technically true. No one knows what should be down there, because no one’s ever been that deep before. Whatever the case, the thing is big and it’s still out there and the crew needs saving and needs it now. Losing oxygen, that sort of thing.
Who to call in such a situation? You guessed it: Jonas Taylor. He does not come without his drawbacks. For one, he is now a hopeless drunk living in the hinterlands. For another, the project’s doctor (Robert Taylor) was on the ill-fated rescue mission years before and still blames Taylor. And, just for a little added drama, the captain of the trapped vessel (Jessica McNamee) is Taylor’s former wife. Sure. Why not?
Evidently it’s pretty easy to sober up and get into shape for deep-sea rescue in an hour or two, which is what Taylor does. He heads way, way down and works to rescue the ship when he comes face to face with the Big Giant Thing: a Megalodon, a huge shark-like animal thought to be long extinct.
Not down here, pal. And since all this takes place before an hour is up and this is a nearly two-hour movie, it won’t be the last we see of the Meg, as the crew starts calling it.
There are other things going on. Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) leads the scientific crew; his daughter, Suyin (Bingbing Li) develops a romantic interest in one of the characters, who I won’t reveal here because it is SO OBVIOUS YOU DON’T EVEN NEED A NAME.
A lot is obvious here, in fact, including a couple of twists. Let’s face it, you do not attend a movie about a giant prehistoric shark for the character development. You’re there for the action, and there’s a lot of it. It’s OK, and there are some scares and some silliness and some sadness doled out along the way. But whether you like “The Meg” depends on how much you like seeing Jason Statham in and out of a wetsuit, doing action-hero things. He’s certainly good at it, and he’s the best thing about the movie, not that the competition is particularly fierce.
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Jon Turteltaub and written by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, based on the novel “Meg” by Steve Alten. Rated PG-13 (for action/peril, blood images and some language). Running time: 113 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.