There’s approximately $530 million worth of reasons that a sequel to 2018s The Meg is hitting the silver screen this week, and not one of them is necessity. However, with a new director at the helm in the form of British indie filmmaker Ben Wheatley (who is helming his first big budget Hollywood flick with this flick in particular), and the promise of even more megalodon’s this time around (plus a few other deep sea lurking terrors added for good measure), Meg 2: The Trench arrives to fill the Sharknado sized hole in bad-shark-movie-lovers hearts.
Picking up a few years after the events of The Meg, in which the world presumed it had once again seen the last of these prehistoric apex predators, rescue diver and eco-warrior Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) returns with his eclectic crew of oceanic misfits to continue the exploration of truly lies beneath the presumed floor of the Mariana Trench. However, their nightmarish discoveries of both animals and humans alike leads to a disastrous chain of events that will unleash the biggest megalodon’s ever seen back into the world.
The one major gripe with 2018s The Meg is that despite the film’s ridiculous concept and self-aware marketing, the tone of it all was just too serious to have fun with. Statham rarely leaned into the invincible action hero tropes, the action felt to strait laced and “grounded” for the type of film it was trying to be, and the surface level moments of sincerity and drama created more yawns than cheers. However, it seems that director Ben Wheatley felt the same way and has completely flipped that tonal feeling on its head with this insane, self-aware, and enjoyably terrible movie. Sure, there will probably be more laughing than jaws dropping throughout Meg 2: The Trench, but in a case for mindless popcorn entertainment, that’s exactly what this movie needs to be.
Right from the opening moments which take us back millions of years to show a T-Rex being mauled by a meg (how it managed to get so close to shore considering its gargantuan size, who knows? But stop asking those dumb questions and just have fun!), to a high-octane, Jason Bourne-esque action sequence involving Statham’s character that will make you wonder where he learnt to fight like that between movies (again, stop asking those dumb questions!), Meg 2 is screaming at the audience to not take any of what is about to happen seriously, and for what occurs over the next 110 minutes, it absolutely helps swallowing that pill easier.
There is a significant portion of the second act that takes placed within the Mariana Trench, and considering the high-level of scrutiny around scenes taking place underwater in a post Avatar: The Way of Water society, there are some decent and exciting set-pieces that definitely don’t look as polished as the forementioned, but give a dark and claustrophobic feel that only being trapped 25000 feet below sea level with the demons of the sea could give. With creatures lurking in every nook and cranny, there’s a handful of jump scares as sharp teeth launch towards the screen, but nothing feels as creepy as the idea of being on the literal bottom of the ocean with no escape.
The horrors of the ocean quickly remind of the fact that the meg’s themselves do take a backseat during this section of the film, even with there few minutes of rampage filled screen time. It does seem like Wheatley is aware of this, and to make up for the lack of killer shark, instead gives us people in mech suits and underwater rifles defying all laws of aqua physics in the name of ridiculous action (which may involve Statham punching a different sea monster in the face), plus a brutal death that teeters closely to the PG-13 line that the film is hovering over.
It’s also during this second act where the most noticeable attempts at shoe-horned family drama often fall flat. You’d be forgiven if you forgot that at the end of The Meg, Statham’s character, Jonas, became intertwined with his co-lead, Suyin (Li Bingbing) and subsequently became the father figure to her daughter, Meiying, who is now a teenager in this film with the adventurous spirit of her mother. The main tension in the relationship between Jonas and Meiying is that he wants to protect her, and she wants to join Jonas on his explorations. And that’s about it. Neither Statham or Sophie Cai commits to the drama, and their bond isn’t fleshed out or explored enough to care, often just reducing the relationship to dad-protects-daughter, something the film probably didn’t need and could have helped with tightening the pace and runtime.
While there is fun to be had for the first hour of Meg 2: The Trench, it’s not until the film’s final act in which the insanity kicks into overdrive, delivering exactly what audiences going to this sort of film are looking for. Taking place on the appropriately named party destination, Fun Island, the final 45 minutes of this movie might be the most ridiculous shark-movie action ever put to film, and it’s a hell of a time. The blend of adrenaline packed action, and the notion that nothing should be taking seriously leads to uproariously absurd moments that involve jet skis doing 360-degree barrel rolls out of shark’s mouths, dogs biting tentacles, paddle boats being swallowed hole and a brilliant point-of-view shot that shows more people dying in that one scene that I think the entire first film had in total! Outside of the insane action, there are genuinely funny moments of levity from co-stars such as Page Kennedy, Cliff Curtis, and Wu Jing, who all understand their assignments for this film.
Meg 2: The Trench isn’t by definition a ‘good movie’. But it doubles down on the ridiculousness that the first film was missing, delivering a self-aware shark-movie that has fun with being so over the top. The action, set pieces, and bountiful deaths may procure more laughs than intended from audiences, but it’s the enjoyably terrible nature of a film like this that, when not taken too seriously, makes for a mindlessly fun time at the cinema.
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