The UnPopular Opinion: The Meg

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


There is a fine line between good bad movies and bad bad movies. Until SHARKNADO, SYFY was the top purveyor of schlocky crap movies that paired bad special effects and subpar acting. What SHARKNADO did so well was take aim at themselves and go all in for a movie that just had fun with a ridiculous concept. Studio films never reach that balance because it is cost prohibitive. When making a movie that costs millions, you need to ensure you are going to make a profit. But, every now and then, a movie will hit that sweet spot that results in a movie that just has fun and the audience does, too. THE MEG is the rare movie that has the mentality of SHARKNADO and the budget of a blockbuster which results in a movie that is dumb fun of the highest order. But, when it comes to realizing scientifically improbable stories involving prehistoric behemoths, THE MEG is no JURASSIC PARK. The good news is that it is superior to JURASSIC WORLD.

As a kid, I loved reading the works of Michael Crichton. The late author had a knack for taking the most difficult scientific concepts and explaining them while at the same time stretching it to fit his bizarre and crazy stories. Scientists have debunked a lot of what John Hammond did to create dinosaurs but that has nothing to do with the enjoyment we derive from suspending our disbelief and watching these creatures come back to life on the big screen. The source novel that THE MEG is based on shares that same blend of science fact and fantasy to create a thrilling tale that is equal parts JAWS and JURASSIC PARK. The movie we got is loosely based on the novel and I fully understand the disappointment that fans may have had with the liberties taken, but THE MEG is not the first studio film to take an idea and jump in their own direction. So, if we separate the novel from the movie and base our judgement solely on what is on screen, THE MEG is dumb fucking fun.

action, Adventure, horror, Jon Turteltaub, Jason Statham, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, The Meg, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

After languishing in development hell, THE MEG only made it to theaters thanks to financing from China. That means that this movie features a heavy focus on presenting China in a positive light. Like SKYSCRAPER before it, THE MEG features a pair of popular Chinese actors (Li Bingbing and Winston Chao playing father and daughter despite only being 13 years apart in age) and Masi Oka amongst a cast otherwise made of non-Asian actors. The romantic chemistry between Bingbing and Jason Statham is very forced and yet I didn't feel any less compelled to enjoy the brutal aquatic set pieces that are just violent enough for the PG-13 rating. Many probably hoped this would be a bloodbath of a film akin to the PIRANHA franchise, but just remember that Steven Spielberg was able to show severed limbs and heads in JAWS and only got a PG rating. THE MEG is designed to be a film with minimal sex, mild profanity, and an overall palatable tone that can make it accessible for a wide audience. Judging by the $527 million box office, it appears to have worked.

THE MEG is a product, through and through, of executives tinkering with the studio formula. There absolutely could have been an edgier version of THE MEG that either went balls out insane with the violence and action or ended up being a clone of JURASSIC PARK. Instead, we get the bankable Jason Statham who does a competent job playing Jonas Taylor even if he really doesn't have all that much to do. THE MEG plays much more like an ensemble film where none of the ensemble do much besides get picked off. Rainn Wilson, whom I was sure was going to be the cackling villain, ended up as a very neutral and inconsequential character. There is a case that can be made that everyone in the cast is underused from Ruby Rose's hacker to Cliff Curtis' crew leader. But, that feels like it was intentional to put the focus on Jason Statham versus the megalodon itself. Like Dwayne Johnson taking center stage against the mutant creatures in RAMPAGE, audiences want to see Statham versus a shark. With Jason Statham a bigger draw overseas compared to domestically, this was an easy decision.

Directo Jon Turtletaub is also a very safe director. In his career, Turtletaub has helmed adequate action in the NATIONAL TREASURE movies as well as Disney's underrated THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. His approach to filmmaking is very standard which works here as he gives us wide shots of the beast as it swims through populated waters and a couple of nicely executed jump scares featuring the megalodon itself. What makes him the perfect helmer for this film is that Turtletaub's resume is chock full of movies that do not take themselves too seriously. He has as much a knack for comedy as he does for action which is to say he knows when an audience should laugh and have fun. THE MEG absolutely could have taken itself seriously but by allowing itself to be ridiculous, Turtletaub focuses on reminding us why movies can be fun and when they don't have to be bogged down by logic or reason.

Is THE MEG as stupid as DEEP BLUE SEA? No, but it embraces the same technobabble approach to explaining the unexplainable. Is it as scary as JAWS? not even close, but the action is executed in such a way that you feel the adrenaline rush from your heart-racing. If you say you don't, then you are lying. The special effects that bring THE MEG to life are very good and look far superior to anything similar. If you comb through the films featuring sharks as the antagonist, the list is surprisingly short. There are far more cheesy and schlocky movies like SHARKNADO compared to the high quality efforts like JAWS. In between, you have THE MEG which is not cheesy in it's dumbness. Rather, THE MEG is transparent in it's intentions to be fun without having you invest too much into it.

action, Adventure, horror, Jon Turteltaub, Jason Statham, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, The Meg, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

THE MEG works because you don't have to care about it. It was never built to be a film that would win critical acclaim. THE MEG is easily forgotten after you see it which many would consider a negative for a movie. I like to think that THE MEG is a movie that you can enjoy time and again and remember those crazy moments that faded from your memory. Remember that scene where we learn there is a second, bigger megalodon? How about the scene of the shark going nuts in the overly populated beach area? Maybe the ratcheted intensity of Jason Statham swimming for his life? There are dozens of small, fleeting moments in THE MEG that are fun and do not require a deeper insight or reflection. This is a pulpy bad movie that you can turn on and enjoy without investing anything into it. It doesn't try too hard and neither do you. If anything, it can enjoy taking things to the next level in the inevitable sequel. 

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com



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