The Meg (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT After a massive prehistoric shark is unearthed, it proceeds to terrorize an underwater lab and the rest of the ocean at large. It’s up to washed-up rescue diver Jonas Taylor to send the beast back to where it came from.

REVIEW: THE MEG might be the most disappointing movie of the summer. It isn’t terrible, you see, and that might be the problem. A big dumb shark attack movie starring Jason Statham ought to be a deliriously silly, popcorn-munching good time, and while THE MEG is rather ridiculous throughout its ample running time (114 minutes), it doesn’t have the guts to go full tilt crazy. Rather, it’s an adequate time-killer, made by a director (Jon Turtletaub) who doesn’t bring much flair or personality to the proceedings. It’s a little too straight-faced, a bit too eager to look the part of “big blockbuster” instead of giving in to its most primal urges and delivering the corpse-strewn horror show we want. Guys, we’re here to see a giant shark swallow people whole, not to give a hoot about the hero’s quest for absolution.

It was recently revealed by director Jon Turtletaub that a bunch of gore was cut from the film in order to ensure it received a PG-13 rating. That’s part of the issue, for sure, as it’s clear the movie has had some of its teeth shaved down. There’s a sequence toward the end where the big shark finally has an ocean of swimmers to gobble up and the movie cops out, barely giving us any goods. Truth be told, the titular monster doesn’t even chow down on all that many people during the film. At the risk of sounding like a bloodthirsty madman, I wasn’t necessarily looking for the nasty flesh-shredding of PIRANHA 3D (although I do enjoy that movie more than I should admit), but as a member of the audience who came to see a giant shark consume a hearty cast of B-actors, I walked away somewhat disappointed. There are some OK action bits where The Meg surges after our protagonists, who narrowly avoid being chewed up time and time again, but overall Turtletaub helms things with the stiff competence of a journeyman director. (You might say “hack” but I won’t be so rude.)

To be fair to the film, it’s not a mess, at least not technically. Well shot and boasting a few impressive sets (namely the high-tech underwater lab most of the film’s first half takes place in), THE MEG is at least good-looking enough to hold our attention, even when it’s wasting time on unnecessary exposition and lame character moments. The less said about the characters, the better; they’re all total archetypes, from alcoholic hero seeking redemption to scared black guy who jokes all throughout the horror (too bad his jokes are never funny). Like so many blockbusters today, there’s a considerable effort to make the cast as international as possible, which is of course fine, but there’s no doubt the film’s eagerness to appeal to international audiences – especially China, as this is a Chinese co-production – feels more forced than authentic. Still, the actors look like they’re having a good enough time, even if Statham usually appears to be suffering through a bit of a hangover. He’s fine in the movie, but I like my Statham when he’s more of a rogue, a cheeky scoundrel. Statham as straight-forward action hero isn’t all that interesting to watch.

How does THE MEG stack up against recent theatrically-released shark flicks? I appreciated THE SHALLOWS and 47 METERS DOWN more; they’re low-tech chillers, concerned with building tension through the constant threat of a shark coming out of the dark and grabbing your leg. Here, there’s very little suspense even attempted, it’s all just “there’s the shark!” and off we go on a noisy (usually brief) action sequence. The shark itself is rendered well enough when we can see it, but it’s almost too big, its massive size too outlandish to even believe for a little bit. If the shark isn’t going to be legitimately scary, it should be awe-inspiring, but THE MEG is only fleetingly interested in wowing us with its toothy antagonist, preferring predictable bouts of by-the-numbers sequences where characters yell a lot while a giant fin moves swiftly toward them.

What we have here, when assessed overall, is a missed opportunity. A movie not good enough to be good, not bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good. It’s so-okay-it’s-fine. There’s a neat sequence where Li Bingbing’s marine biologist character is at the bottom of a trench and comes upon a really big squid, which is then met by The Meg, and it hinted at an intriguing, mysterious world filled with menacing oversized creatures – almost like an underwater version of Skull Island. Sadly, we’re only teased with the potential of seeing something actually cool, which sums up THE MEG as a whole.

The Meg



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About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.