The Meg: Movie Review

It’s about a really big shark. The shark eats some people; other people heroically try to kill it. You already knew all that, and you already know the story. Plus I saw it last week, amid health issues. So rather than actually review it, here’s a different approach:

Fifteen responses The Meg.

  1. Far and away the most compelling, engaging and enjoyable performance by an actor in The Meg is delivered by an eight-year old girl, Shuya Sophia Cai. She plays Meiying, the daughter of Suyin (Bing-bing Li) the main marine biologist at a research center off the coast of China. Little Meiying has all the best lines in the movie, delivers them with aplomb, and is just insanely cute. My daughter thinks the movie’s costume designer took Cai to a particularly cool shopping mall and let her get anything she wanted, including moon boots with flashing lights, plus angel wings. Having no idea what he was doing, The Meg‘s director, Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Cool Runnings, The Kid) had Meiying disappear for the middle third of the picture. Yep; the movie had exactly one character you cared about, and she was gone, for no reason, for a good chunk of the movie.
  2. But Bing-bing Li is terrific too. She’s been a top actress in China since 1994, though not in movies most Americans will have seen. If this is meant to be her Hollywood breakthrough role–probable–it’s just a shame it’s not in a better movie. She’s outstanding–heroic and brave and nuanced. And old enough that her romance with Jason Statham isn’t all creepy.
  3. And Statham, playing the movie’s putative hero, Jonas Taylor, an underwater rescue expert, gives a perfectly acceptable Jason Statham action movie performance, no better and no worse than he’s given in twenty other movies. Statham’s 51 now, and looks terrific–most guys his age would kill for those abs. Short, bald and British do not preclude a long action-movie career. (Still, isn’t Statham the guy you get if you can’t get Bruce Willis?)
  4. Big roles for both Caucasian and Chinese movie stars, and long scenes in Chinese, with titles–they’re marketing this in China, and it might do pretty well. I mean, it’s not like the story is culturally specific–sharks are scary everywhere. There are, what, 300 million regular movie attenders in China? And that number is growing exponentially? I loved the casting of this movie, and loved seeing really good Asian actors doing good work. What I did think was weird was how many Asian extras get chomped. I would have thought that they would have made some effort towards equal opportunity shark victims.
  5. The movie does waste a bit of time with pseudo-scientific gibberish meant to explain why a megalodon, extinct for around a million years, still survives and why it’s starting snacking on homo sapiens. I get that movies have to do that, make the improbable premise of the movie seem probable. But it went on a bit long for my taste. Not that I mind movie science-y gibberish. The flux capacitor!
  6. My goodness, though; the characters in these movies make some dumb decisions. These kinds of movies always have scenes where all the characters sit around going ‘how do we fix this?’ But someone, in at least one of those scenes, has to say ‘no. Come on, that’s idiotic.’ They’re dealing with a shark maybe thirty times bigger than any shark ever, and they think someone will be safe in a shark cage? Seriously?
  7. Sheriff Longmire is also in this. That is, Robert Taylor, who plays Sheriff Longmire, is like the whitest guy in the movie. My daughter and I immediately decided he was going to be first character to die. We were wrong. He was second. But he does get to die heroically. Of course.
  8. I desperately hope, and do actually believe, that Rainn Wilson is a prince of a guy. I bet he is. I bet he’s a really good guy in real life. Because, my gosh, he’s great at playing obnoxious twerps. Or privileged rich jerks, which is what he plays here. I mean, check out his IMDB page: he voices Gargamel! Gargamel!
  9. Boy, that’s one scary shark, though. The Meg is a seriously ugly, exceptionally mean antagonist. And convincing.
  10. In fact, both of them are. Sorry! Spoiler! But, yeah, there are two Megs.
  11. Meg Ryan is not one of them. Another spoiler: Meg Ryan does not appear in a movie called The Meg.
  12. There exists, apparently, a new beach toy (new to me, anyway). Basically, it’s a big bubble, and guys climb into them, and you can run on the water, kind of like a hamster ball. It looks really fun. And it pops very satisfactorily when a ginormous shark bites down on it.
  13. There’s an actress in the movie, Ruby Rose, who plays an engineer named Jaxx. I don’t remember having seen her before, though I actually have seen several movies she was apparently in.  But she’s great in this. I liked her character in part because I could never quite decide if she was going to die or not. That’s a lot of the pleasure of a movie like this: guess who’s going to buy the farm, and in what order. Quiet Likeable Asian Family Man? Doomed. Comic Relief Black Guy? Probably okay. Cute little lapdog? Action Movie Dogs are immortal. My daughter and I guessed right every time.
  14. The Meg isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. It’s a movie about a really big prehistoric shark. It’s exceptionally predictable and nothing in it is likely ever to surprise you. The shark CGI is nicely done, but that’s Hollywood standard nowadays–you just don’t see a lot of crappy CGI anymore. It’s a popcorn movie, and perfectly acceptable on those terms. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. My daughter and I enjoyed ourselves very much.
  15. Just don’t make it a priority.