To call Meg 2: The Trench dumb isn’t an insult; it’s an acknowledgement of promises made and kept. From the moment returning character DJ (Page Kennedy) describes the narrative he finds himself in as “some dumb-ass shit,” it ought to be clear precisely what the movie intends to be. It’s aimed less at adapting author Steve Alten’s second Meg novel than it is at (A) seeing if all the folks who watch Sharknado ironically would pay to see something similar with more realistic monsters and (B) appeasing China.
Biggie Shark, Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb…
This sort of deliberate stoopidity with a capital “oo” doesn’t always work at the U.S. box office, where more people quote Snakes on a Plane than ever bought tickets to it. Viewed in the correct spirit, however – the studio sprung for alcoholic beverages at the press screening, which feels about right – Meg 2 becomes the right kind of literal shark-jumping to power your next bad movie night.
Jason Statham, basically still in his Spy self-parody mode without winking at the audience, returns as Jonas, expert giant shark fighter and incongruous Cockney. Suyin, his incredibly chaste Chinese love interest from last time, has already died offscreen, presumably so Chinese censors, who notoriously dislike both kissing scenes and interracial romance, don’t have to imagine Statham and Li Bingbing having sex. For the sake of the plot, though, he has formally adopted her daughter Meiying (a returning Sophia Cai) as he now works for her uncle, Jiuming (Wu Jing).
As in the novel, humanity in all its wisdom has decided that despite the last megalodon rampage, raising one in captivity would be a really good idea. All as they monitor its place of origin in the Trench, a body of deep, prehistoric water separated from our oceans by a cooling layer that theoretically keeps monsters from spilling out on a regular basis.
It never seems to occur to anyone that their captive monster might get angsty and horny, because movies like King Kong or even Blackfish evidently don’t exist in this world. But that’s not their only problem: an evil billionaire (Sienna Guillory) who sips tea while relishing her evilness is looking to mine rare elements from the bottom of the Trench, and if it happens to somehow rip a hole in the cooling lair that unleashes a giant octopus and some dinosaurs, oh well!
In an underwater exploration sequence that would make James Cameron cry, either with laughter or fear for human intelligence, Statham and crew go down to the Trench. Donning diving suits that automatically equalize the pressure everywhere and give the wearer super-strength while not holding remotely enough oxygen to be convenient in an emergency, our heroes find themselves trapped and sabotaged. About two thirds of the movie feels like a sort of underwater Die Hard with circling sharks. Once the action returns to the surface, everyone moves to the efficiently named Fun Island, where partying randos badly need to be rescued from what’s coming.
The Wrong Way of Water
You don’t have to know much science to understand that Meg 2 is blithely ignoring it. The explanation of how Statham can momentarily survive at crushing depths without a diving suit for a minute (maybe he can manage to suck water into his explicitly called-out deviated septum, and thus equalize the pressure inside his head!) is plainly nonsense, with the CG nosebleed that follows serving as a punchline on top of a punchline. Don’t even ask about the air-breathing reptiles who have somehow survived entirely underwater for millennia. It doesn’t matter. If the movie has done its job – and generally, it does – the lack of logic by the end will feel like a feature, not a bug. This is the sort of movie where [minor SPOILER warning] one character merely wears glasses to go undercover as a good guy and removes them forever to unmask their evil.
Alten’s novel featured far more human plot twists; director Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) cares little for this thing you puny humans call “plot.” He remains aware that his primary function is as a shark-wrangler and that it’s the script’s job to facilitate that. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber with Dean Georgaris nonetheless come up with at least one surprisingly fun and funny arc for DJ, who seems to understand, Scream-like, that he’s a character in a shark movie and needs to bone up on the relevant survival rules.
When online commenters disagree with reviewers, they’re prone to saying something like, “I’m not expecting Citizen Kane!” Rest assured, anybody who would expect such in this case should have their sanity questioned. But it might be the metaphorical Citizen Kane of brain-dead, expensively upgraded Syfy channel-style sharksploitation that flatters China.
Until the next one, anyway.