The opening scene to this did not fill me with hope; Statham’s accent was off, we saw an action scene that wasn’t that great, and the character dynamics were a bit meh. It was at this point I worried, that I’d watch something just dumb, instead of dumb fun. As the film went on, I warmed to it, even at some points being able to tolerate Statham’s accent (why they couldn’t let him do a natural one is beyond me). It isn’t anywhere near as dumb as I expected it to be. I mean, if you think about it for a few minutes there are numerous scientific inaccuracies throughout, but the point is you have to think about it. They don’t immediately jump out at you. It’s fun enough, and well-crafted enough, that you don’t really notice any flaws or problems with it. Yeah sure, once you’ve finished you will have lots of “wait a minute, that didn’t make sense”, but in the moment you don’t care as you’re too entertained. Jon Turteltaub (who also gave the world the best bobsled-themed movie of all time in Cool Runnings, and also gave us the pilot episode of Rush Hour, which I didn’t even realise had a TV show based on it) knows what to do; he is great at showing scale. It would be very easy to forget how big the titular Meg is, to just show a plain shot of it with nothing else in frame to give an indicator, he doesn’t do this; every time the shark is on screen, you’ve given a reminder of how absolutely massive it is. It’s spectacle cinema, but in a different way than Skyscraper was. Skyscraper was about set pieces, this is about creating something larger than life, and I haven’t seen it done this well since Kong: Skull Island. It helps that the CGI holds up REALLY well in this film, there’s not many moments where you sit there thinking “that looks fake as shit”, although you do wonder how a movie featuring a giant shark can look more real than a scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming where two characters have a conversation.
It’s also funny as hell. With the right kind of jokes. You don’t have people get brutally killed then characters making jokes about it, the jokes are contextual and relevant, which is a welcome change.
I’ve spent most of this film gushing over how likeable and fun I found this. I suppose to be balanced I should talk about the bad things. That cast……are actually good. Ruby Rose continues to be incredibly likeable in almost everything she does. Hmmm, okay so I can’t go for that as a negative. Okay, the obvious pandering to the Chinese market…..wasn’t that big an issue. They had good narrative reasons for a lot of it so it wasn’t as jarring as it was in Independence Day. Damn, have to go with something else. The romance….actually kind of worked. Jason Statham’s character is joined by his ex-wife on the trip, so I expected it to go the traditional way and have them get back together. But nope, he ends up with another character, (played by Li Bingbing) joining her and her child. Okay that’s it; the child actor……wasn’t terrible and provided the film with a lot of emotion and heart, wasn’t distractingly awful, and her decisions didn’t render her a useless load on the rest of the characters. This was helped by both her performance, and good writing. Gosh darn it! Going to have to go with something else. The restrictions placed upon it by the rating? Actually that would be a valid criticism. It keeps threatening to be gorier than it is, and it would be a lot more satisfying if we could see more blood. This needs gore, we need to see destruction and lots of people eaten and we don’t get that. There’s a scene in particular near the end where the shark heads towards a crowded beach. The film builds up a brilliant scene full of carnage and fantastic set pieces, which we then don’t get as it pulls away at the last second. The film gives the audience an over-the-pants handjob when it really needs to fuck us.
And that’s where I’m ending this. Next weeks reviews will be The Festival and The Equalizer 2, where I’ll spend most of the review trying not to call it “The Sequalizer”, and probably failing.