“I had an idea for a script once, it’s basically Jaws but when the guys in the boat are going after Jaws, they look around and there’s an even bigger Jaws… I call it Big Jaws”. Peter Griffin pitched that idea in Family Guy and it seems as if someone was listening, only they called it The Meg instead (perhaps a fitting Family Guy reference in itself). The latest Summer blockbuster gives audiences an even bigger threat to fear lurking in the oceans and one colossal reason to never go into the water again.
The monster movie is a popular subgenre to go to for some Summer action and the hypothesis that somewhere in the deepest realms of unexplored ocean, a supersized prehistoric shark could still exist was too tempting a topic not to reel in prospective filmmakers. In the history of the genre, there is no form of pseudo-science or vaguely plausible science fiction that screenwriters haven’t eagerly jumped upon. The Meg is no different in that regard, based on the novel by Steve Alten, the scope of the colossal beast lent itself perfectly to a big screen monster action romp.
The premise is straightforward, following a team of deep ocean explorers who stumble upon the monstrous discovery of a living Megalodon specimen living in the deepest unexplored realms of Pacific Ocean. As they narrowly escape its initial attack, they unintentionally create an escape route for the giant shark out of the localised oceanic climate its confined to and into the open ocean. As expected a world of chaos ensues as they seek to destroy the monster before it creates too much inevitable death and havoc. So in basic terms, once “The Meg’s” been freed, it follows the essential story arc of Jaws.
The film has a strange tone, like any monster movie it toys with sense of humour throughout to break up tension, but the degree it goes with does kind of render the film’s primary tone unclear. It is essentially an action film with some solid horror motifs and yet, it fills its dialogue with so many staid and clichéd action film one liners that it actually ends up feeling more like a poor parody film. It is like watching Jaws if it had been a Syfy film; tonally, it is essentially just a big budget, mainstream Sharknado.
I may have been critical, but there is still undoubtedly some fun to be had in watching this film. It has a few enjoyable moments scattered throughout, and some decent sequences of battle on the open seas occur, but it’s ultimately all just an exercise in forgettability. That’s not an uncommon recipe for a big Summer blast of course; all action with only the basest attempts at heart or soul isn’t new. The writers are only required to go through the motions of character creation and development, rarely extending away from the most basic cartoon templates espousing lines from any of a hundred similar films. Action films can be fun, but crucially also carry heart, relatable characters and engaging dialogue, those factors aren’t mutually exclusive things.
The Meg fulfils a role in the cinematic calendar, that of the Summer popcorn flick, a filler film existing in the space between bigger, (often) better blockbusters. These films exist to offer a brief flirt with fun before being banished by the more serious behemoths of big cinema, and into the easily forgotten ether of generic genre films. Every year, there are a few of these films released, and by the next year they’ll have been pushed out of the memory banks to make room for the next installment of such forgettable cinema. This will kill an hour or two, and maybe a few braincells to boot, but nothing more.