Meg 2: the review
By Charlotte Stone
If you’re looking for a nonsensical, amusingly goofy shark movie, Meg 2: The Trench might be for you – just don’t expect too much substance.
This isn’t much of a fish out of water compared to other shark movies – but then again, there aren’t that many silly man-eater-related shark scenarios to play with (which are, admittedly, a guilty pleasure of mine). Director Ben Wheatley knows exactly what makes shark movies so fun, and sometimes that really is just simple, sheer stupidity.
It’s hard to tell if this movie is trying to take itself seriously or not. In many ways, the sequel to The Meg (2018) relies on common human fears; there’s something big lurking, unseen, at the bottom of the ocean! Let’s mess with it for some reason! It’s easy to prey on people’s fear of the unknown – the idea of a giant prehistoric shark escaping the deep ocean to chase unsuspecting swimmers isn’t exactly a dream for most. Despite the scientific backbone that these films attempt to rest upon, the basic shark plot has to be outlandish and a little bit silly to succeed. Scientific inaccuracies don’t feel as frustrating when the shark has big teeth and the film is funny and self-aware in its cringiness, obviously parodying the classic tropes and character archetypes of its toothy predecessors.
Unfortunately, the titular megalodon (or rather, the multitude of them in this sequel in an attempt to outdo the first film) don’t actually have much bite to them. Despite all of their teeth, the trio of sharks don’t get to use them as much as a self-indulgent shark disaster story should warrant, and are instead forced to sit back while the team of heroes, namely led by Jonas (Jason Statham) and the hilariously idiotic Jiuming (Wu Jing), battle some unfortunately human villains on an illegal mining operation in the trench, losing some less important members of the team along the way.
Somehow, despite the implication that the titular trench is teeming with unexplored landscapes and unidentified deep sea creatures, the team’s snail-pace slow walk across the seafloor is easily the least interesting part of this film, with frustratingly low lighting and murky visuals that make it difficult to even know which minor, insignificant character has been eaten by a creature you can’t even see properly. The promise of biodiversity falls flat, and it’s hard to even enjoy the megalodons themselves when they aren’t allowed as much time to wreak havoc. Jiuming declares that he is capable of training a captive megalodon, which promptly and predictably escapes the facility (laughably easily) and… does nothing.
Let the sharks eat more people, I say!
That is kind of what movies like this are for, because in this form any attempt at social critique or messages of environmental conservation fall flat.
In fact, the movie’s characters does not get to play with the sharks up close and personal that much at all until the second act of the movie, in which the characters arrive at the aptly named Fun Island and are met with an array of threats – not just the trio of megalodons, but a pack of prehistoric creatures (somehow, unexplained), a giant squid or octopus of some sort that plucks tourists out of the water with large, imposing tentacles, and the laughably bad human villains chasing them around to boot. Finally, things kick into gear, but it’s somewhat frustrating to wait until the final hour to thirty minutes to get to a point where the meg and its threatening friends get to actually play their part.
Meg 2: The Trench is laughably surface level, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to indulge in giant shark movies knowing exactly what to expect. We know that Jason Statham’s character will come out on the other side having killed some sharks and being generally sarcastic, and it’s remarkably predictable which characters will survive and which ones will not.
Wheatley knows exactly what film he has directed into existence, but as fun as this self-awareness is, it doesn’t have the charm, heart or imagination to tip this film’s rating upwards.
Still, this movie’s indulgence in its flaws are vastly entertaining. It’s no Jaws, but sitting in the cinema for this is a fun time nonetheless when you know not to expect too much. The art of the perfect shark movie is a fine one, and Meg 2: The Trench fails it in all of the right ways – although it could use a little bit more shark.