The Meg is the The Greatest Movie Of All Time... for about three minutes
This is a movie about Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. What did you expect?
It seems like a simple question, with a simple answer.
Which is why it is disappointing to report that the simple answer never quite arrives the way you'd hope or expect in The Meg.
This should have been an open goal. Look at the pitch again: Jason Statham fighting a giant shark.
That seems like an open goal, but the only person who seems to be aware of that fact is Jason Statham himself, who is clearly having a ball here.
Everyone else - from the supporting cast, to the screenwriter, to the director - can't seem to decide if they're making Jaws (deadly serious horror movie), or if they're making Deep Blue Sea (tongue-in-cheek trashy entertainment).
That probably comes down to the fact that the movie cost $150 million to produce, before a single poster was designed, or a single trailer was posted, and there is a limit to the kind of movie you can make with that kind of price-tag.
For one, the potential audience needs to be as wide as possible, which means allowing teenagers and families in to see it, which means the violence and profanity levels need to be scaled back. And when you're making a movie about a giant, prehistoric shark, violence and profanity are exactly what you need. You need someone to be screaming "FUCK ME, THAT IS A GIANT FUCKING SHARK!" as it bites someone in half and their guts go all over the place.
Instead, most of the violence is off-screen, or sudden and entirely blood-free, as the shark's mouth is so big that it has a tendency to swallow people whole with a single bite being taken.
And the extent of the profanity, to our memory, is Statham using the word "Bastard" once. Come on, guys - a 12a cert entitles you to one "fuck", and this is a big fucking shark!
Clip via Zero Media
It does seem in the beginning that maybe they know what kind of movie they're making, when Statham's deep sea diver saves a group of submariners from an off-screen threat (clue: it was a giant shark), but is then labelled a crazy person. Years later, he is called out of forced-retirement when his ex-wife is one of a new group of submariners, this time stuck at the bottom of a newly discovered section of the bottom of the ocean, after she is attacked by an off-screen threat (clue: it was a giant shark).
There's a hugely expensive underwater facility, giving a subaquatic Jurassic Shark Park vibe, that is owned by eccentric billionaire Rainn Wilson, and an international cast of characters who are all down there... because... science?
None of it really matters (which is good, because none of it holds up to the scrutiny of a single question being asked about any of it), it is all there as big budget wallpaper to get Jason Statham and the giant shark in the same big body of water... which is why it is shocking it takes so long to get us there.
We came here to see Statham punch a shark, so blue-balling us with Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age Of Extinction) in a shark-cage when it should very clearly be Statham in that shark-cage doesn't do us or them any favours.
Cliff Curtis (Die Hard 4.0) and Ruby Rose (John Wick Chapter 2) and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Lady Dynamite) are all taking the whole thing way too seriously, even when delivering fantastically awful dialogue like "We already know that the shark acts aggressively towards boats".
They keep coming up with ideas involving helicopters and dynamite and backup plans and distractions and the entire time the audience is almost vibrating out of frustration, psychically screaming at the screen "JUST PUT STATHAM IN THE WATER ALREADY!"
And when it does finally happen, when The Stath gets out of the subs and is forced to become the blockbuster hero we know he was meant to be all this time... it is finally worth it. Which isn't to say the film is bad. It isn't. It is entertaining, sometimes intentionally so.
But for three minutes, The Meg fully realises the potential of being The Greatest Movie Of All Time, and there are just another 110 minutes of a film wrapped around it when it very much is not.
The Meg is in cinemas from Friday 10 August.