With a budget of $130 000 000(!), The Meg is probably the world’s most expensive watch commercial.
It pretends to be a movie too. It’s about a tough, gruff drunk named Jonas (Jason Statham) who wears watches while bitterly licking his wounds after losing two of his mates during a rescue mission that saved 11. He claims that something very large and unseen crushed a nuclear submarine, but doctors claim he’s crazy. Still, he’s the guy Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Zhang (Winston Chao) call on when only the best will do.
Zhang is the brilliant watch-wearing scientist running a deep underwater research lab, funded by eccentric billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson), who loves watches almost as much as he loves sneakers. Zhang believes that there is more depth to the ocean than even Mariana’s Trench will have you believe – and a sub from their research facility proves him correct as it plunges below what was previously believed to be the bottom of the ocean. There is all sorts of undiscovered life down there (science boner!), including something big enough and antagonistic enough to ground the submarine containing 3 crew members with only their large, expensive watches to keep them company, the fairest of whom is Jonas’s ex-wife. So down he goes.
And then up he comes, but he’s not alone. It seems he’s brought something with him: a megalodon, an enormous shark previously believed to be extinct for millions of years. This time the science-boners are tempered by the fact that this fish (affectionately nicknamed ‘The Meg’) is eating all the people AND their waterproof watches.
Jason Statham is of course the perfect man for the part. His sneer of contempt is so effortless. It’s a quite sturdy cast, on the whole. Bingbing Li plays opposite Statham – not as his ex-wife, but as his future ex-wife. She’s no damsel in distress, though. She is constantly testing the warranty limits on her watch by jumping into wherever danger lurks. Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson round out the possible choice of appetizer for the shark. Kennedy was likely cast for his wonderful wrists, able to hold cups of coffee at such crazy, awkward angles to better show off the stunning watches on display there – even on the outside of his jacket cuffs, if necessary. Ruby Rose nearly drowned on set, and at one point when her character narrowly survives an encounter with the Meg, she hauls herself out of the water, and lays there heaving, her wristwatch posed for maximum admiration by viewers only tangentially concerned with her fate, probably wondering whether it’ll be an heirloom, and if so, who’s getting it in her will.
The Meg takes itself quite seriously while I expected (and maybe wanted) a campier version. One that embraced the cheese factor along with the blatant product placement. But no. And the thing is, The Meg is definitely menacing, but he’s no Jaws. Jaws is much smaller of course, capable of much less damage, but he was a better villain because he almost seemed to make it personal. The Meg is just a monster with a prehistoric brain. He can’t help himself. You could almost dredge up sympathy for the guy. I mean, he doesn’t even have wrists, how’s he going to wear a watch that lets everyone know he’s a man of distinction, a motherfucker to be reckoned with?
The Meg is a bit of dumb fun. Sean thought mostly fun, I thought mostly dumb. And also very overpriced – for that kind of money, everything should look a lot better. But there’s no amount of budget-gloss or gung-ho casting that could hide the flaws of the script, which veers drastically from its source material. I can’t say this movie disappointed me. It sank more than it swam, which is about what I expected from a story picked from the carcass of another, better shark movie.