Given the title of this blog, and my ongoing obsession with Jaws, I was always going to give this latest shark-fest an outing. Let me count the ways in which the two are not alike. Jaws isn’t really about the shark – it’s really about three aspects of masculinity (the family man, the macho hunter, the nerd – all cinematic versions of maleness are some Venn diagram of these three). Meg is all about the shark. Jaws is essentially a horror movie. Meg is an action movie. Jaws has fine acting and quotable dialogue. Meg doesn’t.
But, we could have all guessed that. The Meg pays enough homage to Jaws with direct references to Pippin, the Kintner boy and the beach panic scene. It’s fundamental problem is the second of my differences above. At some point, maybe it was after Deep Blue Sea, shark movies shifted genre from horror and became comedy-action flicks. This trend reached its apotheosis (or nadir) with Sharknado. This is an insult to sharks because they are fucking terrifying and we shouldn’t stop seeing them that way (they’re also beautiful and graceful). In Jaws, when someone falls overboard, it is terrifying because of the unseeable depths below them. In the Meg if someone falls overboard there is tension comparable to seeing a toddler running. They might fall over, it’s a bit tense but ultimately harmless. This is a long way from the mortal dread you feel when Chrissie Watkins enters the water in Jaws.
In monster movies, there are usually three clear acts – the set up, the killing spree, the final confrontation. The set up is usually the best of these, and so it is with The Meg. The blah blah science bit about a layer beneath the Mariana Trench is nonsense, but believable enough in Hollywood terms. I always thrilled at lost world type movies as a child, (Journey to the Center of the Earth!), but as every inch of earth is mapped, this becomes impossible in the modern context. So the bottom of the ocean is the last place left for such a world. But given that they can’t exactly get out and walk around at those depths, the possibilities for exploring this opportunity are limited. From here on acts 2 and 3 play out predictably, with not even a cool death to recommend them.
It’s not an absolute stinker, but do yourself a favour, just watch Jaws again.