Yikes! This sequel to 2018 hit The Meg went from a much anticipated guilty pleasure tent-pole summer release to an abrupt also-ran when press screenings were abandoned and a risible 28 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes emerged. That hasn’t stopped a good few hardy souls from turning out to see Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of book two of a six book sequence by author Steve Alten, first published over twenty years ago, although as with the first film, it’s the wild performance of this shark-stew in the lucrative Chinese market that makes the difference between a hit and a flop. Cultural differences are one thing, but despite the gulf between Western and Eastern cultures, the idea of seeing Jason Statham fighting cheesy sea monsters seems to be a staple, shared obsession around the world. So lets get our prehensile tentacles mashed by the spinning rotor blades of The Meg 2: The Trench…
Despite the involvement of Wheatley, who took over when the first film’s equally anonymous director Jon Turteltaub left the project, there’s none of Wheatley’s folk-horror trademarks here; this is written by committee stuff. We start 65 million years ago with that ancient gag about one creature getting eaten by another and another until… Meg 2’s disturbed trench releases a whole new toy range of aquatic beasties and we skip forward to the present day and Statham in his element with some talking parrot-related comedy in the Philippines. Jonas Taylor (Statham) is now a ‘green James Bond’, pretending to work for the ‘home office’ while taking down pesky ocean polluters. We know Taylor is a good guy because when we hear people taking about him, they say, ‘Wherever he goes, people just love him, god knows why.’ This kind of audience-leading margin note, following hard on last weekend’s laugh-track in Kandahar (‘I like him, he’s good!’) feels like the nadir of lazy writing; how about creating actual scenes or dialogue that might lead viewers to the same conclusion about our heroes?
Anyway, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that a franchise dedicated to the idea of shark jumping should jump the shark of credulity at the first possible opportunity. The Trench has a mix of po-faced exo-suited scientists, a giant Sidney Powell-like Kraken to release, and some velociraptor-lite menaces to spice up the stuttering backstory before Jonas finally confronts his own whale with an airplane propeller for a spear. ‘It’s a Meg and you’re a snack,’ is about the most profound line of dialogue on offer here, although ‘There’s no telemetry’ works too when it comes to laughable tech-talk. Despite such infelicities, Meg 2: The Trench is remarkably dull with it’s diligent, desperate servicing of its Chinese audience and Comic-Con fanboys , with yet another dust-off for the ‘They’re not action figures, they’re figurines’ line that was old hat in Die Hard 4 back in 2007.
Things finally jump up a notch when we get to hedonistic tourist resort Fun Island, where The Meg 2 finally remembers a few of the moves featured in the film it’s a sequel to. So we abandon the tedious underwater race-and-chase exploring in favour of helicopter shots of beaches of tourists captured in carefree cavorting with little notion a deadly giant squid is incoming. From morals about respecting your family to cute dogs to be rescued, Meg 2 is lowest common denominator stuff for international audiences, although the absurdity does sometimes rock the needle; Statham kicking an adversary into the path of an incoming megladon is admittedly a cool visual. So Meg 2 has a few choice moments, even if it’s just a bland re-tread of an original that wasn’t exactly fresh from the get-go; these silly shark shenanigans are more Deep Blue Sea than Jaws.