It’s summer! Time for yet another shark movie! Nobody can re-do “Jaws,” although every shark movie since that 1975 classic has been basically a “Jaws” sequel. The ripple effect was prodigious. I’ve never gone in the ocean since. That stupid rubber shark looked very scary in ’75.
But, of course, you’ve got to have continually bigger-faster-scarier if you’re not going to go the over-the-top “Sharknado” route, and so they’ve resurrected the prehistoric Carcharodon megalodon, the 70-foot behemoth shark ancestor of Bruce. Bruce is the name of the rubber shark from “Jaws.” Actually, this may be the second or third megalodon-utilizing, “Jaws”-inspired, summer foolishness.
But this granddaddy of Bruce is not rubber; he’s CGI, and therefore much more realistic, but unfortunately much less scary. That’s sad. It’s almost half a century later, and all China can come up with is this lame-o offering? Yes, it’s all China’s fault. More on that later.
The Mariana Trench used to be the deepest point in the ocean. But not anymore, because scientists have found a new, improved, deeper trench, underneath the Mariana, covered by a layer of, ahem, hydrogen sulfide, where there’s a whole new deep-deep-deep ocean with prehistoric life in it.
So, there’s this unscrupulous billionaire named Jack Morris (a smarmy, lightweight Rainn Wilson) who’s funded a research station called Mana One. Where is it? Well, as mentioned (I’m going to say it a few times), this is a Chinese-funded movie, so Mana One is near China, somewhere in the Pacific. Fine. Just as long as it’s not near Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. China can go ahead and keep the Meg down near them. Along with any sequels they might have in mind.
So, some Mana scientists have gone way down there, to the bottom of the ocean, to see what they can see. That is, not “47 Meters Down” (last summer’s shark movie), but 11,000 meters down.
There are two infinitely geeky scientists aboard a wee submersible: a Chinese dude and a big, bearded Norwegian-American, by the looks of him. And also Lori, a beautiful blond scientist (Jessica McNamee). Which one of them do you think will end up volunteering to be the martyr and save everyone? In this Chinese-manufactured movie?
Bring in the Hero
Where do retired or washed up manly-men hang out in adventure movies? That’s correct; they’re always drinking in Tiki bars, wearing Hawaiian shirts, with three-day stubble. No exception here. Ex-deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) chain-drinks his beers in Thailand. Statham sports the requisite permanent three-day stubble, which I believe he was born with, so it’s good casting.
What’s very interesting is that although he’s been drinking in bars for years since he retired from the deep-sea rescue business (after having made a decision—down in that self-same Mariana Trench—to save half a crew while sacrificing the other half (who weren’t going to make it anyway), what’s very interesting is that he’s still super-buff. Like, considerably buffer than Jason Statham normally is.
So anyway, when some kind of monstrous beastie—in the trench under the trench—has caused all the science plans to go kaflooey, who ya gonna call? Meg-buster. With his three-day stubble and ridiculous abs.
Who’s in Charge?
That would be Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao), the Chinese boss of Mana One. Also his comely, demure daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li), an oceanographer. Well, what else would she be?
But even though she’s very demure, Suyin feels a deep need to peep into Jonas’s bedroom window a couple times for a lingering look at his fascinating abs, before blushing and withdrawing. This is where China’s hidden Confucian past reveals itself. Were she an American oceanographer, it would be the audience that would be blushing.
But wait! Who’s really in charge in a 70-foot-shark movie? You know what the name of the book was that they made this movie from? “MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror.” Yessss. Awesome.
Okay That’s Enough Plot Already
What can be said that is positive? Well, Mr. Statham has some cute scenes with the precocious little Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), daughter of the blushing Suyin. You can tell Statham’ll be a good dad, like most alpha males when they finally rescind their freedom.
Mostly, though, you’ve got mega-fins cutting through the water, headed for Chinese beaches, which are revelatory: If you think Jones Beach, Folly Beach, or Daytona Beach is crowded, well, you haven’t seen crowded yet.
“The Meg” basically copies a lot of “Jaws” scenes, but with only one hundredth of the tension of the classic. That said, it’s not the worst time-waster you could go waste your time on.
So, I’ll say it again: Like with this summer’s “Skyscraper” before it, this American movie’s got China’s fingerprints all over it—Chinese leads, Mandarin everywhere with subtitles, Chinese beaches, Chinese skyscrapers with giant Chinese characters on them, the Chinese scientist heroically sacrificing himself, and even a Chinese rendition of Toni Basil’s mega-hit “Mickey.”
China’s not really interested in backing good American movies, or even in making money (you need good movies to do that). Allow me to quote myself: “With China’s notorious record of human rights abuses, its known thievery of Western technology via a vast spy network, and its being long acknowledged for its dismal ranking in environmental pollution, they’ve got an image badly in need of whitewashing.” China’s really only interested in infiltrating America. In this case, with a giant shark.
You know, Harley-Davidson may end up getting boycotted by its (until-now) rabidly loyal fan base, who supported HD’s American-made credo. If China keeps trying to whitewash its image by sprinkling loads of Chinese cheesiness into American films (not to mention making generally subpar movies), once the American public wakes up to this, made-in-China movies might end up getting boycotted too.
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Shuya Sophia Cai, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 10
Rated 2.5 stars out of 5