Meg 2: The Trench is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
Aside from pioneering the modern blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws has inspired a spectrum of shark movies, none of which hold a candle to their muse. The Meg was no Jaws, but it had enough self-awareness to be reliably fun, whether genuinely or ironically. Meg 2: The Trench is an incoherent mess of unbearable length. Never mind the bottom of a trench; this film should be sealed in Davy Jones’ Locker.
Based on the books by Steve Alten, Jason Statham returns as Jonas Taylor, who has now changed careers from a rescue diver to an eco-friendly James Bond. Now a guardian to a teenage Meiying, whose mother unceremoniously died between films, Jonas reunites with Mac (Cliff Curtis) and DJ (Page Kennedy), as well as Meiying’s uncle Jiuming (Wu Jing). Together, they have established an oceanic lab for exploring the Mariana Trench, where the massive prehistoric shark species Megalodon dwells. But, during their exploration, Jonas and team uncover a conspiracy by a greedy mining corporation, who want to use the trench’s precious resources for profit, the environment be damned.
Megalodon was the biggest shark that ever lived, making it attractive even among the most fanatic of shark enthusiasts. Between each Meg film’s release, we’ve learned considerably more about this awesome creature. This includes, among others, the calculation of its maximum body length, nursery habitats along coastlines, and a full 3D model created from the only known spinal column of this animal to have been preserved, which further calculated the creature’s swim speeds and calorie intakes. Humble brag, but this critic’s brother, Jack Cooper, conducted some of this research. The Meg movies hardly dabble in accuracy – it opens with the shark eating a T-Rex despite the two species never interacting – but entertainment doesn’t have to strictly abide by the laws of science. I say this for Meg 2 isn’t bad because it’s scientifically flimsy, although it is. It’s terrible because it’s dull as dishwater and fundamentally uninterested in its creature.
As daft as The Meg was, it was still first and foremost about Megalodon and how its survival challenged the protagonist. Meg 2: The Trench is a poorly assembled action movie where the giant sharks barely make a bite in the narrative. If the Megalodon was removed from the picture, it would make little, if any, difference. The story is primarily concerned with fighting terroristic elites who want to plunder mother nature for financial gain. The sharks aren’t relevant – they’re just present and occasionally a nuisance. Had the film properly integrated Megalodon, its main drawing point, into the story, it could’ve been a unique take on environmentalism, specifically shark conservation or how we demonise certain animals. Given his rehabilitation into an eco-warrior, such a take would’ve done wonders for Jonas’ character arc. Instead, the film opts to be an underwater Die Hard, trading in its shark-based hook for redundant corporate malignance.
It’s a hackneyed story with caricatured antagonists worthy of a pantomime, conveyor belt predictable plot points, and protagonists so adamant about showing off how macho they are that it’s embarrassing to watch. It’s a cacophony of irritating quips, childish humour, and generic action movie beats of evil capitalists versus lone hero archetypes. Specific imagery and narrative elements feel derivative not of Jaws but of lesser shark pictures like Jaws 2, Jaws 3D, and even Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. It might’ve passed for enjoyably bad, but the film conducts itself so seriously with so little enthusiasm for its central shark that it quickly grows tiresome. The disorientating editing of rapid cuts and shaky cam, alongside the ugly CGI, doesn’t provide us with visual compensation for this grating assault on our senses. One would doze off at the sheer ineptitude if they weren’t begging for the shark just to eat someone already.
Meg 2 attempts to share themes of environmentalism, but much of the third act features Jonas killing Megalodon and other animals rather than the corporate villains threatening their shared planet. It’s true that we’re all here to watch Jason Statham punch a giant shark, but it feels disingenuous to emphasise the importance of environmentalism while the protagonist brutally murders what are likely near-extinct creatures. There’s a lack of sincerity to the thematic aims or craftsmanship that’s so unrecognisable from director Ben Wheatley’s usual off-kilter style that it honestly saddens more than it angers. The soulless creative bankruptcy runs as deep as its titular trench.
Occasionally the carcass of its predecessor’s charm bobs to the surface. Statham does his best, and his chemistry with young Sophia Chai has an earnestness that belongs in a better film. During the climax, Meg 2: The Trench embraces some of the cartoonish absurdity that made the original a joy. A sequence involving a jet ski and exploding harpoons is a particular highlight. But it’s still spliced in with irrelevant white noise. These entertaining moments are few and so painfully far between that the ticking of your watch is preferable to what’s on screen.
Early into Meg 2, the character of DJ says the line, “This is some dumbass shit”. Concerning this film, that’s putting it mildly. Meg 2: The Trench is a torturously disappointing spectacle, an incurious two-hour omnishambles. Drab in presentation and narratively shallow to boot, it joins the ranks of Assassin Club and The Super Mario Bros among the year’s worst films. More akin to chum than its ferocious prehistoric namesake, it’s charmless, creatively hollow, and utterly ludicrous in a way that isn’t fun. Extinction was a kinder fate to Megalodon than this megalo-dung of a film.
Meg 2: The Trench is a torturously disappointing spectacle, an incurious two-hour omnishambles. Drab in presentation and narratively shallow to boot, it joins the ranks of Assassin Club and The Super Mario Bros among the year’s worst films.