Meg 2: The Trench review – Jason Statham’s shark movie is a hook, line and stinker of a sequel

Sequel to the blockbuster 2018 film is two thirds boredom, one third aquatic chaos

Clarisse Loughrey
Friday 04 August 2023 15:20 BST
Meg 2: The Trench, trailer

It’s taken the Meg franchise exactly one and three-quarter films to figure out what people actually want from a Meg film. If the pitch reads “Jason Statham versus a prehistoric shark”, then the product should be as chaotically stupid as possible. Surely, it’s not hard to figure out? Yet 2018’s The Meg was overstuffed with po-faced sequences of Statham’s rescue diver Jonas Taylor, and his interchangeable crew of supporting characters, scooting along the ocean floor in tiny submersibles and pressing buttons on walls.

If you’ve bought into the dream of watching Statham do flips on a jet ski, harpoon sea creatures, and say things like “see you later, chum” – all while dressed like the world’s sexiest, angriest fisherman – be warned, there’s another po-faced hour and a half of tiny submersibles and buttons on walls to wade through first. Meg 2: The Trench is enthusiastically married to the idea that you must eat your vegetables before you get your dessert. But, really, it’s too little, too late.

The Trench, like its predecessor, is based on a novel by Steve Alten. There are zero traces of those literary origins in the film’s script, which has the type of dialogue that should never exist outside of a theme park ride. Lots of “now this is happening!”, or “we need to do this to achieve this outcome!” stuff. Jonas, now a part-time eco-warrior, is called back by his old pals, Mac (Cliff Curtis) and DJ (Page Kennedy), to their oceanic research institute. The place is headed up by Jiuming Zhang (Wu Jing), the brother of Jonas’s former love interest, who’s now dead or on vacation or some combination of the two. Her daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), however, is back and as cute as before.

Jiuming seems to think he’s Chris Pratt in Jurassic World and swears the megalodon currently in his captivity is actually his best friend – a theory which comes under the ultimate test when one of their deep-sea expeditions is attacked not only by multiple megalodons but a shady illegal mining operation at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It may be morbid to say this, but the improbable physics of the Meg universe is now even harder to buy, considering the inundation of literature about deep sea implosions that followed the Titanic submersible incident. At one point, Jonas is told to simply “breathe through your sinuses” in order to survive, without any kind of diving gear, 25,000 feet under the ocean.

It’s only when Jonas finally breaches the surface, alongside the megalodons, and heads towards a tourist resort named “Fun Island” that, well, the fun actually begins. And it’s only then that it becomes clear why the film’s surprising choice of director – Ben Wheatley, purveyor of high-concept chaos in the likes of High-Rise and Kill List – would come anywhere close to the project.

A giant squid turns up and starts slapping its tentacles around like it was controlled by Ray Harryhausen (the quality of the CGI suggests a limited budget, but those things are always a little easier to swallow when the tone is deliberately silly). One shot offers a POV inside a shark’s mouth as it chomps on panicked beachgoers. A pack of dog-like, land-walking mini-megalodons scarper across the island like Jurassic Park’s velociraptors. It’s derivative, yes, but not tiresome. If Wheatley were inclined to release Meg 2: The Fun Island Cut, there’d be a lot more here to recommend. As it is, the film’s dead in the water.

Dir: Ben Wheatley. Starring: Jason Statham, Wu Jing, Shuya Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Cliff Curtis. 12A, 116 minutes.

‘Meg 2: The Trench’ is in cinemas

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