For a film that sold itself on the premise of action staple Jason Statham facing off against a giant, prehistoric shark – and grossed over $500 million globally in the process – it was a particular let-down that 2018’s The Meg had, well, very little of Statham v shark to speak of. A creature feature where the cheese should have been thicker and the pleasure far more guilty, Jon Turteltaub’s actioner failed to take advantage of its premise.
But in an industry where money talks, Statham’s penchant for giant shark battles has been revisited for Meg 2: The Trench where Turteltaub has been bizarrely replaced by British filmmaker Ben Wheatley. Now, I say bizarrely because Wheatley, thus far, has delighted in more psychologically damaging films, ones that oft incorporate darkly black comedy, and though something like Meg 2 would indeed benefit from an injection of dark humour, the man behind such efforts as Kill List, Free Fire and Happy New Year, Colin Burnstead doesn’t scream “book me for a killer shark movie!”
Whatever the cause for Wheatley agreeing to helm Meg 2, he’s at least aware that what he is making isn’t particularly good – the script from Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber and Dean Georgaris leaves A LOT to be desired – and it’s that self awareness that helps the film survive its far too generous running time of 116 minutes. Working with a story that’s too convoluted for its own good – do we really need much exposition when it comes to a giant shark movie? – Meg 2 welcomes Statham’s resourceful Jonas Taylor back to the fray with an introductory action sequence that feels like it could be lifted from any of the action star’s catalogue.
Despite the fact that too many of his co-stars survived the last film – another of its sins was not making chum of its expansive ensemble – Cliff Curtis and Page Kennedy are the only two returning actors on board here, but it’s perfectly acceptable if you don’t remember them because Meg 2 pretty much serves as a standalone feature. All you really need to know is that the trio are part of a research team on an exploratory dive to uncover the secrets hidden at the depths of the ocean, and the sub-titular trench is an untapped barrier of sorts that, once penetrated, welcomes a hoard of colossal Megs – Megalodons for the uninitiated – to the surface where they wreak havoc.
If only it were that quick and simple though. Seemingly not learning from the mistake of its predecessor, Meg 2 sidelines its biggest enticement for the majority of its running time, with the first 2/3rds of Wheatley’s horror-wannabe actioner dedicated to Statham and a crew of interchangeable victims-in-waiting walking the ocean floor in enhanced suits when their explore pods are compromised. There’s sabotage from the heads up above – it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out who the scene-chewing villain proves to be – and we are briefly privy to the fact that there’s a giant octopus also to contend with, but it ultimately all just proves as ridiculous fodder for the film’s true pièce de résistance; its bonkers last hour.
Fusing together both its giant sharks and octopi, as well as gun-toting terrorist archetypes, and dinosaurs – because, why not!?!? – Meg 2 truly comes alive in its closing third as it throws caution to the wind, jumps itself, and embraces the batshit lunacy of its premise with a clear wink in its eye; it’s just a shame it took too long to get there. As the Megs move in on an island resort where guests don’t move fast enough out of harm’s way – i.e. the mouth of a giant shark (points for Wheatley for adding in a POV shot from the inside of said shark’s mouth) – Statham arms himself to take on the sharks with little more than pluck, spears and a jetski, resulting in true “money shot” cinema that speaks to Wheatley’s knowingness of what type of film he’s truly making.
By no means is Meg 2: The Trench a good movie. But it seems to know this, and if audiences are prepared to surrender to the lunacy, there’s potential fun to be had with a very obvious C-grade creature feature; you just have to sit through far too much unnecessary “plot” to get to it.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Meg 2: The Trench is now screening in Australian theatres.