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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 02:32 pm

“The Meg’s” Animated Beast its Undoing

One sign of a good salesman is the ability to take something old and sell it as something new.  If you’re able apply a little bit of razzle dazzle, some misdirection and some shiny ribbon per se to make the consumer think that they’ve never seen what’s being peddled before, instill a sense of urgency that they damn well better jump on board and buy this new thing RIGHT NOW and before you know it, you’ve unloaded a ton of potato peelers that have been taking up space in a warehouse

Based on the results of the box office for the first weekend of The Meg – nearly 150 million in international dollars over its first three days – it would be safe to say that director Jon Turteltaub is a hell of a salesman.  Nothing more than a “Jaws” retread on steroids, the movie benefitted from a strong advertisement strategy, the presence of international action guy Jason Statham and…well, really who doesn’t like to see people munched on by sharks?

The Meg comes up for a quick bite.
Courtesy Warner Brothers

Based on the principal that bigger is better, the shark in this adaptation of Steve Alten’s best-selling novel is no mere Great White, but a prehistoric Megalodon, a 70-foot killing machine that’s survived undisturbed in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.  Of course, some intrepid scientists go mucking about in this newly discovered abyss and conveniently show this deep sea death machine to the surface where a whole new menu of surf and turf awaits to be devoured.

On board to play part in the game of “Who’s going to be eaten next?” is expert sea diver Jonas Taylor (Statham), marine biologist Suyin (Bingbing Li), the money behind the project Morris (Rainn Wilson), navigator chick Jaxx (Ruby Rose) and a bevy of other actors and actresses whose names you won’t recognize which means they more than likely will be served up as a appetizer or entrée.

Dinner is served in The Meg.
Courtesy Warner Brothers

There’s nothing new as far as the story is concerned, as it blatantly rips off Jaws (or is that pays homage to?) on a least four occasions, and overstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes, clocking in at nearly two hours.  The cast does a fine job hitting their marks, saying their lines and looking distressed or heroic as the case may be while most of them look really good when wet.

More than anything, the most obvious and damning difference between The Meg and Spielberg’s classic lies in their respective sharks. For all the mechanical issues the beast in Jaws presented, the tangible nature of a true-to-life model added a weight to the terror once he made his ultimate appearance.  Only on screen a total of six minutes, that shark, while obviously fake in some shots, had a presence about him that was hard to shake, much of it due to the director’s ability to suggest much of the danger it was capable of instead of showing it. Quite simply because it was a tangible thing, it was scary. The beast in The Meg is computer-generated and as such, never poses a true threat.  We’re well aware that Statham and the cast are reacting to a green screen and as such, there’s no palpable sense of danger or suspense.  As such, the film comes off as more of a cartoon rather than a realistic adventure.

The Meg has little in the way of bite to it and though audiences don’t seem to mind, I doubt we’ll be watching this film some 40 years in the future as we do a certain other shark movie.   



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