Culture Watch: The Meg 2

The Trench - new Meg, old chum.

Culture Watch: The Meg 2

I'm always surprised by people who haven't seen The Meg - the 2018 film directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Based on a novel by Steve Alten, The Meg draws heavily on the cinematic legacy of Jaws, the spin being that the danger is a prehistoric megalodon shark that has been unleashed from the deepest depths of the ocean.

Starring Jason Statham, The Meg is classic B-Movie territory but it was made with big studio money (somewhere around USD$150m) and has made plenty of cash at the box office (somewhere around USD$500m).

Produced by Warner Bros., The Meg was a co-production with film production companies in China. That shaped the script and the casting - with leading roles played by Li Bingbing and Winston Chao.

I like the film because it's so over-the-top ridiculous. The script is predictable and doesn't make a lot of sense, but also it doesn't take itself too seriously - this is big-screen entertainment.

I tend to watch it on long-haul flights. It's an easy way to pass the time and it doesn't matter if you fall asleep half-way through it.

The Meg is also a bit of a family favourite - my cousin Nick is a big fan of Jason Statham, and The Meg is a cultural touchpoint for us as a guilty pleasure, something so bad that it's good.

Which is why, on the release of The Meg 2, I joined my cousin Nick and his family for a night out at the cinema.

With a screenplay by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris - the team that wrote the screenplay for the original film - and directed by Ben Wheatley, Jason Statham is back for seconds.

This is also a co-production with money from China, so again, that shapes the script and the casting. We have quite a bit of dialogue in Mandarin and the cast includes Wu Jing and Sophia Cai. It brings an international feel to the whole thing, which works.

Again, the script is drawn from another novel by Steve Alten but let's be honest, the story doesn't make a lot of sense. We're not here for narrative, we're not here for character development - we're here for big-screen big-shark action.

Is it any good? That's probably not a fair question when looking at a film like The Meg 2. This is B-movie action.

My main take-away was that I loved it. It was great to go and see something like this with my family, and we'll be talking about it every time that we get together.

Was it perfect? Not by a long shot. I have some notes.

I'm not quite sure that the production team nailed the pacing of this film. Obviously, it's building to a spectacular showdown at the end, but you need to take the audience on a bit of a rollercoaster to edge them to an adrenaline-fuelled climax. To me, it felt like we didn't get much to be excited about until we got to unleash the monsters onto an unsuspecting public.

Another key factors in this style of movie is to try and hook the audience in with some emotional investment - why should we care about these characters? How do we feel about what these characters are experiencing? The Meg 2 feels a bit like character development by numbers - everything was a bit too simplistic and straightforward.

We were watching a 3D version of the film. I'm not sure if it was just the quality of the screen we were in, or if it's a reflection on the film, but I found the 3D version hard to watch. I think I'd prefer the 2D version.

I wanted the effects to be better. Sure, it's spectacular, but there were some clunky moments and maybe a bit more realism would have helped us with emotional investment.

I can see that it's not easy to decide which "monsters from the deep" to feature. You need something that's interesting but also something that the audience can easily understand. So, this time around, we got more Megs. Cool. We also got a Kraken, fair enough. Then were also some angry lizards that ran around and ate people, sure. The lizards seemed like a stretch - they came out of the deepest part of the ocean and they had functioning legs? And could breathe on land? And weren't sensitive to sunlight? Okay. I don't know, I guess I just wanted something different.

The good news is that the script opens the door to continuing the saga. If this sequel does good enough box-office, we can all look forward to heading back to the cinema for The Meg 3.

Get the popcorn. The movies are back!

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