THE STORY – Jonas Taylor leads a research team on an exploratory dive into the deepest depths of the ocean. Their voyage spirals into chaos when a malevolent mining operation threatens their mission and forces them into a high-stakes battle for survival. Pitted against colossal, prehistoric sharks and relentless environmental plunderers, they must outrun, outsmart and outswim their merciless predators.
THE CAST – Jason Statham, Wu Jing, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels & Cliff Curtis
THE TEAM – Ben Wheatley (Director), Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber & Dean Georgaris (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes
“This is some dumb ass shit, mark my words,” says Page Kennedy, who returns as DJ in the sequel to the 2018 hit monster action movie “The Meg” with “Meg 2: The Trench.” Such a statement could not be closer to the truth as “Meg 2: The Trench” doubles down on the B-movie absurdity of the first film to deliver a primarily dumb, sometimes fun summer movie depending on your expectations. In the famous AMC ad, Nicole Kidman tells the moviegoing audience, “We come to this place for magic.” Well, sometimes audiences also come to the theater to watch action movie star Jason Statham fight a massive 75-foot-long megalodon shark, otherwise known as “the meg.” And eventually, after many lackluster set pieces without the giant white shark, “Meg 2: The Trench” delivers on this promise, but it sometimes feels like a long, arduous trek across the ocean-level floor to get there.
Diver, deep sea rescuer, and environmentalist Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) returns to lead a research team alongside the previously mentioned DJ, his friend James “Mac” Mackreides (Cliff Curtis), his surrogate daughter Meiying Zhang (Sophia Cai) and her uncle Jiuming (Wu Jing). They’re on a mission to dive beneath the ocean’s sea level to explore the deepest depths and mysterious ecosystems below. Of course, everything goes wrong when they discover a malicious mining operation (led by Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and three megs circling the seas, stalking them as prey. When their vehicles fail, and they find themselves on the ocean floor, 25,000 feet underwater, with 3 kilometers to walk until they get to the nearest safe station to regroup and make their way to the surface (oh, and they only have 2 hours of oxygen to do it) their race for survival begins.
From its 65 million years ago prologue to the present, where we’re re-introduced to Jonas doing pull-ups to the sound of Queen’s “Under Pressure” (because when he’s underwater later, he’ll be….under pressure, get it?), Ben Wheatley’s silly sequel is constantly giving audiences reasons to log their brains off and lose interest. Audiences are coming to see Jason Statham battle the Meg (or, in this case, megs). Still, the film fails to deliver on this for most of its runtime as it spends too much time introducing new cast members and having our heroes contend with other monsters on land and sea before Wheatley finally gives the bloodthirsty audience the man-eating carnage and destruction they’re craving in the film’s over the top third act.
Throughout the film, there is always an explanation for every ridiculous premise; there is a solution for every problem, no matter how incomprehensible, and it renders the stakes utterly meaningless as the film keeps its body count relatively low, failing to deliver much in the way of innovative thrills or exciting action set pieces. And perhaps that’s the most disappointing aspect of all. When you have a filmmaker as versatile as Wheatley, who has given us creative films such as “Kill List,” “High-Rise,” and “In The Earth,” a certain level of expectation comes along with that. Unfortunately, there’s no ingenuity on display, no rushes of adrenaline, and the fact that the film is rated PG-13 holds it back from providing more bite (and gore) from its vicious creatures.
Jason Statham delivers the same Jason Statham performance we’ve seen many times before. None of the cast members are particularly memorable or likable, mainly because they don’t feel relatable enough as they’re caught up in these highly dangerous circumstances. The previously mentioned lack of stakes certainly doesn’t help either; neither does the cheesy writing and dull performances where it’s clear everyone is cashing in on a paycheck. There’s an attempt to blend action and comedy, for less we forget, this is meant to be a fun, light piece of entertainment (the film’s climatic third act even takes place on a tropical island called “Fun Island”). Still, most of the humor comes unintentionally through preposterous moments designed to make Statham appear cool to the audience without any meaning or emotion behind it. When he’s asked to be more subtle and nurturing towards Meiying (an odd dynamic considering his bond with her seems to be stronger than her relationship with her uncle), it only highlights Statham’s limitations as an actor. He still delivers the goods when asked to perform the hand-to-hand fight choreography, even at 56 years old. It’s just a shame that most of the fight scenes are shot primarily in close-ups and, once again, always feel one-sided in Statham’s favor with little to no consequences.
“Meg 2: The Trench” is marketing itself as a bigger, meaner, and more entertaining film than “The Meg.” The 2018 film wasn’t all that terrific, to begin with, but at least it left the inevitable sequel open room for improvement if a talented enough director came on board to liven up the premise and give it something more for genre fans to enjoy sadistically. Having Ben Wheatley at the helm inspired some early confidence this would be the case, but it turns out to be much like for the main characters in the film, one problem after another. This ludicrous attempt to provide audiences with giant monster entertainment was never going to be “Jaws,” but it’s not even as enjoyable as something like the eye-rolling guilty pleasure that is “Deep Blue Sea.” It’s something worse, more akin to “Jaws: The Revenge,” and as such, it deserves to be cast down to the bottom of the ocean for the sea creatures to munch down on.