Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is the quintessential shark movie. It was responsible for turning those aquatic beings into one of the most notorious movie monsters and for starting the whole concept of blockbusters in American cinema. Naturally, numerous sequels to Jaws were made, and many other films tried to capitalize on the topic and its success, but they all failed. In my opinion, it wasn’t until Deep Blue Sea that this horror sub-genre got some mainstream attention as it was taken into sci-fi territory. Films like Open Water, The Shallows, and 47 Meters Down kept things fairly realistic while the Sharknado and Mega Shark franchises went in a, let’s say, different direction. The Meg seemed like the natural extension of these two takes on the shark phenomenon. However, its unwillingness to truly commit to the bonkers nature of its premise kept it from being an all-timer. Meg 2: The Trench fares far better than its predecessor!
How many of you knew that the narrative of The Meg has been adapted from Steve Alten’s book? I didn’t. How many of you know that Meg 2: The Trench is based on the sequel to that book by Alten? I didn’t. Okay, how many of you know that Meg 2 is directed by Ben Wheatley, i.e., the man behind Kill List, A Field in England, and Free Fire? Yes, that Ben Wheatley. I remember reading about it, but it’s such an unbelievable collaboration that my mind chooses to forget all about it. When I bought the ticket, embarked on my journey to the theater, and took my seat to watch the film, the thought that I was about to witness a Ben Wheatley movie didn’t cross my mind. Anyway, the film opens with Jonas Taylor doing some high-octane espionage work to expose those who are putting toxic waste into the seas. That particular aspect seems to be a basic re-introduction to the character and not at all relevant to the plot, especially because the narrative becomes about the training of a megalodon pup, Haiqi, and the exploration of the titular trench. However, after spending a few minutes in uncharted territory, it becomes clear that Taylor and his friends are about to face the consequences of their pro-environmental adventures. And, yes, there are megalodons involved as well.
I don’t think you have to be a scientist to figure out that Meg 2: The Trench is talking about how humans always mess with the seas and the oceans and then cry as they face the consequences of their actions. It’s not that deep (pun totally intended). We have seen it recently on the big screen in Avatar 2: The Way of the Water and in real life, thanks to OceanGate. So, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris’ writing runs the danger of being shrugged off as something really derivative or surface-level (this pun isn’t intentional). But I appreciate the fact that, after establishing what the movie is all about, they focus on the characters and their interactions with each other. Hence, even if it’s obvious who is going to die first and who is not going to die under any circumstances, I am rooting for them to accomplish their objective. And since you are rooting for them, you start to hate the villains, as their motivations begin to feel unnecessarily mean and obtuse. It’s not Oscar-worthy work. It is serviceable, and in a movie about gigantic sharks, I will consider that to be a massive plus point.
In addition to that, the thing about the first act of Meg 2 that made me sit upright is the underwater walking sequence because it is reminiscent of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Underwater. I know that everyone is aware of 20,000 Leagues because it is a classic, but I am pretty sure that a lot of you are not aware of Underwater, and you need to rectify that mistake. That Kristen Stewart-led film has the crew of a drilling facility walk across the seabed while being hounded by unknown creatures from the deep. It has mech suits, low lighting, and tons of tension. Ben Wheatley and his team of talented artists do a good job of doing something similar, and I am not kidding you; it’s exhilarating. Although the whole movie is chock full of CGI and VFX-heavy moments, which are executed by those departments to perfection, it’s during that whole underwater trench run where their expertise truly shines. Those iguana-like beasts are probably more horrifying than the sharks because, with the sharks, it’s a one-bite-and-you-are-dead deal. However, the spawns of Satan will torture you until you are begging for your death, and that’s gruesome.
As mentioned before, one of my biggest issues with The Meg is its inconsistency, as the first hour of the film is vastly different from its second half. I would be lying if I said that that is completely fixed in Meg 2: The Trench, but it is certainly an improvement, and the biggest reason behind it is the way Ben Wheatley crafts the action around his actors. Since Jason Statham is the star, he gets to do the most. He is an expert in hand-to-hand combat and acrobatics. So he and his stunt double get to do a lot of that. But he allows him to do a lot of jet ski driving too, and, as far as I can tell, all of that is done by him. At one point, he even wields a helicopter blade like a giant anime sword, and it is something. Surprisingly enough, Page Kennedy gets to show off his action chops while being hilariously self-aware of how he was treated in the first film. Wu Jing and Cliff Curtis do a lot of the heavy lifting during the third act, and even though it is a little slapstick in nature, it works. In addition to all that, there are a lot of practical explosions, wreckages, and funny wirework on display. It’s a roundabout way of saying that Wheatley has proven that he has the ability to work with low as well as large budgets.
Talking about using actors properly, Sophia Cai’s Meiying Zhang is amazing. In Meg, she kept popping in and out and didn’t exactly serve any purpose. But in Meg 2, she is quite integral to the plot. I mean, she is the soul of the film, as Taylor and Jiuming’s primary goal is to ensure that her first underwater trip doesn’t end with death while she proves to her father figures that she is more than capable of holding her own in tough situations. Cai shows a surprising amount of maturity in her performance, and her chemistry with both Statham and Wu Jing is genuinely heartwarming. Sergio Peris-Mencheta has a great screen presence, especially when his character gets petty about his enmity with Taylor. Melissanthi Mahut is such a breath of fresh air. I don’t think it’s easy to go toe-to-toe with the one and only Jason Statham, but for her, it seems to be a walk in the park. I think she should star in more action films. I don’t think I should reveal anything else about the rest of the cast because it will be spoiler-esque in nature. All I will say is that they are all great, and their deaths are truly glorious. They got a very visible and audible reaction out of me.
Meg 2: The Trench is a perfectly fun movie. It has giant sharks. It has Jason Statham mean-mugging and being sarcastic for around 2 hours. There’s a lot of enjoyable action that takes place underwater as well as on land. And it serves as a great reminder for all of us to go and watch Underwater and give it the appreciation it deserves. I don’t know what lies in Ben Wheatley’s future, but I hope that this opens up more doors for him and that he gets to tell a lot of weird psychological stories and stray away from Netflix remakes of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. So, go and watch Meg 2: The Trench on the big screen and then watch Underwater, or do it the other way around. I don’t care as long as you watch both of them and start being pro-environment if you aren’t already! Once you are done forming an opinion about the film(s), please feel free to share your thoughts with us.