While Jon Turtletaub’s The Meg (2018) was enjoyable, I can’t say I was waiting with baited breath on a sequel. However, with the financial success of the first film a sequel was a foregone conclusion, with this once again being based on a novel by author Steve Alten. Meg 2: The Trench is every bit as ridiculous as you would expect it to be, even more so than the first film.
With it’s sometimes laughable dialogue (not always purposefully so), It is in no way high art but it achieves exactly what it sets out to do, with the film being filled with shark carnage that it is only let down by its adherence to its PG-13 rating. Even with all the death and destruction, Meg 2 is a mostly bloodless affair which is a shame as I feel upping the blood and guts may have attracted more of an audience. Even so, those looking for a brainless popcorn flick could do a lot worse than this entertaining actioner.
Taking place five years after the first film, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) has been working hard to stop environmental crimes as well as continuing to assist underwater research company Mana One. After the death of her mother, Jonas is now the guardian of teenager Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) who works alongside Jonas and her uncle Jiuming (Wu Jing).
Mana One has also raised a young Meg which they have called Haiqi. The young shark was discovered as a baby, with Jiuming trying to train her. Recently Haiqi has been acting differently leading to Jonas to become worried of a repeat of previous events.
Jiuming and Jonas head an exploration mission into the Trench to carry out some research. Unbeknownst to Jonas, Meiying has smuggled herself on board. As Jonas’ colleagues Mac (Cliff Curtis) and DJ (Page Kennedy) look over the group from the safety of the Mana One rig, they discover that Haiqi has escaped captivity and are heading straight towards Jonas and Jiuming’s subs.
As they are chased into the Trench, Haiqi stops her pursuit to mate with another two larger Meg. During their escape Jonas and his team discover an illegal mining operation, where it becomes clear that it isn’t just the Megs that they have to worry about.
Being a Jason Statham fan, there was no way I was going to give Meg 2 a miss. Still, it wasn’t actually the star appeal of Statham that piqued my interest this time round. It was more down to the fact that it was helmed by Indie darling Ben Wheatley, with this being his first foray into blockbuster filmmaking. I was interested to see how he would transition and whether his distinctive voice would somehow be diluted.
Unsurprisingly, Meg 2 is the most anonymous of all Wheatley films. It’s ironic that his most high profile film is the one that shares no similarities with his previous work. It’s not that the film is poorly made, as there are several quality action scenes, with the overall film having a decent pace and good performances. It is just missing most of what would tell you it’s from Wheatley.
It’s not that Wheatley is an overtly stylish director, but his films don’t typically conform to the norm, with their mixture of eccentric characters and black as coal comedy. Meg 2 does have a fair bit of humor injected into its 116 minute run time, but it’s nothing like what would normally be included in a Wheatley film.
Interestingly, this is probably the most light hearted film to come from Wheatley. Even with all the death and destruction on display, there is a lightness of touch to proceedings, with events never being taken too seriously. He has commented in interviews that he wanted to make something bright and fun and he has certainly achieved his goal.
Clearly Wheatley was looking to move into action movies as he had previously been linked to direct the Tomb Raider (2018) sequel before that production fell apart, forcing him to leave for pastures new, with him eventually signing on to direct Meg 2. It isn’t surprising to see that Wheatley has an affinity for action moves, as he had shown considerable action skills with the shootouts in his cult hit Free Fire (2016), albeit on a much smaller scale.
Unlike the first film, where the action mostly consisted of shark attacks and chases, Meg 2 feels much more like a typical Statham vehicle, with several fight scenes and shootouts inter-weaved amongst the more shark orientated action. This was very much appreciated, as it made it something of a change from what had come before and helped distinguish the sequel from its predecessor.
The opening of the film features Statham taking on a crew of modern day pirates on board a shipping container. The skirmish is relatively short but kicks the action off well and gives a taste of what’s to come.
The film becomes slightly CGI heavy during the Trench based scenes but this was to be suspected. The journey through the Trench allows Wheatley to fall back on some horror tropes with there being a few decent jump scares involved. It also allows the film to introduce a host of other sea creatures that further differentiates Meg 2 from the original. Having to deal with Megalodons was bad enough but throwing in a gigantic octopus along with giant lizards makes for a busy day for our heroes.
The CGI is mostly well realized although it can appear a bit too cartoonish at parts. This is to be expected in a film of this ilk, but it isn’t enough of a distraction to ruin the film. The set design is also worthy of note. I especially liked the abandoned mining station where Jonas has to face off against Montes, with their fight surprisingly bringing back memories of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Screenwriters Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber all return from the first film and seem to have doubled down on the cheesy dialogue and ridiculous plot developments. It says a lot about the quality of the cast that they are able to sell these lines and scenarios with conviction.
Jason Statham is his usual charismatic self, with Jonas being a tailor made role for him. As mentioned, he gets more opportunity this time to show off his martial arts skills which should keep his fans happy, although it’s nothing on the scale of The Transporter (2002) or The Expendables (2010). He also gets to show off his more parental side with young Shuya Sophia Cai, who returns from the first film. Statham seems to enjoy showing this side to him and works well with child actors as shown in the likes of Safe (2012), Homefront (2013) as well as the first Meg movie.
Statham also works well alongside action superstar Wu Jing. Fans of both will be disappointed to hear that the two don’t face off against each other, with both their characters being on the same side. In fact, even though Jing is involved in a fair amount of the action, none of it really gives him the opportunity to show off his martial arts skills which is a shame. Jing is still a likeable presence and it’s great to see him in an international production even if he isn’t used to his full potential.
It was nice to see both Cliff Curtis and Page Kennedy return from the first film, with Kennedy being especially memorable, with his character having changed considerably since the first film. One scene almost had me cheering in the cinema when he showed he wasn’t the cowardly character as portrayed the first time round.
The likes of Sienna Guillory, Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Skyler Samuels don’t get as much to do as the main cast but still manage to make an impression in their supporting roles.
Ultimately, Meg 2 won’t be for everyone. I audibly noted some groans in the audience I watched it with. Saying that, it was possibly one of the worst audiences I’ve sat amongst in some time.
I’ve also noted some reviews tearing the film apart, seeming to miss the point that the film is meant to be brainless. Anyone who goes to see a film about a prehistoric shark expecting it to be high art will only end up disappointed. One particular reviewer online complained so much about how ridiculous the film was I wondered what he was looking for, especially when noting he previously spoke about how terrific the Subspecies series of films were.
Anyone who enjoyed the first film will probably enjoy the sequel just as much, and if it’s a Statham fix you are looking for this will certainly do the trick, at least until Expend4bles (2023) comes around in a few months.
Plot: 3/5 Acting: 3.5/5 Action: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.3/5