Principal Cast : Jason Statham, Wu Jing, Shuya Sophia Cai, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mecheta, Skyler Samuels, Melissanthi Mahut, Whoopie Van Raam, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Sienna Guillory.
Synopsis: A research team encounters multiple threats while exploring the depths of the ocean, including a malevolent mining operation.
For a film featuring a clutch of enormous megalodons, Meg 2: The Trench, sure spends a lot of time not focussing on giant sharks. Action staple Jason Statham’s 2018 cheesy horror-action flick The Meg was a surprisingly fun little B-movie, replete with campy performances, ludicrous plotting and a sense of the absurd from director Jon Turteltaub. With Meg 2, Turnteltaub is out, with the replacement director being none-other than esoteric filmmaker Ben Wheatley, better known for his off-the-wall dramas like High Rise and Free Fire (as well as the recent remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca), and while you’d expect the man’s terrific eye for the weird to play somewhat against type for a hugely entertaining (if entirely preposterous) property such as this, I’m sad to report that this sequel is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen – shark or no.
Statham reprises his role of Jonas Taylor, shark wrangler and megalodon appreciator, who is working for Juiming Zhang (Wu Jing), the wealthy “tech-bro” brother of his late wife, Suyin, while an also-returning Sophia Cai again plays the now-all-grown up stepdaughter, Meiying, now a precocious teenager with attitude and sass. Jonas has been assisting in the exploration of the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the Earth’s crust, and both he and Zhang have been sending submersibles to a point in the ocean known as the “thermocline” layer, beneath which mysterious and dangerous forms of life are thought to exist. One mission is thrust into danger due to sabotage, thanks to duplicitous company benefactor Hillary Driscoll (Sienna Guillory) and he henchman Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), who have discovered trillions of dollars of rare earth minerals deep in the trench and are mining it for financial gain. In doing so, they inadvertently unleash a team of enormous megalodons (as well as other deep-sea monsters) into the surface water, with potential to devastate marine life if Jonas and his friends can stop them.
Okay, I’ll…. bite. One has to wonder why a director of Ben Wheatley’s eccentric and hugely specific style would decide to step into a middle-tier blockbuster about giant prehistoric sharks with Jason Statham…. oh, wait, yes I see now. Understanding that Wheatley is such an interesting director with a wide variety of films under his belt, perhaps this was intended as his “Michael Bay moment” to shine, in what is for him a substantially mainstream movie far removed from anything else he’s accomplished. Unfortunately for him, Meg 2 is an absolute disaster; not a “bad film that’s so bad it’s good again”, this is just an unfunny, terribly acted, ludicrously plotted and woefully written piece of shit film that’s utterly beneath both Wheatley and the audience. I would even go so far as to suggest that I had a better time with Sharknado than this, because at least Sharknado understood how shit it was supposed to be. I think Meg 2 is trying to be better than its stupid script might achieve but it lacks the fun-at-the-movies alchemy that made the first film so great to watch.
Adapted from a book I now no longer have any desire to read by Steve Allen, Meg 2: The Trench is facile subgenre trash of the worst calibre. If I hadn’t Googled it I would have just assumed the book was some Dan Brown riff. Characters are dreadfully developed, contain almost no personality in any way, shape or form, while the action sequences are a jumble of shit editing, worse cinematography and even worse-er-er acting; look, I don’t ask a lot from The Stath™ when it comes to a performance because I know he’s incapable of doing anything other than grimace and ass-kick, but his work – and that of his co-stars – really comes across as both wooden and lifeless, despite all the screaming, running and fighting they have to do. Jon and Eric Hoeber team up with Dean Georgaris to deliver a screenplay so schlocky, so one-dimensional, so absurdly incredulously dumb, it baffles me the movie made any money at all, let alone the same box-office as the first film. The plot devices within the film make almost no logical sense scene-by-scene, from a caged “good” meg answering to Zhang’s little alarm device like a pet through to the daffy decision to have some kind of mercenary mining operation occurring at depths that would crush the life from any living organism. None of this makes sense, and the way the film tries to interweave and circle back upon a variety of plot points… never, not one single time, works in an entertaining fashion.
Meg 2 had the misfortune to come along around the same time as the ill-fated Titan submarine accident at the Titanic wreck site in 2023, in which six people were assumed crushed to death at a depth of around 3500m below the surface after their exploratory vessel imploded – a similar fate that awaits the cast of this film at absurdly increased depths – which makes some of the pressurised action sequences beneath the waves a little too on-the-nose for recency bias as well as absurdly silly in terms of the physics involved. Apparently you can just randomly create suits that allow external exploration of the sea floor without the immense pressure of the ocean crushing you like a tin can in microseconds, and drive submersible vessels like a Porche in Milan without even blinking, according to Meg 2. Like I said, this isn’t a film for the serious minded, this is a laughably dumb action flick in which tension and sense are as rare as the titular megaladons whenever the film calls upon them for scares.
As hard as it is to imagine, Meg 2 just isn’t a scary film. It isn’t even a mildly exciting one. It barely manages a single moment of terror involving the trio of massive sharks that form the basis for this franchise’s existence. And when you can’t make sharks scary, you know you have a problem. The script also throws in (for some reason) a kraken (yes, seriously) and a swarm of lizard-like creatures that have the amazing ability to live 20,000 feet under the ocean and on dry land without so much as considering the feasibility of such an animal, in an effort to trump the antics of the first film, and aside from a couple of funny ironic oh-ha-ha moments there’s very little about this movie or its creatures that evokes thrills, a sense of engagement with the audience, or entertainment in any form whatsoever. Meg 2 is such an inert monster movie the final act’s typically overplayed “monsters make it to land and proceed to kill all the unwitting humans they can find” Godzilla routine lacks any single moment of viewing pleasure. Instead, I found myself agog at some of the worst overacting I’ve ever seen, and an inexplicable amount of nonsensical dialogue and plot exposition so stretched thin is beggars belief. The people who wrote this film should honestly never work in movies again.
To his credit, at least Wheatley understands what makes genre films like this click. Brevity of thought and an abundance of action are de rigueur for action films of this nature, and he tries to give us that as best as he can. Unfortunately, Wheatley’s Free Fire showmanship is entirely absent here, with terrible sequence editing, very poor construction of plot logic and in-film coherence, and some of the worst sight-gags of any major mainstream film so far in 2023. Even The Stath™’s normal screen presence and cocky action-man attitude fails to ignite any emotional heft on the screen, and the actor is inexplicably given almost no catchy one-liners or sweet, sweet one-upmanship of the villains other than a truly awful jetski sequence in a tropical paradise in which he takes on the last surviving meg and manages to escape alive. All the main human villains meet predictably sticky ends but the way they’re handled is almost always off-screen or with the perfunctory “oh yeah you’re dead now” indifference that leaves the audience aghast they’re treated so poorly. How you fuck up such a promising premise as three giant sharks tearing up what feels like Tahiti is inexplicable. Not even a terribly underwhelming Cliff Curtis can salvage a bromantic camaraderie here, and Chinese action superstar Wu Jing deserves his own film with giant sharks, not to be stuck playing second fiddle to an anaemic Stath™.
Meg 2: The Trench is an awful movie in every sense. Seriously, it’s astounding that you can make a killer giant shark movie so bad you reconsider your review score for Sharknado, that’s how poor this one is. The sharks aren’t very scary mainly because they’re treated in such a cartoonish manner, and while the visual effects range from quite good to shambolic, there’s no life to any of it. You never feel the threat inherent in either the monsters within or the great depths beneath the ocean the plot takes us, and with such a cavalier approach to science, physics and logic you’d be forgiven for assuming the movie was aimed at audiences with a mental age of five. I cannot abide dumb, stupid movies like this that have almost no coherent thought put into them – the entire production should be ashamed to have swindled people out of actual valid currency to see this piece of shit. Nobody escapes from this one with their dignity intact, especially not the poor audience subjected to watching it.