Five years ago there was a deep sea tragedy involving explorer and submersible pilot Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) where to save the crew of a downed submarine, he was forced to sacrifice some lives to ensure everyone else survived. The problem was, Jonas was blamed for that incident ever since, despite the fact there was nothing he could have done to rescue those who died, but the shame has hung over his head from that day to this. However, he could have a chance to redeem himself as an expedition to the deepest trench of the oceans has hit a major snag: will he be able to get the crew of a submersible out before... something rather large chomps on them for good?
The Meg was a film in production hell ever since the rights to Steve Alten's novel of the same name was published, the first in a series (so someone at the studio must have been thinking, "Ooh, please be a franchise"). After nearly getting made at least twice, maybe more, Jon Turteltaub was hired not to craft the R-rated horror the fans might have wished for, but a more friendly PG-13 that would snare a larger audience: seeing as how the money they spent on this was astronomical, they had to be certain they would make a profit. Even with that cautiousness in mind, there was by no means any guarantee this would make its money back, never mind double it, what it needed.
Yet somehow the thought of Jason Statham punching a giant shark proved irresistible to the global audience, and this American-Chinese production with an international cast was a huge success in spite of the number of grumbles it generated both critically and with certain sections of the audience. This was essentially one of those apparent billions of man-eating shark movies, quite a number of them having been manufactured on a tiny fraction of the budget that The Meg had at its disposal. By this stage, "Shark" had become synonymous with "Cheapo CGI horror flick that never sees the inside of a cinema", another reason many believed this was a profligate folly.
On watching it, no, it was nowhere near the rich experience that Steven Spielberg's Jaws was, that blockbuster basically the only reason shark horrors were a thing, but The Meg was proof the seventies classic need not have been as smart and suspenseful as it was: they could have released something a lot more like Jaws 2 and it would have struck the right nerve and rung the box office tills almost as loudly. This 2018 descendent was never going to be mentioned in the same reverent manner as the original Jaws, yet it was entertaining once you noticed everyone in the film spoke in poster taglines for a greater proportion of their dialogue and you began to take bets in your mind as to which of them were megalodon fodder and which would survive the onslaught of a giant fishy predator.
Actually for the first half hour this hewed closer to the oceanographical thrills of a more famous flop, James Cameron's The Abyss from 1989; that would-be blockbuster never found a sufficient audience back then, but did spawn a shortlived craze for cash-ins on a work that didn't make much of a profit anyway. Director Turteltaub's efforts here were a lot slicker than those older knock-offs, but the principle was the same, and while The Abyss had to content itself with a cult following, The Meg went ballistic. That rare megabudget co-production between Hollywood and China that genuinely clicked with audiences across the board, the attraction was of a fairly rough and ready variety summed up in its leading man; he had appeared in big hits before, but as a lead this was proof he could carry a movie even if most were over halfway interested because of the titular creature that is brought up from its prehistoric lair to cause trouble, with initial reservations about killing it thrown overboard once it starts a-munching. It won you over in its daftness, yet was played surprisingly straight. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams (really needing a proper theme for the shark).