The Meg could’ve benefited from more R-rated absurdity

Where recent entries into the sharksploitation genre, The Shallows and 47 Meters Down, wrung sweats and jitters from tautly slimmed-down scenarios, The Meg, with its larger cast, budget, international reach (and, of course, prehistoric star), announces itself as an outsized juggernaut to be reckoned with.

Certainly, the megalodon – a 75-foot long shark that’s risen from the cavernous depths of the Marianas Trench – is a big-screen beast worthy of inspiring awe. However, despite those fearsome proportions, the film around it is less nerve-wracking shocker and more watchably goofy creature-feature that’s a few brain cells and pixels sharper than your average Sharknado-level mock-buster. And it goes without saying, National Treasure director Jon Turteltaub, isn’t exactly Spielberg nor Cameron when it comes to finessing this particular kind of movie.

The bulk of The Meg’s entertainment value hinges on the juiced-up mayhem confined to the final third, which puts Sanya Bay beachgoers, a pup named Pippin and a reliably po-faced Jason Statham into the crosshairs of the titular predator. Statham is undoubtedly the most ideal iron-torsoed lead who isn’t Dwayne Johnson for this role, but action-wise, the film could’ve benefited from more R-rated absurdity – think Deep Blue Sea – to counter its bland, somewhat neutered surfaces.

The supporting cast acquit themselves serviceably in broadly sketched parts (comic tension-diffuser, tech-expert resource, meet-cute pairings, rich asshole, and Cliff Curtis), while token environmentalist concerns – chiefly Man’s capacity to destroy their natural discoveries – bring a smidgen of thematic heft to all the mid-range silliness.

Moderately satisfactory jaw-chomping fun, especially if you’re remotely curious about the prospect of watching Statham play chicken with a giant shark.

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