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Big shark, deep fears, shallow entertainment

The Meg is a shark movie that delivers on exactly what it promises while finding a middle ground between ridiculous and serious.

Jason Statham stars as deep sea diver Jonas Taylor in "The Meg".

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reel Rating: 2.5 out of 5 reels

The Meg is a shark movie that delivers on exactly what it promises: big sharks, cool special effects, jump scares, heroic action stars, girls in bikinis screaming, and an unlucky dog. What makes this shark movie slightly different than previous ones is its ability to a find a middle ground between ridiculous (Sharknado) and serious (Jaws). It has zero ambition beyond popcorn entertainment and yet manages to keep from being the object of unintentional laughs. In short, it won’t keep me from the beach but it did keep me from thinking about my car insurance for two hours.

In a film about an extinct animal wreaking havoc in the present, a bit of explanation is required. A team of scientists working out of an underwater laboratory discover that the bottom of the Mariana Trench is not solid rock but a thin layer of liquid hydrogen sulfide that conceals a hidden ecosystem. Think Journey to the Center of the Earth underwater. After easily pushing through the layer – that supposedly is impenetrable to everything beneath it – the scientists discover an Avatar-like world of strange and wonderful animals. Their excitement is short lived, however, when their sub is attacked by Megalodon – an 80-foot shark and the largest predator to have ever existed. Of course, he gets into the open ocean and threatens to chew up everything in his path. Rather than call the United Nations, the Chinese government, or the Discovery Channel, the intrepid scientists decide to pursue vigilante justice on the opens seas and go after the creature themselves.

The Meg, like countless other undersea horror films that proceed it, feeds off one of the deepest (ahem) fears in the human consciousness: the sea. In the Judeo-Christian tradition of storytelling, the ocean has always had a dark but hypnotic archetypal quality. The ancient Israelites, unlike many of their pagan neighbors, were not a seafaring people. Thus, open water was dark, dangerous, and cancelled hidden terrors. The Psalms are full of this kind of imagery —”I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (Psa 69:2) — and God’s ultimate physical power lies in his abilities to still and control the waters (cf. Psa 77:16), an act that demonstrated Jesus own divine power and identity (Mt 8:26). Even to the present day, the surface of the moon is better mapped than the floor of the ocean. The colossal and giant squid, once thought legendary, were not officially discovered and studied until less than twenty years ago. Who can really tell what lurks in the darkness, sometimes only a few feet away?

The films toys with the fear efficiently, with much of the tension coming from lack of knowledge about the shark’s location until he’s right next to the camera. The movie begins with around twenty characters, who are killed off minute by minute, leaving the viewer wondering who might be next. Of course, some people are clearly off limits: the hero, his girl, the kid, and one (and just one) of the minority crew members.

Jason Statham plays the hero, deep sea diver Jonas Taylor, with his usual action swagger. He’s one of my personal favorites and half the reason I wanted to see the film (the other half being the shark). He rarely makes a false move, even if it costs him a bit, and constantly throws out fun quips all the while. My favorite moment in the film was him humming Dory’s swimming mantra from Finding Nemo while he tried to put a tracker on the shark.

Statham and the film itself are completely predictable. But that’s fine. It was refreshing to sit back and watch the story unfold, safe in the knowledge the script would not stray. If that is your kind of movie, you’ll like The Meg . If not, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.

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About Nick Olszyk 198 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online and listen to his podcast at "Catholic Cinema Crusade".

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