Director Jon Turtletaub delivers a brainless rip-roaring fish tale featuring Jason Statham doing what he does best as he hunts a massive prehistoric CGI shark. It's not smart, but it never tries to be. It's just big-budget spectacle fun that proves to be an improvement over the literary series that spawned it. Whether or not this is your sort of fish story, Warner Bros. has delivered a technically terrific Blu-ray release with a bold and colorful transfer, a fantastic Dolby Atmos Audio mix, with an anemic assortment of bonus features. If you're just looking for pulpy, silly entertainment, The Meg is Recommended.
"...just keep swimming, just keep swimming…"
Jason Statham is Jason Statham pretending to be Jonas Taylor - a disgraced former Navy rescue sub commander. Years ago, a rescue at the deepest depths of the Pacific in the Marianas trench went horribly wrong with several casualties. Jonas says it was a prehistoric sea creature that attacked them and blew up the sub before everyone could be rescued including two of his team members. The Navy says he cracked up under pressure. Now eccentric nerd billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), Dr, Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) are conducting experiments in the depths of the trench to prove that ancient prehistoric life is hidden under a thermal cloud. When a gigantic 75-foot Megalodon attacks the exploration team, Jonas is called back into action because his ex-wife is trapped thousands of feet below the surface. During the rescue attempt, Jonas and Suyin unwittingly allow the Meg to rise from the icy depths. The massive mindless eating machine becomes an unstoppable menace attacking and swallowing whole an entire cast of disposable characters.
The Meg is not smart - not even close. But I give it credit for being a whole lot more clever than the source novels by Steve Alten. This movie has been in development hell since the late 90s. The first novel was a huge hit and I devoured it quickly slamming through the pages while on vacation. As the sequel novels started churning out one after the other, the plots became daffy and ridiculous disposing of any genuine science and going full pulp science fiction. The first book would have been unwieldy to adapt on its own and take seriously, but the idea that this could be a series of films outside of the SyFy Channel seemed impossible. Thanks to the barrage of Megasharks, Giant Octopuses, annual Sharknados, and the box office bite shark flicks have been chomping the last couple of years, the time was right for The Meg to surface. And without staying completely true to the original novel, the movie sheds a lot of hokum baggage that was little better than soap opera dramatics.
This film only works because it knows exactly what it is - a fishy fleshy B-movie with a Megalodon-sized budget. You're not here to find Oscar-worthy performances. It's a full-on special effects buffet offering up plenty of impressive CGI creatures with some occasionally impressive practical effects work. I give Turteltaub and his team of writers full kudus for finding the pace of the film and never letting the energy dip for long. Character development is virtually non-existent. Any character conflicts are resolved within a matter of minutes. Seriously, Statham enjoys the most amicable and friendly relationship with his ex-wife in the history of legalized divorce. The Navy doctor that blackballed him and killed his career? It's resolved with a quick handshake. While for most movies this would be a problem, it works for The Meg because audiences paid good money to see Jason Statham fight a giant shark - and there is plenty of that to pass around. There's a love subplot and a cute kid, but that's just filler to give the effects crew time to work on the big set pieces.
It may sound like I'm jaded or cynical about this movie, and maybe I am a little bit, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the hell out of it. This was one of the best 3D theater-going movies, after Infinity War, that I saw all summer. Skyscraper was similar brainless 3D fodder, but The Meg really knew how to work the whole show offering plenty of nods and nudges to past shark movies while staking a claim all its own. It's big dumb spectacle fun. It never tries to be high art and it doesn't have to be to work.
The trailers are every indication of what to expect with this movie. If you're not enticed by what you saw in two and three-minute snippets, you're probably not going to love this one nearly half as much as you would have hoped. At first, I was only mildly entertained but after a couple more viewings I've had a lot more fun with it. The only real surprise for me was how Statham takes out the titular creature. It may be completely impossible and ridiculous, but trust me it works 100-times better than what was in the book. Since this flick bit out about half a billion bucks at the global box office, a sequel is apparently already in the works. If they add a little more blood and guts to the mix with a lot more wholesale carnage, they will already have a solid sequel. As it is, The Meg is easy disposable fun.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Meg takes a bite out of HD courtesy of Warner Bros. in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. Pressed onto a BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other WB titles before arriving at Warner's standard static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
The Meg makes for a solid 1080p 2.40:1 transfer. This is a big-time CGI effects-heavy spectacle and those results can be a bit mixed. On the whole, the details are really impressive. Statham's beard stubble and fine facial features of the rest of the cast come through with great clarity. Clothing and set look great with every character getting their own sort of signature style and look to show off. Where the image has a bit of a hard time is whenever there is some heavy CGI work against practical set pieces. The key moments that throw me are the gantry leading into the big laboratory from the helicopter pad - the backgrounds are obviously CGI effects and tend to flatten the image. When scenes are 100% live practical or almost completely CGI the depth issue isn't as apparent, but when things are on that 50/50 threshold all of a sudden the image has this odd sort of cookie-cutter quality to it that isn't as apparent in the 3D screening or as dramatic in the 4K UHD disc. Overall, this is still a quality image that should please fans who rock 1080p and haven't made the leap to 4K yet.
The Meg splish-splashes around with a rocking-good Dolby Atmos mix. Worth noting, for the standard1080p disc as well as the 4K UHD, like all Warner Bros. discs, you have to go into the audio subsection of the main menu to select Atmos otherwise it'll default to the perfectly decent but nowhere near as impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.
As a big loud spectacle movie, The Meg makes impressive usage of Atmos with near constant channel activity. The only time any of the surround or overhead material slows or feels absent is when the movie pauses for a silly meaningful conversation between the cast. But thankfully those moments are relatively brief as the rest of the movie maintains a flurry of activity.
My favorite effects are the creaking sounds of ocean pressure squeezing the submersible vehicles as they descend. It's a great overhead effect that rumbles with nice subtle LFE kicking up those dissonant notes. Also noteworthy is anytime anyone is doing battle with the Meg. Whether they're in a mini-sub or in a helicopter, there is great overhead activity. The best is whenever the mini-subs are racing around in the water as they rise and fall the swirling rotors and displaced bubbles give off an awesome vertical effect.
Dialogue clarity is spot on without any issues. Levels are never a problem as this film is pretty loud and active from the get-go. If anything, I felt like I actually had to turn things down a tad just so I didn't tick off my neighbors! Gregson-Williams' score is a perfect accompaniment to the on-screen action and the low base tones provide some great LFE rumbles of their own. So even when the show is trying to be quiet and contemplative, there is plenty of movement and activity to keep the mix lively.
Considering The Meg was one of a relative few hits for Warner Bros. this summer season, I'm rather surprised at how anemic and inconsequential the bonus features are. Little more than talking head EPK material, you don't get much sense of what went into the show. As short as it is, the New Zealand Film Commission mini-feature has a lot of production information about the shoot.
The Meg is a SyFy channel shark movie with a gargantuan budget and plenty of Jason Statham badass snark to spark an aquatic giant shark franchise. Whether or not the rumored sequels arise, this first outing was a good way to burn a couple of disposable hours. Warner Bros. delivers The Meg onto Blu-ray with a solid transfer and a great Dolby Atmos mix to match. Sadly bonus features are a bit of a letdown. Overall, if you've become a connoisseur of summer shark movies and don't have a 3D or 4K TV, The Meg is a good one to add to the collection. Recommended.