A Very Serious Review of “The Meg,” But Mostly Just Stuff About Jason Statham

The Meg is fucking awesome. Not only is Jason Statham a perfect hooman that elevates all of his movies, but humongous sharks are the perfect foil for his handsome and heroic ways. When a deep-sea submersible gets trapped in the Pacific Ocean, rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham) is called upon to save the crew. But the rescue effort unleashes a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark, or Megaladon, from an underwater pocket deeper than the Mariana Trench. Then, it’s up to Statham and a group of scientists to corral the monster.

If you didn’t already know, Statham is excellent and acrobatic in the water, which, when combined with a resume that includes transporting, cranking, snatching, some heavy-duty mechanical work, and a job in Italy – makes him the ideal candidate to battle a computer-generated sharky. Please watch this video.

This clip makes me think of several things, which I will lay out below in point form.

  1. It’s startling to see Jason Statham with a full head of hair, and it’s safe to say that he’s one of few people on earth that looks better bald.
  2. The way he effortlessly climbs out of the water after his first dive looks like something out of a Dolce & Gabbana commercial.
  3. I find the commentator unnecessarily critical of Statham’s diving ability. I was on the diving team in high school, and I had a hard enough time feeling confident walking around in my speedo, let alone actually jumping into the water.
  4. Did this video launch Statham’s career in the entertainment industry? More on that later…

Sometimes, in a good-bad movie such as The Meg, it’s hard to differentiate between pure camp and shoddy filmmaking. But Statham’s stoicism despite the absurdity of his surroundings lends the film some much-needed seriousness. No matter how large the shark, how gruesome the death, how cardboard-y the dialogue, he remains stone-faced and ready to kick some dorsal fin.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Statham spent the early part of his career honing his ability to stay in character regardless of bizarro circumstances. In this music video from 1992, we get that proof. (Statham is the gyrating, shirtless wonder at 0:36)

This clip delivers some unpleasant feelings of nostalgia. (You, too, probably remember bopping along to this liberating tune at some point in your life.) It also confirms that Statham’s diving clips were his entry point to the entertainment industry. Not only is he wearing a speedo, but he’s also still wet! The odds are pretty good that he stepped right out of the pool and onto the set of this delicious orgy of a music video. His dance moves are weird, but that’s OK. Back then, you couldn’t figure out the latest dance trend by scrolling through Instagram, so he needed to get creative. The result is a creepy, oily, elbow-y cosmic jig that nobody should imitate.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 1.02.38 AM
Statham traded in a speedo bearing his country’s flag for a leopard print thong. The boots are random, but necessary to avoid poolside slippage.

If you needed proof that, early in his career, Statham was typecast as a muscular bald guy wearing tight shorts, check out another video from the ’90s. Congrats to Jason for overcoming the industry’s stereotypes to carve out a fabulous career.

In The Meg, before he gets summoned to face-off against the shark, Statham’s character is a tortured alcoholic that spends most of his time drinking beer in a remote Thai village. Yet, somehow, physical testing reveals that he’s in perfect shape, which is just so on brand for Jason Statham. He also does that growly/sexy thing where his stubbly chin sticks out just the right amount, and he’s strong and stubborn and everything that’s made him an action genre staple for the last couple decades.

Dwight Schrute, who clearly wasn’t satisfied with his success at Dunder Mifflin, is also in the movie. He owns the offshore, state-of-the-art research lab where most of the action takes place, and for some reason, he only answers to the name Jack Morris. My guess is that after stepping down from his assistant to the regional manager position at the Pennsylvania-based paper purveyor, he parlayed his knowledge of the industry into a personal fortune and shrewdly (schrutely?) changed his name, so as to avoid further pestering from Jim Halpert. That’s just smart.

Dwight Chain.jpg
Artwork by Neil Hamel

The film does have its share of stupidity. For instance, the size of the prehistoric shark seems to vary from scene-to-scene, and a bigger, badder Megaladon inexplicably enters the plot after the first one gets captured. But the many logical inconsistencies are outweighed by delightful moments of toothy terror. There’s a scene in which a group of swimmers gets gobbled up on their inflatable rafts like a big bowl of ocean fruit loops. Then, a Yorkshire Terrier desperately tries to out-doggie-paddle the Meg, which is incredibly cute and scary at the same time.Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 3.41.45 PMOverall, the movie is big, dumb, summer fun, though it might have benefited from more near-shore action. Most of the plot takes place in the middle of the ocean, where the stakes are noticeably lower and the threat to humanity is mitigated by the distance from shore. Jaws, which needs no introduction, derived most of its thrills from attacks that took place near dry land. The terror of The Meg, I suppose, comes from the sense of claustrophobia of being abnormally deep, or the isolation of being stranded in the abyss. Not for Jason Statham, of course, just for the rest of us.

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