A creature is unleashed, science and business are the baddies and a motley crew must rag-tag together. Jurassic Park played it mainly straight. So too the King Kong movies. And the Godzillas. Even the ‘70s lost-world classic, The Land That Time Forgot. But this is 2023. And in Meg 2: The Trench, the megalodon from the primordial deep is “back for seconds”. Except this time there are many megs. And a giant octopus.
In 2018’s The Meg, naval captain and deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor encountered a megalodon, a 70-foot shark, awakened from the Marianas trench. Knowing it’s not safe to go back in the water, he’s concerned when visiting a friend’s research team. They’ve apparently tamed a meg. Statham knows we’re all just lunch. Cajoled into one more dive, it’s more than one meg that meets the eye. And pretty soon, they’re going to need a bigger beach.
Meg 2 pushes everything to the max. A Chinese-American co-production, it’s helmed by British indie director, Ben Wheatley (Free Fire, Kill List, Sightseers). Known for his darkly comic violence, it makes sense. Only, his visuals don’t. Dark it certainly is for the first half - at the bottom of the sea, in a grungy, secret, sea-floor science-base. As the visored crew get picked off, it’s hard to know who’s been eaten, who hasn’t. Only an icky helmet implosion suggests the true Ben Wheatley.
Having more henchmen does mean fans of The Stath get to see him kick baddie ass. Or they would if the director kept his camera still. When a hole is breached in the thermo-ocean-layer, the kraken break free and come for dinner. An oil rig and a passing island will do for starters and mains.
Villains in helicopters are attacked by fish-like lizards, the giant octopus helps itself to tourists, only to be nipped-at by a teeny-tiny dog – possibly the same one from the first movie. Meanwhile, Statham, Chinese martial arts star Wu Jing, and their buddies tie bombs to harpoons to take care of the big fish.
Actually, it’s as fun as it sounds. Totally tongue-in-cheek, with some nifty, twisty villain reveals, it’s a movie with not much bite but plenty of fight. Even the kiddie in peril – Sophia Cai – is gutsy, cheeky and engaging. Fresh too, these days, to see heroes not flapping or emoting but getting on with it – “do the thing in front of you”, says The Stath.
Breathlessly ramping up the OTT action is just the thing to do with this kind of concept. Spectacle becomes thrill, though, only when a director can keep it clear. John Wick 4 and Mission:Impossible Dead Reckoning did exactly that. Let alone the more masterful creature-features of years gone by.