As a fan of Steve Alten’s Meg novel series, I’d been looking forward to the long-gestating movie adaptation of the first book for years. Finally, after a couple of decades in development hell, with numerous directors and studios attached to it, The Meg finally hit screens in 2018.
It was a complete bastardization of the novel, turning its traumatized, beleaguered protagonist, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), into a badass man of action. Intriguing subplots & character conflicts were removed or dumbed down, the setting was completely changed and the violence (gory and potent in the book) was severely watered-down to earn a PG-13 rating.
I ended up not minding too much. This wasn’t the first time Hollywood bought a book and threw away everything but the cover. Besides, The Meg turned out to be great fun, with excellent visual effects, epic shark action and some amusingly outrageous set-pieces. While no Jaws (what is?), it was nice to see a major studio once again put some actual effort into a killer shark movie. And even though Statham was Jonas Taylor in-name-only, he was thoroughly enjoyable in the role.
I normally don’t pay much attention to a film's box office performance, but was pleased The Meg became a surprise hit. That meant a sequel was inevitable and Alten’s second novel, The Trench, is the best in the entire series. Still, I was fully prepared for the sequel to retain little beyond the title.
Sure enough, Meg 2: The Trench deviates so much from the novel that the screenwriters share their own story credit. Not only is it filled with new characters Alten never conceived, most of the actual plot is different. The only remaining aspects of the novel are Jonas, his sidekick Mac (Cliff Curtis) and the discovery of an illegal mining facility in the Mariana Trench, as well as more megalodons and a variety of other deadly creatures.
|Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay is overrated.
Then they must deal with stupidly written villains, especially Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a mercenary with a personal grudge against Jonas. And rather than simply kill everybody and be done with it, the bad guys talk incessantly, allowing Jones plenty of time to foil them. Sure, there’s an occasional animal attack, but both narratively and aesthetically, the entire middle act is a convoluted bore, with underwater sequences so murky and rapidly edited that it’s tough to determine what’s going on.
However, Meg 2 is rescued by a bonkers final act. A massive mining explosion (caused by Montes) tears open the thermocline layer that separates the trench from the open ocean, allowing the megs, a giant octopus and hundreds of amphibious lizards called “Snappers” to reach the surface. All of them head directly to a vacation resort called Fun Island (seriously), where hundreds of tourists are enjoying sun & surf. Jonas and friends rush by boat to warn everyone, while Montes and greedy ringleader Driscoll (Sienna Guillory) head there to eliminate witnesses (though I think that ship has sailed by this point).
The entire Fun Island attack sequence is a delirious good time that borders on camp. The octopus makes short work of a pier and chows down on tourists, as do the three megs, sometimes swallowing rafts and victims whole (with a couple of hilarious point-of-view shots from inside a meg’s mouth). However, the land isn’t safe either because snappers are everywhere, mostly taking down Driscoll’s thugs at opportune moments. Even Pippin, the hapless little pooch from the first film, returns for an amusing cameo.
Elsewhere, Mac and new major character Jiuming (Wu Jing) practically become a comedy team as they try to procure a helicopter. Their banter and bickering is genuinely funny. But the piece de resistance has Jonas hopping on a jet-ski to singlehandedly take-on the megs. Almost none of this is plausible, but since when did that ever matter in these films? The outrageous climax is our reward for slogging through the first interminable hour.
Being that nobody was planning on remaining faithful to the book anyway, it’s too bad the movie doesn’t simply cut to the chase and begin on Fun Island. I think most viewers would gladly trade in all the “trench” warfare for more epic animal action. Still, Meg 2: The Trench is ultimately worth seeing…we just have to wait a lot longer than necessary to get to the good stuff.
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