Meg 2: the Trench

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Meg 2: the Trench, in which a studio tries to turn a good, fun one-off into a franchise and winds up on the beach face down, gasping for air and with gravel in its shorts.

Quick recap: a massive prehistoric shark, a Megalodon, escapes the depths where it generally operates and starts menacing the upper reaches and beaches of our planet. Enter Jason Statham. Surely one man cannot be a match for something this big?

That was The Meg. In Meg 2: the Trench, the monster shark is back, and so is Statham. And if we’d been served up Meg 1 all over again, I doubt anyone would have complained too loudly. It was preposterous and funny and aimed at people with a sense of the absurd who wanted to see a Deep Blue Sea knock-off.

This time out someone’s decided they’re going to turn Statham into 007 – he’s now much more the eco-warrior fighting the good fight on behalf of the planet, while ranged against him aren’t just prehistoric creatures from the deep but an array of super-baddies whose vast wealth is only exceeded by their greed for more of the same.

Statham is a “green James Bond” we’re told, in a genuinely exciting preamble set on board a vast container ship which is dumping toxic waste into the oceans. Little do they know there is a fighter for eco-justice stowed away on board ready to… what exactly? I think he blows the whistle on them.

From here, we meet the guys – superhard Jonas Taylor (Statham), Meiying (Sophia Cai) his 14-year-old ward, Cliff Curtis as Taylor’s affable, blokey fixer, Page Kennedy as DJ, his black-stereotype-skirting streetwise team member who performs roughly the same function as Mr T in The A Team and comes within a whisker of saying “I pity the fool”. Melissanthi Mahut as his capable deep-sea pilot. Sienna Guillory as a very rich co-owner of the company also run by Zhang Jiuming (Wu Jing). Rough-around-the-edges Hispanic Montes (Sergio-Peris Mencheta). Skyler Samuels as pretty and seemingly eye-candy-only Jess.

Some of these are bad guys, others good guys. Part of the fun is working out which is which.

Sophia Cai as Meiying
Sophia Cai as Meiying

Action is what we expect and it’s what we get. A trip in a sexily teched-out submersible into the ocean, through the freezing “thermocline” which keeps the creatures of “the trench” safely in the deep. And again it’s not the gigantic prehistoric creatures lurking below that are really Taylor’s problem, but human activity down there, while the biggest problem for the watching audience is the sheer predictability of everything.

What you really want to know, what anyone who’s seen a trailer or a poster wants to know, is when does Statham get onto the jetski and go into an aquatic knight-on-horseback joust with a huge shark? Towards the end is the answer.

Until then, medieval style, we’re submitted to a trial of endurance as one familiar scene after another plays out, beneath the waves and above.

The fabulous Ben Wheatley is many things but an action director is not one of them. His closest approach to action before this was Free Fire (one of his best), but that took place in a confined space with a limited number of characters, whose positions relative to each other were rarely in doubt. It was speech-driven, which Wheatley’s films often are. Here there’s machinery and action and a large team of key players, plus scores of extras once the action unwisely shifts to the beach where explicit comparison with Jaws, and Spielberg, can be made.

One other thing: where did the giant octopus come from? Must have missed that bit of plot development, but just in case super-baddies and massive sharks weren’t enough, there is also that giant cephalopod flailing about towards the end, while the Stath takes on the Meg and screaming crowds pulse out of the sea and then back into it as other prehistoric crocodile-like creatures menace them from the landside. It’s all a bit Sharknado.

Meg 2: the Trench – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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