Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

Rating: C-

Dir: Ben Wheatley
Star: Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Shuya Sophia Cai, Sergio Peris-Mencheta

Save yourself approximately a hour and fifty minutes, and just watch the trailer. If ever there was a case where all the good stuff can be found in the coming attraction, this would be it. I’ll admit I raised a quizzical eyebrow when I heard Wheatley was going to be the director. His filmography is full of stuff like Kill List, small-scale and off-beat. It’s difficult to think of some studio executive watching A Field in England, and going “That’s just the man we need for our $130 million prehistoric shark movie!” The results prove concerns justified. I suspect Wheatley thought the whole thing was an elaborate prank, and kept playing along, until finally realizing it was for real at the premiere. 

The main issue is probably the shortage of Meg. We still have Jonas Taylor (Statham), who’s now an eco-activist and foster father to teenager Meiying (Cai), whose mother demanded too much money for the sequel died between the two movies. Her uncle, Jiuming Zhang (Jing), is also part of an expedition into the abyssal depths. Five miles down, they find an illegal undersea mining operation, and end up stuck down there after their craft is crippled. Eventually – and I’m severely truncating this part of the plot, largely because it’s tedious as hell – they make their way back to the surface, accompanied by three large Megalodons, a giant squid, and a slew of smaller critters, also liberated from the depths. 

Everybody and everything head for the inaccurately named Fun Island resort, located nearby. Carnage of the moderate kind eventually ensues, though again – if you have seen the trailer, you will already be familiar with most of the best bits. Once more, it’s up to Jonas, armed with a jet-ski and a harpoon, to save the day, and ideally the “pet” Megalodon, trained by Jiuming. Yeah, the movie is basically stealing elements from Jurassic World. This is not a good sign. It does start briskly enough, with Statham returning to the arse-kicking style of his earlier movies. Before long though, it gets bogged down in underwater battles of various kinds against the miners, led by the mercenary Montes (Peris-Mencheta). This stretches things out to almost the same running time as The Meg.

It just feels considerably longer, because the percentage of directly shark-related mayhem is a lot less. The precocious teenage performance of Meiying doesn’t help matters, and I got the sense the pandering to the Chinese market (not exactly subtle the first time) was more obvious. We also had questions about a slew of elements, that seemed to make no sense. Most would involve spoilers, yet I have to ask: at one point Jonas is out there, 25,000 ft down, without any protective gear. Are days of decompression not a required thing thereafter? Last week, we went to see the 10th anniversary re-release of Sharknado. That proved much more entertaining overall – and was probably a better shark movie as well.