Before we, ahem, dive into our review of “Meg 2,” a few fun facts on the Megalodon, the titular real-life prehistoric shark, according to some unusually detailed production notes from the studio.
It weighed up to 50 tons and exceeded 60 feet in length. Its vertebrae were the size of a large dinner plate — no salad plates here! There’s “no likelihood” that any actually survived to this day (we’d feel better with “no chance,” but OK.) And, its jaw was so wide, it could swallow two adults side by side.
We know what you’re thinking, and so are we: Jack and Rose could’ve BOTH fit into that jaw! Case closed. James Cameron, are you listening? Way to nip a controversy in the bud.
In any case, no Jack and Rose in this film, but there are plenty of other people who get swallowed, chomped on, or masticated in “Meg 2: The Trench,” directed by Ben Wheatley, a film that screams: “Sequel! What do we do NOW?” And so there’s more, more and more. More Megs. More problems. More ludicrous plot points, more cartoonish villains, and more dialogue cheesier than a overripened Brie wheel left out on a picnic table.
But also, in the film’s saving grace, more Jason Statham, whose gruff but amiable veneer has a calming effect on the proceedings. Elsewhere, playing off other stars, Statham can seem stiff, or one-note. Here, he’s in his element, and that same style is a comfort. (Then again, it could be he’s the only character written with even a dollop of charisma.)
Many films begin with flashbacks — few as far back as the Cretaceous period, but that’s where we start. We see first lizards, then, what, bigger lizards? No, dinosaurs! These creatures increase in heft until a huge dinosaur destroys everything in its wake. And then, out of the surf storms a Meg, to swallow up this now-puny dinosaur as if it were a mini-pack of Doritos. It’s a well-deserved laugh.
We pivot to the present, where we meet Jonas Taylor (Statham), expert diver, eco-warrior and shark-battler, back doing his thing, which means escaping certain death on the high seas. Jonas no longer has his love interest from the last film, single mom Suyin Zhang, but is now parenting her 14-year-old daughter, Meiying, and that’s where his heart lies.
Then there’s Meiying’s uncle, Jiuming Zhang (Chinese action star and filmmaker Wu Jing, joining the franchise) an adventurer who doesn’t mind taking a few risks. For example, he decides to jump into the tank at his Mana One research facility to play around with the Meg they have in captivity. He almost dies in front of everyone, including Meiying, laughing off the danger.
But the danger really begins when the scientists take their two submersibles down to “the trench,” 25,000 feet down to be precise, to a sector of the ocean sealed off by the thermocline, a cloud of … oh, never mind, let’s get to the sharks.
Because now the submersibles encounter more Megs. Bigger Megs. And when they get stuck down there, thanks to some dastardly villains, a mole in their own operation, a sabotaged rescue ship and some questionable decision-making, Jonas has to improvise.
This involves the team walking (yep, walking) across the trench in EV suits quickly running out of oxygen, to get to a secret station where said villains are mining something — what, we don’t know, even when Jiuming briefly explains it and says a handful is worth $1 billion. “Billion with a B?” Jonas asks, in more of that crackling dialogue.
But they make it back to the surface, because if they didn’t, the final hour of this film wouldn’t exist — a wacky showdown at a beach resort imaginatively called “Fun Island,” full of vacationers about to be attacked not only by Megs but by ….
Dinosaurs! Yes, because of that well-known action-sequel rule: “When in doubt, add dinosaurs.” (They did it in “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” remember?)
So now, we have Jonas and his team battling not only Megs but dinosaurs and oh, also, we should mention, a REALLY large octopus. These tentacles show up early and often and if you ever wanted to know what happens when a giant shark meets a giant octopus, here’s your chance.
At a certain point, somebody says “I just hope this goes better than last time.” It’s a cheeky reference to the first film, but also a rather dangerous line to include in a sequel, because they almost never go better than last time. This one doesn’t either, but at least it’s upfront about what it’s doing: just making stuff bigger and crazier. (By the way, Jonas actually jumps a shark. On a jet ski. Bearing harpoons.)
And through it all, Statham’s steady presence remains the connective tissue.
Not that you should get attached to anyone’s connective tissue here.
“Meg 2: The Trench,” a Warner Bros Pictures release, has been Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for action/violence, some bloody images, language and brief suggestive material.” Running time: 116 mins. Two stars out of four.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.