Review – Meg 2: The Trench

meg 2 poster

Overview

Synopsis An illegal undersea mining operation accidentally unleashes some of the world's most ancient apex predators onto humanity.

Length 1 hour, 56 minutes

Release Date August 4, 2023

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Warner Bros.

Directing Ben Wheatley

Writing Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Dean Georgaris

Composition Harry Gregson-Williams

Starring Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Shuya Sophia Cai, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy

When The Meg first released, lead actor Jason Statham believed it was the beginning of a multimillion-dollar franchise. He stated that if the movie made enough money, then more films would be made. While the production has been delayed over the years for a number of reasons, it seems the project was ultimately considered financially viable enough to warrant making a second film. This time with bigger sharks and more deadly creatures, to keep the rating down, the level of gore was sacrificed by director Ben Wheatley, irritating Statham’s desires for this film. Indeed, when it came to figuring out what exactly a sequel to The Meg would entail, a number of ideas were entertained. With the first film delivering a neat, decent shark film in amongst a subgenre filled with campy action, what direction will this particular franchise head, and will it stand out from the crowd?

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: The entire movie is about giant man-eating prehistoric monsters (giant sharks, octopus, and lizard-type creatures) that come out of hiding and cause carnage. Multiple people are eaten. However, it’s very cartoonish and the gore is surprisingly low (no blood except for minor wounds like nose bleeds, and people are eaten whole, no limbs severed or fly off screen). The gore that is present is more related to the monsters (monsters have bite wounds, things are cut off, and they are brutally injured). Lots of gun violence, as humans actively hunt others down and try to kill each other, either with weaponry, melee attacks, or sabotage tactics at depth. The film features many hazardous scenarios underwater, featuring implosions and drownings. There are a number of jump scares. The film features terrorist activities.

Language/Crude Humor: A few instances of the s-word. Lesser swears are said on occasion, such as a-hole, h*ll, and female dogs.

Drug/Alcohol References: Alcohol is seen being consumed in social settings, however none are shown to be intoxicated.

Sexual Content: A pack of condoms are shown as the punchline of a joke. Women are seen dancing in tight-fitting beach wear. A man makes a sexually suggestive remark to a woman about putting on sunscreen. Two characters kiss.

Spiritual Content: None.

Other Negative Content: Some characters abuse the environment in order to turn a profit. Safety protocols take a backseat throughout most of the story. Violent acts hold no consequence.

Positive Content: The film promotes the idea that should a person be in the position to help another, then it’s important to step up to the plate. The story promotes the preservation of the environment (although their actions don’t always line up with their goals considering how much is destroyed in the process of protecting things).

Review

Meg 2: The Trench is a surprisingly difficult film to define. Is it a horror? An action film? A comedy? It’s all of them and yet none at the same time. The film never settles on a tone, and it’s all a mishmash right from the start.

It drop-kicks the audience into an action-based espionage scenario with Jonas (Jason Statham) at the centre, before reuniting him with the other returning characters: Mac, DJ, and Meiying. Yet the film never formally reintroduces them. It doesn’t slow down enough to truly get the sense of who they are, how they have lived since the conclusion of the previous film, or feature any basic element of character development. Fair enough, they were introduced in the first film, but The Meg isn’t big enough as a franchise yet to pull off this tactic of skipping vital storytelling beats under the assumption their characters are assumed knowledge. Even if it’s a sequel, a movie should still set aside a scene or two for the audience to reacquaint themselves, or for new viewers to find a foothold to latch onto them.  

I started to doubt myself. I saw The Meg way back when it was released in cinemas, so my mind was rusty. However, the returning cast seemed disturbingly unrecognizable. This time around they were quicker to joke, their jobs have been altered into something unrealistic, and their relationships with past characters were written out completely or transplanted onto someone new. It all gives the feeling that some of the actors didn’t wish to return as they could smell this script was off.

I was confused— was The Meg always this bad? I couldn’t remember this jokey-joke tone, even though some critics wished it had adopted that approach more. I ended up rewatching the original film after seeing this sequel. My memory served correct. I really like The Meg. It’s a solid shark movie. Not as great as Jaws, but it’s one of the better ones that isn’t aiming for that “so bad it’s good” territory unlike Sharknado. The premise is goofy (like most in this subgenre), but each character was distinct and fully realized, where even the more “evil” characters felt human and well-balanced, so when some inevitably died, the audience felt a little twinge of emotion. Then the final act delivered exactly what was promised, with carnage and dumb action. It found a line to walk where it was serious enough to deliver some pathos, but was silly enough to elicit a laugh as well.

In comparison, Meg 2: The Trench either has no line, or it zig-zags all over it. The film has no idea what it wants to be. Or maybe it just wants to be everything all at once. Once the plot gets going, it feels eerily reminiscent at first to Underwater (a seriously underrated film, by the way), before encroaching upon a mix of Deep Blue Sea and Captain Phillips, then ending as some B-grade Jurassic World rip-off. That blend may sound amazing, and we were never expecting this film to be the best of anything, however the problem is that Meg 2: The Trench isn’t good at any of it. There are no memorable moments that stand out or give the audience any sense of wonder. The characters are so underdeveloped that they end up being your stereotypical horror movie fodder, where there’s no emotional response when they are killed off. The jokes fall flat. It fails at being a horror, action, and comedy because it doesn’t commit to one genre. It’s okay for a movie to be similar to another, but usually a film has another take to explore, or it has something to say, or it at least excels in some area. Yet all Meg 2: The Trench achieves is reminding the audience of better films that nail the tone it wishes it fostered.

It feels like the film wasn’t made for American audiences. If anything, it seems reminiscent of Chinese blockbuster fantasy action films. It’s difficult to articulate the subtle differences, but generally the films of this subgenre are more overt in their monster appearances, choosing heavy, unrealistic CGI over keeping things hidden and building suspense. The plots are faster paced, the action more outlandish, and the comedy is based more on physicality than quips. If there was a style Meg 2: The Trench was going for, then this would be it. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Americanizing elements of Chinese cinema, it does now complicate the film even further, as not only does this movie struggle to commit to a tone and story, but now it begs the question as to what demographic they’re aiming for as well. Particularly in regards to the CGI—American viewers have never really taken too kindly to prominent cartoonish-looking monsters, something which isn’t as much of a cinematic crime in Asian cinema.

When reviewing sequels, I like to ask the question as to whether the film can be followed without watching the first. Meg 2: The Trench is a weird case. The film doesn’t hold your hand at all. Important parts of the first film, particularly the setting and location, aren’t recapped at all in this sequel. Newcomers will have no idea as to where these characters are, what they do, and why they are initially there. It’s not hard to guess, but it’s still a frustrating learning curve. Yet when it comes to characters, watching The Meg is essentially useless as the returning cast feel so vastly different in personality from their first outing that they may as well be completely new. It’s not a great sequel when it comes to the continuity of personalities.

As such, it’s a difficult film to recommend watching. The CGI is campy, but it doesn’t pull off that classic cheesy tone enough to be amusing or entertaining. It swings for the fences in every direction, but it doesn’t hit a home run with anything, neither horror, action, comedy, or any of its subgenres of spy thriller, monster flick, or tense survival action. It would have been better if it had halved its plot and just focussed on one, and really fleshed out that aspect instead of changing tack every thirty minutes. The film flies by, mindlessly, the plot veering from one thing to another, and it’s all rather bland and ultimately unentertaining. It’s disappointing. We weren’t expecting much, but I think we can all say we hoped Meg 2: The Trench would at least be a fun romp.

Positives

+ Monster carnage
+ Some tense underwater scenes

Negatives

- Tonally indecisive
- No standout moments
- Returning cast are unrecognizable
- Doesn't carry on the same spirit as the first film
- Underdeveloped supporting cast
- Not strong enough in any genre to call it an action, horror, or comedy

The Bottom Line

Meg 2: The Trench adopts none of the spirit contained within the first film, failing to recapture the personalities of the characters and the nuances of the themes, nor does it stretch itself to become a successful outlandish comedy.

 

5.4

Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

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