REVIEW: Meg 2: The Trench (2023, dir. Ben Wheatley)

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 116 mins

UK Distributor: Warner Bros Pictures

WHO’S IN MEG 2: THE TRENCH?

Jason Statham, Wu Jing, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Cliff Curtis, Sienna Guillory

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Ben Wheatley (director), Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber and Dean Georgaris (writers), Belle Avery and Lorenzo di Bonaventura (producers), Harry Gregson-Williams (composer), Haris Zambarloukos (cinematographer), Jonathan Amos (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Jonas Taylor (Statham) finds himself going up against a pack of giant megalodon sharks…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON MEG 2: THE TRENCH?

Hiring Ben Wheatley to direct Meg 2: The Trench, the sequel to director Jon Turteltaub’s financially successful giant shark movie, was an incredibly smart decision for an otherwise incredibly dumb movie. Wheatley is known for much more outlandish stuff like Kill List, Free Fire and more recently In the Earth, all of which have a level of playfulness that display his adoration for those varying genres, and with his first proper go at blockbuster filmmaking (after his mooted Tomb Raider sequel permanently stalled) he brings that same passion to a movie that, like its predecessor, calls back to the kind of silly, schlocky B-movie monster flicks of the 90s like Anaconda and Carnosaur.

Does it make the movie good? Critically speaking, not really, because by all accounts this is utterly brain-dead material that makes the Jurassic World movies look like PhD theses. However, it does make Meg 2: The Trench the right kind of dumb popcorn entertainment, where it’s so completely aware of how stupid and over-the-top it is that it honestly feels pointless to try and poke holes in its nonsensical script, not to mention the fact that it’s clearly made by people who know and love this kind of movie inside out, which makes all the difference in its overblown execution.

Plot hardly matters, because it all revolves around Jason Statham going after giant prehistoric megalodon sharks, and that right there is all you really need to know before going in. But I suppose a bit more context couldn’t hurt: Statham’s Jonas Taylor, who is now apparently spending his days spying on and exposing pirate operations that are dumping toxic chemicals into the ocean (for… reasons), is recruited by Jiuming (Wu Jing), a scientist and the sister of Li Bingbing’s character from the first film – who’s apparently been killed off in between movies – to lead a new mission deep below the surface, into the concealed underwater environment known as the Trench, where “megs” and other giant prehistoric creatures have been living for millennia. However, when Jonas and his team come across a rogue mining operation, headed by mercenary Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) who has a severe grudge against Jonas (for… reasons), they end up becoming trapped in the Trench and must find a way to make it back to the surface, while also contending with not just the sharks that have swum loose, but also the sinister corporation that is now hell-bent on also doing away with Jonas (for… well, you get the picture).

There’s no skirting around the fact that Meg 2: The Trench is really, really dumb. The script is full of logic-defying plot holes, character motivations that make little to no sense, and you’ll be asking yourself more than once exactly how Statham’s hero is able to survive things that are by definition un-survivable, even in a movie about sharks that are about 25,000 metres long. However, in a very similar fashion to Roland Emmerich’s equally mindless Moonshot from last year, there is still some charm to how dumb it is, because from the opening prologue onwards – which consists of a fun little montage set during the Cretaceous period that manages to be far more entertaining than any of the Jurassic World movies combined – there’s a sense that nobody, from Wheatley to the writers to Statham himself, is taking this seriously. Instead, the focus is just on giving the audience as fun a time on this crazy rollercoaster as they possibly can, whether it’s scenes of mass carnage as these enormous sharks (and the odd giant octopus) chomp through beach-goers like they’re at a Las Vegas buffet, or Statham with his typical Statham growl chasing after them on a jet-ski with explosive harpoons, and in that regard it’s kind of a brainless blast.

Clearly, this is not the kind of film you go to for grounded realism – to reiterate, Jason Statham hunts giant sharks on a jet-ski with explosive harpoons – and Wheatley embraces the stupidity to a point where it’s honestly impressive as to how much silly stuff he and screenwriters Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber and Dean Georgaris manage to get away with here. It’s easy to see and understand viewers finding it too dumb to wholly engage with, because this is the kind of movie that ejects logic and science out the submersible early on and somehow gets stupider from there, but again the charm comes from how much the director, actors et al know full well what they’re supposed to be doing and are delivering exactly what is expected of them. Not only that, but you can tell that Wheatley is having a lot of fun making what is essentially his first big monster movie, clearly influenced by classics like the 1954 Godzilla and, of course, Jaws but putting his own playfully devilish spin on it with some inventively shot sequences that don’t shy away from the carnage these sharks are causing (at least, as much as a 12A movie like this can show). You can absolutely tear into this movie for (literally) jumping the shark, but at the end of the day it’s having the times of its life while doing so, and isn’t too cynical or condescending about itself.

I should mention that the press screening I saw this at offered a lot of alcohol-infused cocktails before the film kicked off, and honestly being slightly drunk is probably the best way to watch Meg 2: The Trench, because like the movie you won’t be thinking so much about how little sense it makes, since you’ll be too caught up in the fast-paced action to spare a moment’s thought. Obviously, I don’t condone excessive alcohol consumption for the purposes of watching this movie; all I’m saying is, a little bit will take you a long way, and you too may find yourself mindlessly giggling at Jason Statham swimming and surviving within highly pressurised waters at the bottom of the ocean (yes, really).

Looking back on it all now that I’m sober, though, it is really, really dumb, and I can easily see some critics and audiences condemning it for treating them like morons, or even calling it one of the year’s worst films. I can’t say that about it, even though it is critically speaking not very good, but as a thought-free piece of B-movie escapism, it is fun enough to excuse most of its stupidity. Or, maybe, that’s still the booze talking.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Meg 2: The Trench is a gloriously dumb B-movie monster sequel that, critically speaking, is perhaps too stupid to fathom, but thanks to some playful filmmaking by Ben Wheatley and a cast led by Jason Statham who are similarly refusing to take this material seriously, it’s a brainless blast that’s best experienced with a bit of booze in your system.

Meg 2: The Trench is showing in cinemas from Friday 4th August 2023

Click here to find showtimes near you!

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