‘Meg 2: The Trench’ Review: This Sequel Bites Hard
Journalists attending the Meg 2: The Trench’s press screening were given a voucher good for a “Sharktastic Cocktail” at the theater’s lobby bar. The last time I can recall a studio plying critics with booze before a screening was Cats — and when that realization dawned on me, it set an expectation of bizarre awfulness for Meg 2 that the film never quite reached. Oh sure, Meg 2 is bad, but not in the surreal WTF-am-I-seeing? way that Cats is bad. Meg 2 is the more typical, more conventional, less entertaining sort of junk; the kind you’ll need more than one drink to enjoy.
Too much time is wasted on the characters, their connections, and the nitty gritty of ocean-floor rescue operations. Then The Meg returns to the surface, and its title character attacks Statham and his chums (please clap) at their high-tech ocean laboratory. Suddenly the film blossoms into an endearingly silly slasher movie, complete with ludicrous jump scares. (As it turns out, the biggest shark that ever lived is surprisingly good at silently sneaking up on its prey.)
Meg 2, then, is a little too faithful to the first film, because it wastes even more time on the characters, their connections, and the nitty gritty of ocean-floor rescues — and it adds a pointless subplot about a mine filled with “rare Earth minerals” at the bottom of the sea. Minutes and minutes pass without a single glimpse of a Meg (short for “megalodon,” as in a giant prehistoric shark) while the heroes investigate this illegal mining operation. The movie is over 90 minutes before the slasher component kicks in — and by that point, I was too bored to find much of anything endearingly silly.
The most important non-prehistoric character is once again diver and underwater rescue expert Jonas Taylor, played by Jason Statham. As Meg 2 begins, Jonas gets into a big martial arts fight on a cargo boat with a bunch of illegal toxic waste dumpers. Why is a diver and underwater rescue expert spin-kicking sailors? My best guess is the filmmakers recognized that very little of interest was going to happen over the next hour of their movie, and they were desperate to get some kind of excitement into it.
After that brief diversion, the main plot begins at a facility in China known as the “Oceanic Institute.” That’s where Jonas works when he’s not punching toxic waste dumpers. At the Institute, the sole surviving Meg from the first movie lives in captivity, where it is studied by a variety of scientists, including Jonas’ friends (and returning The Meg actors) Mac (Cliff Curtis) and DJ (Page Kennedy). Also on hand is Jiuming (Wolf Warrior’s Wu Jing), an inventor whose creations include an exo suit that can amplify the wearer’s strength and help them withstand the immense pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Was it Chekhov who said if you introduce a strength-amplifying exo suit in the first scene, it must amplify someone’s strength by the last scene?
Anyway, Jiuming also happens to be the sister of Suyin, the female hero of The Meg played by Li Bingbing — who did not return for the sequel, and thus is said to have died at some point in between films. (RIP.) But her character’s daughter, Meiying (Sophia Cai), is still around, and now lives with her uncle (or with Jonas? It’s unclear.) in order to continue her crucial role as the franchise’s designated moppet in distress.
Jiuming believes he can train their captive Meg to obey his audio commands. Jonas, who had an underwater dogfight with a Meg in the first film, is understandably skeptical. Was it Chekhov who said if you introduce giant prehistoric shark training in the first scene, a giant prehistoric shark must respond to that training by the last scene?
Anyway, all of these characters, along with several others, head through an oceanic thermocline (just Wikipedia it) on a routine exploratory dive to the bottom of the sea. Jonas’ team has supposedly completed 25 straight dives to this trench without an incident — but wouldn’t you know it, on the one we watch they discover that illegal mine, get into an escalating series of mishaps, and finally square off with a bunch of Megs and other assorted underwater creatures.
The long stretch of Meg 2: The Trench actually set in the trench is tedious in the extreme, especially in the section where the characters have to wear Jiuming’s suits and verrrrrry slooooooowly trudge across the ocean floor to find a way back to the surface. This anti-chase climaxes in an ugly and impossible to follow set piece involving a race to an airlock and away from some prehistoric monsters. From shot to shot, it’s not clear where any of the humans are in relation to each other, and they keep jumping around; they might seem a football field’s length away from the airlock in one shot and then be inches from it in the next. It looks like ... well, honestly, it looks like you’re watching people slowly march along the bottom of the ocean inside identical scuba suits.
Look, I’m not made of stone. When Jason Statham gets into what amounts to a jousting match with a trio of Megs while riding a jet ski and brandishing explosive-tipped harpoons, I smile. When he dispatches an adversary with a shark-related pun, I chuckle. That’s what this whole movie should be! Instead, those brief moments of pleasure are buried at the bottom of an ocean of exposition, dumb plot twists, and incomprehensible underwater action scenes.
With so little else to occupy my mind, at a certain point I began to observe that a lot of Meg 2’s dialogue seems, in a meta way, to refer to the movie itself — as if the characters recognized they were in a crappy film, but were powerless to escape it. These lines include:
- “Megs and humans were never meant to mix!”
- “This is some dumbass s—, mark my words.”
- “This is insane!”
- “This feels unpleasantly familiar.”
- “Let’s just hope it goes better than the last time!”
Reader, it does not.