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I Punched a Shark and I liked It - The Meg Review

When you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain

The Meg, starring Jason Statham, is exactly what you expect. Jason Statham fights a giant shark, and its great. Okay, great might be too high of a praise, but it’s definitely entertaining. The Meg has an interesting history, being in development hell for twenty years. The film is based on the book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten, which came out in the summer of 1997. The original cover even says “soon to be a major motion picture.” I read the original book back in Middle School, so not as soon as the cover predicted. The premise is pretty basic, the Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived and the ancestor of the Great White, isn’t nearly as extinct as we thought. It turns out they still survive at the bottom of the ocean, cut off from the rest of the world because the plot said so. One gets loose and hijinks ensue. Mild spoilers ahead.

Jonas Taylor is a rescue diver trying to save a group of survivors on a damaged nuclear submarine. Naturally, it doesn’t go smoothly, and Jonas sees something ram the hull of the submarine, causing it to bend. Running out of time he makes the decision to get to the surface, which will leave a couple of people behind, but save the rest. Moments after his submersible detaches and begins to rise, the nuclear submarine blows up. One of the survivors named Dr. Heller (played by Robert Taylor) blames Jonas for the death of his friends. No one believes his story about something ramming the hull, and Jonas’ career and reputation are ruined.

Fast forward five years, billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) has bought one of the most expensive underwater research stations on the planet, just off the coast of China. He arrives to meet Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), who supervise the facility. They believe that there’s an even deeper section of the Mariana Trench that’s hidden by a cloud of hydrogen sulfide, forming a thermocline (a thin but distinct layer layer in a large body of water with a temperature that varies wildly from the temperature of the water above or below it. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know this, I had to look it up myself). The theory is that the thermocline at the bottom of the Mariana Trench keeps any creatures from getting out. So they send a team down to try and prove their theory. They turn out to be correct, but something attacks the sub, stranding the crew on the ocean floor with limited power and oxygen. James “Mac” Mackreides (Cliff Curtis) calls his old friend, Jonas Taylor, and manages to convince him to rescue the sub. He does, but doing so creates a small temporary break in the thermocline, allowing a Megalodon to get through, and into the open water. From there, it turns into the shark movie you paid to see. It begins killing people and it’s up to Jonas and company to kill it.

As I said at the start, this movie is exactly what you expect, its Jaws with a bigger shark. This is a high budget B movie, and I’m pretty sure everyone involved in this film knows it. But if you go in with that mindset, which I did, it’s a lot of fun. I paid $8 dollars to see Jason Statham fight a giant shark, and that’s exactly what I got. To the film’s credit, it doesn’t feel like it aspires to be anything other than a B movie, but the acting is still a lot better than what one would generally get in a B film. The uh… meat of the film, if you will, is the shark wreaking havoc while the crew tries to kill it. There’s not too much more I can say besides giving a synopsis of the rest of the film, this isn’t a deep movie. But in its defense, it doesn’t try to be either. What does put it above the typical B movie is the budget and the cast. Despite their size, the sharks look fairly realistic. The cast all give solid performances, Jason Statham and Li Bingbing have a lot of chemistry. It’s obvious that their characters begin to like each other almost immediately, and while the romantic subplot of B movies often feel forced, this one doesn’t, and that’s due to Statham and Bingbing’s chemistry. So, props to the actors for this.

There are a lot of differences between this film and the book it’s based on, although I have the sneaking suspicion most people won’t care much about that. I didn’t, and I like the book, which is admittedly, a lot more ridiculous. Probably the most significant change is that in the book, the Suyin character is Japanese and named Terry Tanaka. I’m guessing this change was made for the Chinese market since most of the film takes place off the coast of China. This has become a Hollywood trend in recent years because the Chinese market is so big. For example, that’s why the villain in the Red Dawn remake was changed from China to North Korea. I’ll be honest, this change is more or less irrelevant, and I only bring it up because I enjoy discussing the marketing of films as part of the movie making process. And Li Bingbing is one of the best things about the movie.

I suspect you already know whether or not you’ll like this movie before you see it. I personally, absolutely love B-level monster movies, and if that’s what you go to see, I think you’ll probably be entertained.

Final Grade: Jawesome

So I won’t have a post next week, and I don’t know if I’ll have one the week after, although I hope to. I’m moving to Los Angeles on Monday. I’ll be moving from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue my dream of writing. Because honestly, this is the only thing in the world that doesn’t make me want to slam my head into concrete repeatedly. Whenever my next post goes up, it will be my review, or impressions depending on how far I am, of Death’s Gambit. Next time you hear from me; I’ll be in California. Till then, I’m Jason H. and I’m signing off.

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