Meg 2 The Trench

Meg 2 The Trench

Anyone hoping that Ben Wheatley might bring some of the exuberant personality and boundary-pushing creativity on display in films like “finish List” and “In the Earth” to his for-hire gig directing the dismally boring “Meg 2: The Trench” should find different movietic waters to swim in. Much as in his atrocious remake of “Rebecca”, Wheatley mostly phones it in here, and he does so with a rotary landline. At least until the final half-hour, when he’s finally free to unleash some monstrous chaos, this is one of the dullest films of the year, a plodding, poorly made giant shark movie that inexplicably lets the giant shark take a backseat to an evil underwater drilling process. This thing just has no teeth.

Never really allowed to have the winking fun he gets from his best action parts, Jason Statham looks visibly bored this time as Jonas, the deep-sea diver employee of the Zhang Institute, the facility that discovered the continued existence of a prehistoric predator known as the Megalodon in the first film. The sequel reveals that the research facility has even kept one in captivity to continue to study it. Jiuming (an inconsistent Wu Jing), the head of the institute, is even convinced that he can train the megalodon, but everything goes wrong when it escapes, and … no, this is not just a shark-escape-action movie, although you’ll wish it was as simple as that.

Instead of focusing on the fugitive meg—who escapes hysterically easily while the crew is focused on something else—the script by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris sends Jonas and his crew deep into the ocean to the trench that the megalodons have called home for centuries. On their way into the murky, poorly strike ocean—seriously, Wheatley’s answer to recreating underwater photography is just to turn the lighting down—they discover other megalodons, but that’s nothing compared to the evil humans who also happen to be in the trench, mining it for resources. Yes, Jonas and his team stumble upon an illegal process in the middle of the ocean, which leads to their vessels being destroyed. A sequence in which they’re forced to walk the ocean floor to a facility is one of the most poorly executed in years. It almost felt real-time.

A few personality-less characters get chomped or blown up, but most of the faux tension is saved for Meiying (Sophia Cai), who survived the first film and becomes the main creature Jonas tries to keep alive. It’s barely a spoiler to say that Jonas, Jiuming, Meiying, and a few others eventually make it back above the surface, fleeing the facility now overrun with soldiers for reasons I couldn’t possibly care enough to explain. They head to a resort called Fun Island, and almost 90 minutes into this mess, “The Trench” finally gets a little fun. You see, the underwater explosions destroyed the temperature shield that had kept things like a giant octopus away from tourists. Finally, Wheatley and his team get to have a little fun, but it’s far too little and far too late.

Even the action-heavy final section of “The Trench” barely seems like a production trying to have a good time. How do you make a movie about jet-skiing Jason Statham throwing harpoons at giant sharks and do it with such little joy? This is a strangely inert film with none of Wheatley’s dark humor or vicious sfinish with horror. It’s almost like he just gave up on doing anything interesting when he found out he couldn’t make it R-rated. Cliff Curtis and Page Kennedy develop a strange buddy-comedy-action vibe after on that almost works, but it feels a different movie from the rest of the action. Absolutely nothing here has stakes—so many people in Jonas’ world die with barely a nod to the fact they ever existed—and anyone who has ever seen a movie knows who will make it to the final scene.

Of course, that’s not always a problem. We go to giant shark movies knowing Jason Statham will save the day. So it becomes about execution instead of originality, and maybe that’s why Wheatley falls so flat here. It seems like he needs to be able to play with narrative to be effective, and when he’s forced into a traditional structure like he is here, he can’t put his heart into it. He just checks out and goes through the motions.

Early in the film, Jiuming gives a speech with a quote about how man is only limited by his imagination. Too bad the movie that follows has so little of it.


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