WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for director Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, in theaters now.
When it comes to shark movies, Steven Spielberg's Jaws remains the golden standard over forty years since it debuted. It spawned a franchise, influenced several other aquatic horrors such as Orca and Piranha, and set the bar so high in terms of storytelling and blood-in-the-water spectacle few have come close to matching it, and none have surpassed it. It's safe to say, director Jon Turteltaub would have had to come pretty good for The Meg to reach depths close to Spielberg's 1975 Oscar-winning film.
Judging by The Meg's surprisingly strong opening weekend, fans are taking to it more than Hollywood expected. Sure, it may not be getting a critical response similar to Jaws', but it's a fun yet scary experience that'll keep you on the edge of your seats. The enjoyment factor should help it outlast its modern contemporaries, with The Meg definitely earning audience accolades as the second-best killer shark movie, ever.
The Meg does what other modern shark films attempted, but its execution is simply better. The CGI is well-done, making up for its super-simplistic plot: Jason Statham's Jonas Taylor has to stop a 75-foot megalodon which has escaped a mysterious trench off the coast of China. This, of course, evolves into a personal vendetta between man and monster.
The action scenes, the chase sequences, the way the shark haunts the humans, and a plethora of jump scares all create a sense of tension and anxiety as the meg mercilessly preys on humans in open water. In terms of how it transcends its rivals, the humans-playing-god aspect is actually done better than Deep Blue Sea, another popular entry in the genre, and Jonas' constant one-on-ones with the prehistoric creature are much more exciting than watching Blake Lively tussle with a great white in the more critically acclaimed The Shallows.
In terms of how outlandish things get, well, there are subtle nods to Sharknado too, arguably the silliest entry in the shark-genre, which itself became a full-on pop culture franchise. Not only do Jonas and his posse outrace the meg and hook it with a crane on a boat that's way too small, there are the silly traps they use, involving rafts, cables and reefs. Eventually, there's a scene where hundreds of sharks comes to Jonas' aid as if he were Aquaman n. Yes, it's ridiculous, but it's also enjoyably funny.
In the end, The Meg plays out like a SyFy Saturday night movie, but with a bigger budget and amazing special effects. This movie's best summed up as The Fast and the Furious meets Mission: Impossible, but undersea.
Ultimately, The Meg works because it's a story with a lot of heart, revolving around a crew which feels like a true family, sacrificing for each other, and also to protect humanity. It may have fallen short of Jaws by a few hundred meters, but Turteltaub has crafted something worthy of silver medal, a deep-sea adventure which will surely have us thinking twice about going into the water.
In theaters nationwide, director Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Masi Oka, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao and Rainn Wilson.