Five years after audiences were treated to Jason Statham’s audacious battle with a giant megalodon in The Meg, the anticipation-ridden sequel, Meg 2: The Trench, has arrived in theatres, though some might say it should remain deep underwater where it belongs.
An amplified spectacle on every front, it’s unapologetically grander, presenting a feast of underwater monsters, while also elevating the stakes, and orchestrating action set pieces that are even more over-the-top than its predecessor.
However, a grander scale doesn’t necessarily denote a finer cinematic experience, and the film subtly echoes a familiar refrain. While Meg 2: The Trench inadvertently finds itself replicating some elements that previously relegated The Meg to lukewarm critical waters, it doesn’t quite reach the depths of the original, though it still delivers a memorable and entertaining plunge into the abyss.
Set six years after the events of the original, the sequel replaces original director Jon Turteltaub with Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise) and dives back into the tumultuous world of marine exploration. It is based on Steve Alten’s 1999 novel of the same name, and the second in his seven-book series. It’s familiar ground, except that the Oceanography Centre of Hainan now has a new friend (foe?) – a baby megalodon named Haiqi, raised in a bold bid to delve into the creature’s behaviour and uncover secrets shrouded in the uncharted abyss.
The move comes after megalodons were discovered lurking at the heart of the ocean floor, prompting the scientists at the epicentre of this revelation to capture and nurture them for research purposes. But if there’s anything that the first movie has taught us, it’s that creatures of nature don’t mix with humans, and it doesn’t take long before shark terror starts to break loose again.
Jason Statham returns as Jonas Taylor here, who has now embraced his paternal role for Meiying Zhang, played by Sophia Cai, a feisty 14-year-old keen on exploring the mystical trench. Following the death of her mother, Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing), in the first movie, the parenting mantle is shared between Jonas and the former’s uncle, Jiuming (Wu Jing) – a foil to Jonas’ steely demeanour. Together, they stand their ground against the blood-thirsty sharks and a new team of ruthless mercenaries commanded by the enigmatic Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a villain with an intriguing past linked to Jonas.
The first part of Meg 2: The Trench dedicates itself to chilling undersea terror rather than full-throttle action – the mere thought of megalodons lurking on the ocean floor is a breeding ground for horror, and the film employs this ominous premise to tap into the age-old fear of what lies at the bottom of the deep blue sea.
While the movie’s choice to depict the trench with an authentic lack of natural light occasionally muddles the viewer’s understanding of these fresh threats, this obscurity plays a dual role. In obscuring the predators, it elevates the perilous situation the characters find themselves in, amplifying the tension and horror in a way that makes Meg 2: The Trench a uniquely gripping underwater nightmare during the first portion. You just have to ignore any sense of logic deep down under, wondering how so many can survive so far below and do what they have been doing all this while.
It also plays into the notion of how sea monsters have haunted our collective psyche for centuries. Director Ben Wheatley harnesses this dread, crafting nerve-racking chase sequences where Jonas and his allies are pitted against predators they can’t quite comprehend. By exploring further into the trench and introducing novel creatures and menacing scenarios, he rekindles the primal fear within Jonas and his team.
Sadly, he doesn’t quite know what audiences want because the thrill only comes in the third act, when the three Megs escape the depths of the ocean, and attack Fun Island, a picturesque beach paradise teeming with affluent vacationers blissfully unaware of the underwater terror lurking just beyond the shoreline. Chaos quickly engulfs this idyllic locale as the megalodons, and even a gargantuan octopus, lay siege to the beach, resulting in a spectacular spectacle of indulgent scenes of shark attacks and explosive havoc.
However, the film isn’t solely about predatory sharks wreaking havoc; it shines brightest when focusing on its cast of compelling characters. The chemistry among them elevates the viewing experience, and the charmingly executed ‘found family’ dynamic quickly has audiences invested in their survival.
Jiuming, in particular, is a good stand-in as a co-protagonist, despite not embodying the convention action-hero archetype like Jonas, with his perpetual smile providing a compelling contrast to Statham’s trademark frown. It’s just weird that Wu Jing, known as an action star, plays against stereotype and channels more comedy than the movie needs. An amusing subplot to watch is Jiuming’s earnest attempt to forge a bond with Haiqi the baby megalodon – a delightful exploration of the age-old “Can you tame a shark?” question – which delivers a satisfying payoff in the film’s climactic showdown.
The film revels in high-octane action, leading to an explosive denouement that stretches the boundaries of believability for a series of delightfully entertaining moments. One particular highlight is the thrilling confrontation between Jonas and the megalodons, a visual feast that defies realism in favour of pure, unadulterated fun. While Meg 2: The Trench ambitiously intertwines the looming threat of the megalodons with a complex mining operation subplot, it occasionally runs the risk of spreading itself too thin, diluting the impact of its multifaceted narrative.
Regrettably, the film’s action becomes somewhat muddled and challenging to navigate during the expansive third act. This complexity arises when our heroes, nefarious mercenaries, and imposing sea creatures collide in a whirlwind of cinematic chaos. Meg 2: The Trench hesitates to fully embrace the inherent campiness of its premise and striving instead for a more serious tone. This approach ultimately leaves the sequel caught in the predecessor’s shadow when it comes to executing action sequences. The final act, despite its ambitious scope, struggles to match the suspense it initially builds, making the narrative somewhat convoluted.
Nevertheless, Meg 2: The Trench remains a shark movie at heart, one that balances humour and heartfelt moments against a backdrop of edge-of-your-seat action. If the idea of brainlessly enjoyable action scenes featuring party-goers succumbing to shark attacks on a sunny beach appeals to you, then this film certainly delivers. Yet, beneath this rollicking surface, the movie taps into deeper elements of horror, leveraging on the terror that comes with venturing into the deep unknown, the primal fear associated with creatures lurking just out of sight. It stumbles some, but Meg 2: The Trench ultimately offers an entertaining dive into a world filled with suspense, camaraderie, and, of course, the chilling allure of the ocean’s most formidable predators.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Delivering a whale of a time, Meg 2: The Trench is all bite when it comes to shark action and the human connection – despite the occasional trip-up.
Story - 6.5/10
Direction - 6/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10