A research team encounters multiple threats while exploring the depths of the ocean, including a malevolent mining operation. (from IMDB.com)
When director Jon Turteltaub brought author Steve Alten's shark thriller novel Meg to the big screen in 2018, I don't think the lackluster-received monster movie had much of a chance of seeing a sequel. However, five years have passed and the megalodons have returned for another feeding in Meg 2: The Trench. Now, although Alten's sequel book to Meg was indeed called The Trench, even without having read that book myself, I get the feeling that the theatrical sequel only relates to it in name only.
The Meg featured action star Jason Statham as Jonas, a sort of ex-military style fixer who is called in to aid a research team in exploring deep sea marine life. But as they explored this unseen world of the deep, they accidentally unleash three megalodons - gigantic prehistoric sharks unlike anything we've ever seen before. Today's movie-going audience has seen it all, with 1975's JAWS remaining the champion of all shark movies still to this day. So, it would seem natural for Hollywood to try to go bigger and badder by focusing on absolutely colossal sharks that menace humans by the hundreds, gobbling them up in batches like a single spoonful of cereal. Meg 2 sees Jonas continuing to aid environmental causes since the last film, and has become a single parent to his late girlfriend's daughter (that's right, Bingbing Li not only doesn't reprise her role, but has also been killed off), Meiying (played again by Shuya Sophia Cai). The father/daughter relationship between Jonas and Meiying is endearing - probably the only character relationship worth anything in the film franchise so far - but it still isn't enough to make the movie feel anything more than a live action cartoon.
Meg 2 starts off with Jonas on a James-Bond-style stealth mission where he escapes a cargo boat full of polluters. It already gets things off to a silly start, but director Ben Wheatley's style is already quite different than Jon Turteltaub's. Turteltaub attempted to ground his characters a bit, but with a cinematic style that felt sort of heightened. This time around, Wheatley's characters have all become caricatures while his cinematic approach makes an effort to be a little more grounded (this, however, all goes out the window in the last act... but more on that later). When Jonas joins an expedition team to explore the mysterious deep sea Trench, Meiying pops up out of nowhere, having defied her father's wishes and tags along for the dangerous trek, The Lost World: Jurassic Park-style (or even like the nephews tagging along on one of Uncle Scrooge's many dangerous adventures). The way Wheatley shows us the Trench starts to have a little promise, but once we find that "evil humans" are introduced as the main antagonists in a film series which stars megalodons as the titular antagonists, all hopes are pretty much lost. The ambitions of the villainous human characters are explained, but it never feels believable. In fact, when a friend of the team's suddenly turns their backs on them in an attempt to murder their fellow colleagues, it just feels more silly than ominous. So many of these elements start giving the movie more of an afternoon 80's action TV series episode feel than a big budget thriller, and you realize you either need to start giving in to the silliness unfolding before you or head for the theater exit.
Sadly, I'm an audience member who can withstand the kind of mindless action that Meg 2: The Trench proudly offers (although I don't prefer it). But even I have my limits. Wheatley leans into the silly action heavily as the movie progresses. All of the cliches are there, too - from slow motion jumps through the air where a hero attacks a monster or villain, to one death-defying skin-of-your-teeth escape after another. Some of the film's disposable good guys meet grisly ends (not that we see in gory fashion, though), while other heroes escape insanely dangerous situations time and time again - and end the film with literally not a scratch on them. It's details like these that just make this movie seem thoughtlessly ludicrous just for the sake of having big-budget-spectacle fun. Heck, the cowardly character DJ suddenly shows up now as an action hero, with a bug-out bag filled with the kind of survival tricks that would make MacGyver proud. It's explained with a proverbial wave of the hand that DJ decided he wouldn't be a coward next time his life was in danger, and decided to secretly train for it after the events of the first film. It's a little funny at first, but it's another example of how ridiculous Meg 2 is.
Megs aren't the only beasts to escape the Trench this time around either. Buckle your non-existent theater seatbelts, folks, because now a kraken has escaped to terrorize the waters, too. And if that isn't enough, vicious, dinosaur-like, man-eating lizards also happen to pop up on shore to really seal the deal on that Jurassic Park vibe. Sadly, none of these monsters ever feel especially creepy or terrifying in the way that Spielberg knew how to portray them. The final act is an exhausting kitchen sink of human villains with guns, beastly lizards, grabby tentacles, and chomping megalodons. Check your brain at the door if this sounds like it could be a ride worth taking; Meg 2 is as dumb as the come.
In all fairness, I think Meg 2: The Trench may have been the kind of silly action movie that I would have enjoyed more as a teenager. My wife, who is a HUGE fan of sharks (the first Jaws movie is her favorite movie of all time), did enjoy this movie quite a bit, but I'm sure she'd be quick to agree with just how silly this movie turned out to be (although, to be a nice husband, I didn't critique it to death to her like I am here). While Statham basically plays himself as a live action Popeye - without the spinach - he remains a likeable fellow. Still, I think his schtick and persona only add to the cartoony nature of the movie. He's kind of a live action cartoon character to begin with. Meg 2 is, at its best, still an entertaining watch -- if you can forgive its stupidity. It's almost part of the kind of subgenre that draws fans to the absurdity of movies like Sharknado. Heck, I guess Meg 2 is basically a big budget version of Sharknado (without the tornado). "Boring" is definitely something that probably wouldn't be said for Meg 2, at least.
The content is roughly on par with the first Meg movie. That first film was probably at its grossest when we saw a dismembered human arm fished out of the water, or little sharks feasting on the gory corpse of a dead whale. Meg 2 never ventures into the realm of human gore or dismemberment, but it does show plenty of beast carcasses and cut-up tentacles. In those instances, there is a fair share of blood in the water or creatures missing parts of their bodies. Language isn't super frequent, with about 5 uses of the "S" word and a handful of other colorful phrases. DJ also flips off someone using both middle fingers. There isn't any sexual content, but there's a suggestive remark from a random extra who asks a couple women to rub lotion on his back. He then adds "or my front" which elicits disgust from both of them. A girl also finds a string of wrapped condoms in DJ's survival bag, which is turned into a quick gag about repopulating the earth (to which she questions how that would work if he were to use condoms in the process). Otherwise, the most graphic moments come in the form of creature wounds. The opening sequence shows prehistoric animals feasting on a gory carcass before a meg chomps down on one of them, causing blood to splatter at the screen (which is especially effective in a 3D showing of the movie). Later, we see a meg missing part of its head because of a bomb going off on it, and helicopter blades slice off several chunks of tentacles from a kraken. A particularly tense scene shows a character in a pressurized suit trying to get to a safe spot to remove their helmet, but they run out of air at the last second, causing their glass helmet to implode. We don't see what their face looks like in this instance, but we see the crushed helmet a couple times.
Meg 2: The Trench is one of those classic dumb action movies that certainly has its audience, but I think it's the kind of franchise that those longing for a new Jaws movie will be left majorly disappointed - if not even angry. If you liked the first movie - despite its many flaws - you just might like Meg 2, but the goofy nature of the movie's trailers is a fair representation of the absurdities held within were you to grab a ticket or watch it at home. It's not completely unwatchable, but it's definitely silly - and not necessarily the kind of silly that makes you want to revisit it again and again.
The 4K UHD release of Meg 2: The Trench includes the feature film in 4K UHD and bonus features on disc, along with a Movies Anywhere digital copy. (There is no Blu-Ray disc packaged with the 4K disc.) On to the Extras...
Meg 2: The Trench in 4K UHD - Looking at the movie exclusively from a 4K visual standpoint, Meg 2: The Trench actually looks crisp and colorful, if not gorgeous at times. The water scenes (when it's real water) is beautiful, and the colorful underwater scenes are quite vibrant. Overall, even though the movie may disappoint, the 4K presentation does not.
The Making of Meg 2: The Trench (13:03) is about the formation of the sequel. Director Ben Wheatley had loved the first movie, so he wanted to do this one. For a making-of featurette that clocks in at less than 15 minutes, it surprisingly covers a lot of ground. They talk about the different fighting styles between Jason and Jing Wu, and how Page Kennedy joins in on the fighting action this time around as DJ. The filmmakers talk about how they tried to do action the likes few have seen on screen before, and then go through several sequences to highlight the crazy action. They quickly show how they filmed the characters in a tank to nearly drown them, and Jason doing real jet ski action when possible. Cliff Curtis talks about the challenges of filming his helicopter action on a gimbal on a sound stage, and then it's shown how they were able to film the actors in their exosuits on a sound stage using wires to make it look like they're walking underwater in the trench. (1 "h*ll," 1 "b*stard," 2 "a" word," 1 "Oh my G-d")
Up From the Depths: Even More Beasts (9:42) profiles the different megs we see in the movie and their different looks, while also introducing the giant octopus, the new land chompers called "snappers," and what it was like to film for these new creatures. Despite the utter silliness, the featurette treats everything like it's way more awesome than we can imagine.
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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