There is something to be said about movies that know their own ridiculousness and fully embrace it. The Sharknado films, Snakes on a Plane, and just about all B-grade monster movies know they need a hero, greedy antagonists, and a deadly monster. Meg 2: The Trench, the sequel for 2018’s The Meg – based on the popular books by Steve Alten, does just that.
There’s Jason Statham as the returning hero, Jonas; the greedy corporations who want to destroy the environmental Oceanic Institute; and, the massive megalodon sharks that pose a threat to society. Everything they need to make this outrageous, but fun film.
Meg 2 begins five years after the events of the first movie, but this time Suyin’s (Li Bingbing) brother Jiuming (Wu Jing aka Jacky Wu) has taken over the Oceanic Institute after her unseen demise. With the help of Jonas, who is now Suyin’s daughter Mei’s (Shuya Sophia Cai) guardian, Jiuming and his team learn more about the megalodons that live beneath the trench. Of course, the only enemies aren’t just the sharks. Greedy corporations and their minions play a part in using the Ocean Institute to mine precious materials found only in the trench.
Although the film knows its audience, the first act’s tone was very dark and serious – almost triggering due to the recent real-life tragedy of OceanGate. It felt like a different movie altogether from the films that audiences and critics expected to see. Near the end of the second act, the tone lightens up and reverts back to its campiness — especially when Jonas holds his breath under water where the pressure of the water could kill a person, but he survives and is still able to be in fighting shape — but you know, f*ck science.
The film thrives knowing its campiness and brings in the most laughter and cheers when the characters defy the odds. For example, DJ (Page Kennedy) calls out the chaotic mission as “dumbass shit” but thoroughly prepares himself since he learned his lesson after the first film – learning martial arts, carrying a gun, and “MacGyver-ing” out of situations. Jonas himself takes several sharks out with a bomb attached to a spear, which he wields like a samurai sword while on a jet ski. The entire thing is ridiculous, but also thrilling to watch. It’s fair to compare The Meg franchise to the farcical yet charming Fast and The Furious films, but with sharks.
Though the film is a collaboration with Chinese studios, director Ben Wheatley, along with returning screenwriters Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris, were able to right several wrongs from the first film towards people of color. In the first film, people of color were quickly the first or many to die — especially the trope of the lead Chinese actor (Winston Chao) dying heroically to save his crew (RIP Minway Zhang). Also, instead of Statham being the only hero of the film (thus, avoiding the white savior trope), the entire team partakes in the action and stands out in the film. Wu, a household name in China and the Chinese diaspora, shines as the charismatic explorer who despite all obstacles — and there are MANY — does incredible stunts and is given witty lines. Kennedy, who was the comic relief in the last film, maintains that sense of humor throughout the sequel and elevates the film’s quirkiness.
The CGI of the film is very similar to the first — the ocean views are stunning and the sharks themselves are fine. But, when they are attacking alongside a giant octopus, it gets a bit video-game-like. Nonetheless, Wheatley knows this and embraces the cheesy takes — even providing a POV shark mouth as it devours its victims.
Though the film was entertaining, there were some questions that arose throughout the film surrounding Suyin’s disappearance or her relationship with Jonas. Did they get married? Did he legally adopt Mei? How did she disappear? Why isn’t Mei’s uncle, Jiuming, her guardian? Yet, it’s easily forgotten as the characters are thrust into their adventure. It leaves more questions than answers about Li’s absence from the franchise that she helped establish.
Despite the dark tones in the beginning of the film, Meg 2: The Trench is humorous when it knows it’s nonsensical nature and allows monsters to do what they’re supposed to do. The Meg franchise — like many monster shark films — are not meant to be taken seriously and it has fun with its silliness.
Meg 2: The Trench opens in theaters on August 4.