Best of 2023: A Salute to Meg 2, The Big Dumb Blockbuster That Could

In a summer where Barbie battled Robert Oppenheimer, and it was somehow a serious thing to say out loud, the big dumb box office gem of 2023 was lurking below the surface, chomping away at the fallout.

Meg 2: The Trench lacked narrative teeth and swam against the current of logic, but hot damn, if it wasn’t a gleefully willing slab of monster-sized nonsense that may not have done much feeding in US box office waters, but overseas it ate up the competition.

I can totally understand the repulsion from some quarters, I myself was wholly disheartened by how lethargic and toothless 2018’s The Meg was in comparison to Steve Alten’s gripping novel. Meg 2: The Trench is even further removed from the science-heavy chatter of its own source material, but it does at least deliver on multi-creature madness and a literal jumping of the shark, which feels oh-so intentional by the film’s abrasive director Ben Wheatley.

If you want plot, then the bones of one are absolutely there. In fact, they are bones assembled from the skeletons of both The Meg and The Trench novels. From the opening dino-chomping scene taken from the first book to the smarmy billionaire plotting nefarious undersea shenanigans. They are just bones, though, because entire cool moments are left on the cutting room floor (giant prehistoric reptiles replaced by smaller land-dwelling ones, for example), but Wheatley clearly only cares about shoving lots of monster action and Jason Statham ass-whoopings onscreen, and I genuinely do not blame him for taking that approach. In fact, that’s exactly why I found it so entertaining.

The use of Statham here, compared to the previous film, is a great example of embracing your casting and just rolling with it. With the greatest of respect to Mr. Statham, who I think is a marvelous action star, buying him as anyone that isn’t beating seven shades out of goons is very difficult, so by keeping things a bit too strait-laced in The Meg, it prevented Statham from truly embracing the absurdity of his character.

Now he’s like a living Lucas Lee movie, and you just look at him doing tricks on a jet ski as he evades Megaladons or somehow surviving deadly depth pressure, and you barely think about him being anything other than Jason Statham wearing the coat of a crumbling middle-aged shark-obsessive.

Meg 2 really comes into its own in the last 45 minutes. It’s pure cinematic stupidity, and it 100% knows it. Statham has plot armor so thick it’s probably how he physically survived the ocean depths, and the creature nonsense escalates to the point the film clearly struggles to decide which monsters to follow and for how long. It becomes the cinematic equivalent of a sugar-hopped child trying to pick between a shelf of brand-new games.

And I’m trying to say, please give me more loud, hyperactive, and knowingly stupid blockbuster movies at the summer box office.

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