Meg 2: The Trench
After the mass marketing bonanza of Oppenheimer and Barbie, Meg 2: The Trench feels like the first major release to be making its way onto UK shores with little in the way of a promotional campaign due to the strikes, entirely banking on the memory of the first film or simply the cultural association of Jason Statham and sharks.
But, to offer some context, The Meg was about a group of marine scientists, led by oceanographer Suyin (Li Bingbing) and diver Jonas (Statham), who worked out how to defeat the giant shark, a prehistoric species known as the Megalodon, that threatened their expedition in the Pacific Ocean.
A global success that represented the apex of American-Chinese co-productions, it only made sense that the Meg would be back for seconds. This time, Statham returns but Bingbing does not, replaced by her character’s brother Wu Jing (Jiuming), who has nowhere near the same appeal as a co-lead despite his bona fide hometown credentials (he’s a huge star in China). With no dynamic to feed off, Statham struggles to carry this sequel through a turgid first half where we, again, follow scientists navigating murky waters for research purposes – only this time there are evil corporate rivals, and even more oceanic dangers.
Despite the higher creature count, this is a bafflingly bloodless picture, as one may have gloomily predicted by its 12A certificate. It’s especially disappointing considering the helmer is Ben Wheatley, the brilliant filmmaker of violent films such as Kill List and Free Fire. He’s not one to shy away from brutality, given some of the sequences in those features, but the marks of a commercial chokehold are visible.
Another key quality in Wheatley’s works is dark humour (best represented in Sightseers), and at least he’s able to mine some black comedy in this feature’s second half when the action moves to a tourist paradise amusingly named Fun Island. It’s the land of disposable characters, unlimited ammunition and opportunity for droll one-liners. It’s also where DJ (Page Kennedy), the franchise’s outright comic relief, gets to practice both his kung fu and his gun fu, proving that there may be life beyond Statham’s hero if he chooses to follow his previous leading lady’s footsteps and not return for more Megventures. If only the whole film was just as fun as these moments, which ultimately come too little and too late.
It could have been a whale of a time, but Meg 2 is ultimately a skeletal endeavour.
Meg 2: The Trench is released nationwide on 4th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Meg 2: The Trench here: