As the summer blockbuster season winds down, we get “The Meg,” a movie in which a giant shark spends two hours punishing human beings for making one stupid decision after another.
I’ve done some dumb things, but I don’t think I’ve ever matched the sheer idiocy of the characters in “The Meg,” who seem determined to place themselves in harm’s way and then look surprised as they scramble for safety.
What did they think would happen when they took a small trawler onto the open sea to kill a creature that bites whales in half and then eats them for a snack, much like you or I would make quick work of a burrito? Out of the half dozen people on the boat, you’d think someone would have said, “Guys, I don’t know about this.”
Since most viewers will see the carnage coming from a mile away, there’s little in “The Meg” that will surprise them.
Maybe I’m being too hard on the characters in “The Meg.” They can’t be held responsible for their actions because they were guided by the unseen hand of the filmmakers, who appear to have been more concerned with providing cheap thrills than telling a story that makes sense.
That’s too bad because I like how “The Meg” starts out. The first half of the film is set in an underwater research facility located in the West Pacific Ocean, where a group of scientists is on a mission to explore a section of the Marianas trench they believe is concealed by a cloud of hydrogen sulfide.
Once under the cloud, they discover a world populated by species previously unseen by the human eye. During these early scenes, director Jon Turteltaub and company project a genuine sense of adventure and awe, and all the undersea gadgetry gives “The Meg” a fun, almost sci-fi, vibe.
What’s more, the research facility, dubbed the Mana One, is a thing of beauty. Its sleek corridors and massive curved windows might not be practical, but they do offer a gorgeous view of an underwater realm teeming with life.
Since the expedition is exploring a new frontier, it’s just a matter of time before something big and scary emerges from the ocean’s darkness to throw a wet blanket on the team’s celebration plans.
This happens soon after the scientists send a small submersible under the cloud. With the crew of three incapacitated six miles below the surface and their deaths looming, the leaders of the expedition send for Jonas Taylor, a skilled rescue diver played by Jason Statham.
From there, “The Meg” settles into a predictable formula: someone does something foolish that places their life in jeopardy, then Taylor bails them out.
The trio of writers credited with the screenplay, which was based on author Steve Allen’s 1997 book, “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror,” don’t even shoot for logical; they seem interested only in providing visceral thrills, no matter how irrational the setup.
The writers do give Taylor a past that haunts him, as well as an unlikely romantic interest, but these attempts at interjecting “The Meg” with human drama swim in shallow waters.
While there’s something to be said about a film that provides a couple hours of goofy B-movie thrills, the constant lapses in logic keep “The Meg” from building any kind of kitschy energy.
Rather, things happen, or don’t happen, as the screenplay dictates. When the people on the trawler need a few minutes to discuss their strategy, the Meg politely circles the boat from a distance. Also, instead of capsizing the boat before the prescribed time, the monster repeatedly veers away at the last second after torpedoing toward its victims.
Maybe it was toying with everyone. I don’t know. I just wish the filmmakers had put more effort into turning “The Meg” into either a bona fide thriller like “Jaws” or a fun B-movie romp like “The Shallows.”
As it is, “The Meg” starts out strong but then sinks fast.