An illegal sea floor mining operation accidentally releases more megalodons into the waters above, threatening Jonas Taylor’s crew and an island full of partygoers.
Meg 2 hasn’t exactly been overflowing with good reviews, but is it all, um, megatives? It’s worthy, but is it see-worthy?
I saw Meg 2: The Trench with my typically bloodthirsty teens on a gloomy day in the Channel Islands, in a thriving cinema plonked incongruously among fields; trying out new screens away from home is the silver lining to the clouds that regularly cover the British Isles during the summer holidays. They liked it, though they felt it took way too long to get going, gory deaths being of more interest to them than duplicity.
This time when we meet Jonas (Statham) — now a slightly shady environmentalist, the kind who means well but long ago threw his recycled-paper rulebook overboard — he’s imprisoned in a shipping container on a vessel in the Philippines Sea, captured on a mission to gather evidence of illegal dumping of radioactive waste. Soon he’s reunited with his stepdaughter Meiying (Sophia Cai), her uncle, Chinese entrepreneur Jiuming (Jing Wu), and his team, testing Jiuming’s newly developed exo-dive suit in the Mariana Trench. Meiying, only 14 but desperate to be taken seriously as a scientist, stows away on the first dive; unbeknown to them all, Jiuming’s pet megalodon Haiqi wants to mate and escapes, following them through the thermocline barrier that keeps the megalodons down below and humanity safe(ish) above.
Once deep in the trench they stumble across a manmade structure on the sea bottom, where someone is illegally mining rare metals and as a consequence destroying the fragile, unmapped environment. An explosion leaves both exploratory subs in darkness, and with the rescue submarine on their support vessel sabotaged by persons unknown, the crews’ only option is to walk to the mining station across the seabed then try to launch themselves to the surface in its escape pods. The megs, meanwhile, are swimming upwards.
All disaster movies are heavy on the hubris of humans – Meg 2: The Trench more than most. A traitorous villain is eaten from behind by a megalodon crashing through an underwater viewing station window, just after crowing about its meg-proofness. Another is killed by a sharp-toothed prehistoric dragon released thanks to their own greed. Even the “heroes” think nothing of continually returning to the Mariana Trench, creating a potential exit for the megalodons with each journey, and disturbing them when they should be left alone. Jonas Taylor’s actions this time around may be heavily greenwashed but underneath it all, like most flawed heroes, he’s powered by a search for glory.
On the plus side there are kills galore, with director Ben Wheatley displaying a determined lack of empathy with his victims, whether villains or vacationers. Once we get to Fun Island, a brightly-hued holiday resort, his monsters gleefully chew both scenery and holidaymakers, several at a time (I liked the shot from inside a megalodon’s cavernous mouth, as several swimmers wash by for dinner). Jonas’s pursuits in the sea around the island, fighting the megs with homemade harpoons launched from a jet ski, whirling and spinning around them, look like a frenetic attempt to face jumping-the-shark accusations head on.
Pippin the dog is back, though his trailer-heralded return is something of a damp squib. Expect no heroics from the tiny hound and you won’t be disappointed. Hopefully he’s keeping his powder, and his hair ribbons, dry for no3.
The dialogue is pretty dull, so if you can’t hear much of it due to general mumbling and Jason Statham’s weird whisper do not despair, as you’re not alone and also it doesn’t matter. Down in the depths you don’t need anyone to hear you scream, or rather gurgle, not when there are hideous killer lizard things swarming towards you.
In a genre that only seems to exist in a bloody maelstrom of maneater myth, meta referentialism and movie cannibalism (phew!), Meg 2 manages to be even more derivative than most shark movies, for which we should probably award it a trophy of a beribonned Pippin sitting proudly atop a severed leg.
Not that derivation is necessarily a bad thing. It reminded me of Prometheus as Jonas and his team trudge slowly across the seabed, with someone’s helmet suddenly wrapped in the embrace of mystery tentacles. The dark, dripping industrial undersea mining station is like every spaceship in every Alien installment. There are obvious call backs to the Jurassic Park/World films: its Cretacean-era villain and spike-toothed dragons that can survive on land and sea; prehistoric monsters escaping into the present day, causing havoc on a tropical island; and even a fight to the death between a megalodon and a giant octopus.
Naturally, as killer shark movies continue eating themselves, there are also references to nearly every Great White film, with its cheery swimmers bouncing in the shallows, pina coladas in hand (and even to Deep Blue Sea, with the traitor’s death mentioned above).
Visually, Meg 2 is in parts rather impressive. A drawn-out seabed attack by those lizards, which have survived alongside the megalodons for millennia, is well done. And Jonas and his crews’ earlier travels through Section 21 of the trench, the last explored outpost before they move into the unknown, is stunning: dark trees waving in the water, interspersed with burning orange volcanic vents.
It’s not enough though, and my main gripe is that overall it’s not that exciting. B movie tropes that should evoke knowing enjoyment seem simply dull, while its green message is confused. At least in the Jurassic World movies once the dinosaurs escape we must learn to live with them. Here even the most ardent environmentalist, while happy for the megalodons to be safely stowed 25,000 feet down, believe they need to be stopped once they venture upwards.
Many people are eaten, a crew member implodes under pressure — presumably gifts to the movie gods to ensure no one raises too much of an eyebrow at what’s going on down in the Mariana Trench: with no dive suit available Jonas swims outside the mining station to flick the external override switch, avoiding imploding into a tiny squidge of human flesh simply by taking a deep breath and then exhaling slowly. (Despite the explanation given I do not know how he wasn’t squashed to the size of a matchbox; maybe it has something to do with the deviated septum they keep going on about.)
Read: Early doors or surviving jaws? Who dies and survives in Meg 2 — The Trench (plus plot recap!)
Watch the Meg 2: The Trench trailer now: