For a number of years, the “Sharknado” cable movies kept shark thrillers alive … but after the last of those was televised, the theatrical-movie industry apparently felt it was time to sharpen itself up on that genre.
Thus we got “The Meg,” an old-fashioned scare show that has nothing on “Jaws,” though it tries to lift a few elements from that classic tale. In the film — which TNT shows Thursday, Sept. 16, and Friday, Sept. 17 — a prehistoric shark the size of a small island targets an undersea research lab and its crew. You also might think of the film “Deep Blue Sea,” and that’s how shameless “The Meg” is about ripping off other waterlogged fright fests. “Flipper” may be the only fish tale that hasn’t been cribbed from in this case.
Action star Jason Statham plays the chiseled leader of the undersea team, and he’s haunted by a tragedy from his seafaring past. (Hello, Quint!) Though he gets top billing, he’s not the most interesting person on board, thanks to a cast that also includes such familiar faces as Rainn Wilson of “The Office,” Robert Taylor of “Longmire” and Masi Oka of “Heroes” and “Hawaii Five-0.”
And then, there is that massive shark, called a Megalodon … or “The Meg” for short. In a way, this film got stolen from itself, since Syfy premiered a thriller called “Megalodon” within days of “The Meg’s” release. With that striking a similarity, we’d say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But, of course, we’d never say that.
The easiest way to get audience members to jump out of their seats with something like “The Meg” is to have the creature sneak up or pop out at unexpected moments — but with such a picture, you expect that to happen at almost any turn. With that said, there are some reasonable jolts in “The Meg,” and that’s what viewers will come to it for. (Unless they mistakenly think they’re going to see a biography of Meg Ryan.)
Director Jon Turteltaub knows how to make movies, as he’s proven with “Phenomenon,” “While You Were Sleeping” and “National Treasure.” With “The Meg,” he tackles a category that’s tried and true … but in spite of a couple of true scares, and the fact that the result had a surprisingly big opening due largely to clever marketing, some may wonder why he tried.