‘THE MEG’ is like ‘JAWS’ and ‘JURASSIC PARK’ on steroids

Jason Statham in THE MEG. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Ever since director Steven Spielberg’s JAWS taught us to be afraid of what’s lurking underneath in the deep ocean, shark movies have done exceptionally well at the box office. That film based on a Peter Benchley novel spurned a fun franchise that took up the greater part of a decade. It was even lampooned in BACK TO THE FUTURE 2.

In recent years, the “sleeper” successes of THE SHALLOWS (budget: $17 million, world-wide gross: $68.9 million) and 47 METERS DOWN (budget: $5.5 million, world-wide gross: $43.6 million) have made studios cast their nets in search of the next great shark flick with a monstrous bite. And it looks like they’ve found it in THE MEG.

The Jon Turteltaub-directed film is based on the wildly popular “beach read” book series by Steve Alten, follows the adventures of U.S. Navy deep sea diver-turned-paleontologist Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) in his quest to prevent a massive prehistoric beast, a Megalodon shark living in the Mariana Trench, from coming into contact with the public at large. Naturally, it gets out and havoc ensues. Take a look:

Looks like a ginormous amount of fun, right?!

The teaser hits on a few of the film’s sweet spots: action, Statham, shock and awe, Statham, tension, Statham, a giant effing shark, and Statham. I have my fingers crossed that, instead of “negging,” there will be lots of Statham “megging.”

Visually, in this trailer opening appears the filmmakers are recalling MEG: HELL’S AQUARIUM’s book cover – with a dash of that shot in FINDING NEMO when Dory and Marlin meet Bruce the shark.

It also recalls a hint of JAWS 3,which takes place at a water amusement park, but it’s possible that’s just the underwater observation center, which then leads me to wonder why there’s a child on this underwater station. Because fun, everybody. That’s why.

That said, this one should be fantastic to catch in the 4DX format – so long as you can find a theater equipped with this technology. The story ebbs and flows should lend itself magnificently to the format which allows after-market artists to make the movie-going experience a much more immersive one. Seats move, rocking and rolling with action on screen, Water is sprayed when the shark surprise surfaces. The other-worldly sensation is certainly worth seeking out.

Turteltaub has metaphorically stared into the belly of the beast before, making hugely successful films with Nicolas Cage (the NATIONAL TREASURE series) and John Travolta (PHENOMENON), so it’s no wonder why it’s taken this long for him to make a mega-fun, mega-wicked crowd-pleaser like THE MEG. We’re now six novels deep into Alten’s Meg series, so it’s very possible this could be the new, next generation of JAWS. Judging by the trailer, it looks as if the studio has another sure-fire hit on their hands.

THE MEG opens on August 10.

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