Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

‘Meg 2: The Trench’ movie review: Jason Statham sequel packs more bite than original

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Jason Statham returns to the depths of prehistoric shark-infested waters in Meg 2: The Trench, opening in Prague cinemas and worldwide this weekend. This gleefully dumb creature feature goes so far over the top that it comes back around to the basics, and represents a real improvement in both storytelling quality and overall fun from 2018’s The Meg.

Credit to director Ben Wheatley, who comes to the Meg 2: The Trench on the back of cult hits like Kill List, Sightseers, and A Field in England. He doesn’t completely subvert the genre as he did in Free Fire, but still goes off the deep end with a wink and a nudge despite the constraints of a Hollywood-Chinese blockbuster.

Meg 2: The Trench opens with a prologue straight out of Steve Alten’s original book The Meg: A Tale of Terror, featuring a roaring Tyrannosaurus rex chasing some would-be prey into the ocean before being chomped down on by the hulking prehistoric megalodon shark.

But 65 million years later, the titular creature has finally met its match in Jason Statham’s Jonas Taylor, now an ‘eco-terrorist’ who opens Meg 2: The Trench locked inside a freight container aboard a massive cargo ship. After busting out and collecting some evidence regarding improper waste disposal to be handed over to authorities, he dives into the middle of the sea to await rescue by Mac (Cliff Curtis) and a new recruit (Melissanthi Mahut) via one of those firefighting planes that scoop up water on the go.

Ah, the hazards of marine life. After a busy day’s work, Jonas retires to his home at a Chinese oceanic facility, where he enjoys the company of a giant female megalodon who has been tamed and now swims around the facility like Shamu.

The shark-taming has been accomplished by facility head Jiuming (Jing Wu), brother of Bingbing Li‘s character from The Meg, who survived the terror of that film only to be killed offscreen ahead of the sequel. Jiuming’s niece and Jonas’ surrogate daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) is also back for this sequel, and even sneaks aboard a vessel diving to the depths of the ocean. Tsk-tsk.

Jonas no longer prowls the Mariana Trench for rescue operations or megalodon evidence, but instead, it seems, for fun. This time, however, he just happens to notice an entire mining facility that has somehow been erected in the Trench undetected. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, baddie Marcus (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) blows up the place in order to do away with Jonas and his team in the process.

Meg 2: The Trench is at its very best in the depths of the Mariana, with Statham and company stuck at the bottom of the ocean in super-powered suits and encountering a variety of strange creatures that include a trio of megalodons.

Something akin to a goofball Abyss, or at least Underwater, their efforts to survive while running out of oxygen and with limited resources give this Meg sequel some real narrative drive. The Trench is a largely bloodless affair despite the constant threat of marine creatures devouring humans, but one scene of a diving helmet slowly cracking before imploding packs a punch.

Like the original movie, Meg 2: The Trench culminates with a scene at a resort island featuring hundreds of panicked tourists fleeing from a variety of monsters that now include three giant megalodons, a giant octopus, and crocodile-like prehistoric creatures that have no issue running around land despite presumably swimming in the depths for the past tens of millions of years.

But the bloodless carnage grows a bit wearying after awhile, and lacks the stomach-churning riotousness of something like Alexandre Aja‘s Piranha 3D, which clearly inspired the climax of both movies. Our heroes’ goal in the final third of the movie is to save the tourists on Fun Island, who may be innocent, but we’re secretly rooting for the creatures anyway.

Meg 2: The Trench is restrained by a number of conventions from two major film industries that limit the subversive direction Wheatley might have taken it, but it’s a genuinely exciting survival movie during its middle third, and still plenty of dumb fun afterwards. If you can get down with the kind of Moonfall-like SyFy movie writ large that Meg 2 delivers, there’s a lot to like here.

Meg 2: The Trench

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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