"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Meg 2: The Trench

MEG 2: THE TRENCH is the silly followup to the silly first movie I casually enjoyed in 2018. Neither seems interested in reaching the status of “actual good movie,” which would be preferable, but both involve Jason Statham battling giant prehistoric sharks, among other dumb pleasures, so of course there is gonna be some amusement involved. And maybe it’s good to keep this kind of bullshit alive on a big screen budget. To me that’s way more fun than the SyFy Channel version.

In the first movie Statham’s character Jonas Taylor was an elite rescue diver, but this one opens with him infiltrating a boat to try to bust people for dumping radioactive waste (?). He fights some people and says some funny things to them and jumps off the boat (Statham trademark). I’m unclear what he was trying to accomplish, or if he succeeded, and I don’t believe this mission is connected to anything else in the movie. But I’m not complaining. I’m always up for a gratuitous action tangent.

When returning part 1 colleague Mac (Cliff Curtis, WHALE RIDER) flies in to extract Jonas, he says, “He’s a green James Bond, I like it!” I would bet anything there was a treatment or a meeting where somebody said “Jonas has become sort of a green James Bond!” but then when they actually sat down to write it they realized they didn’t remember what the fuck that was supposed to mean or how to translate it other than just have somebody say it.

Later there’s a scene where a character says that the rescue subs don’t work and it looks like they were sabotaged. I noticed that they didn’t show her discovering cut wires or anything, they just had her say it, and (mild spoiler) in most movies that would be a give away that she’s the saboteur. But here it doesn’t seem suspicious at all because it’s a movie that’s not necessarily gonna bother with that shit.

Like the first one this is a US/China co-production. Li Bingbing does not return as her character Suyin, so to appeal to our fellow MEG-watchers on the other side of the world they introduce Wu Jing (SPL/KILL ZONE 1&2, LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, WOLF WARRIOR 1&2) as her brother Jiuming, who now runs their father’s company. That also makes him uncle to Suyin’s daughter Meiying, now 14, still played by Sophia Cai, and living on the Mana One underwater research facility in the Mariana Trench with her stepfather, Jonas.

I confess I remembered almost nothing about the first film, so I was amused when I checked Wikipedia and realized that at the end of the first movie Suyin was not dead or married to Jonas. (It’s possible that I missed some exposition about this, because I streamed it on Maximum [formerly Home Box Office Maximum] and it didn’t subtitle the Mandarin parts until I messed with the settings, so I didn’t realize at first that it was supposed to.)

I don’t remember what kind of oceanographical research they used to do on Mana One, but now they keep a young megalodon named Haiqi captive. You’d think that would require completely different expertise, but hey, God bless ’em, they were ready to pivot to dinosaur. Jiuming is introduced doing rich guy speeches to VIPs about what his company is accomplishing, but then we see he gets his hands dirty and/or is crazy, because he surprises everyone by diving into Haiqi’s tank to show that he can communicate with her. They make jokes and bets about whether or not he’ll get eaten. Would’ve been awkward if he had. I don’t think I would’ve taken the money, personally.

It’s interesting to see Wu in this – I’d never even seen him speak English before. I asked a friend who saw the movie before me if he got to do much. He was surprised when I told him Wu Jing was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and even more when I told him he was a martial artist. He thought he was just a guy. He does get to run around and do some stunts, including one underwater, but it’s nothing compared to the great underwater fight he did to open WOLF WARRIOR II (the highest grossing Chinese movie of all time, starring, directed by and co-written by Wu). Here he doesn’t get to kick anyone, and it’s honestly a little more like a late Jackie Chan role (he does a comical run when chased by amphibious dinosaur things). But he’s fun to watch with Statham, always bickering but never serious about it. They could’ve had some kind of forced drama with them disagreeing about how to raise Meiying and making up, but who would give a shit? I’m glad they’re just pals.

Honestly the only other person I remember from the first one was Ruby Rose, who I think survived, but unfortunately she’s not in this one. I had forgotten about the comic relief character DJ (Page Kennedy, LEPRECHAUN: BACK 2 THA HOOD). It’s a very stereotypical Funny Scared Black Guy role (see also: BATS), but he got some laughs out of me, his primary comedy premise being that ever since the events of part 1 he carries around a bunch of weapons and survival equipment expecting shit to go down. He gets to do a John Woo style slow motion sideways mid-air gun-firing into some dino things – you gotta respect that. Kennedy’s most important contribution to the movie though is an end credits rap song called “Chomp” where he boasts about being “the apex predator” and “the megalo-Don.” Fingers crossed for a best original song nomination.

The adventure begins when the crew (including new tough lady character Rigas [Melissanthi Mahut, “Calliope” in The Sandman]) are diving into the trench in their little subs (Meiying stowed away in her dad’s, despite being told it’s too dangerous) and they discover some guy (Sergio Peris Mencheta, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD) running an illegal rare earth mineral mining operation (?). When he sees them he takes off, abandoning his crew to die in an explosion that attracts megs – including one with cool scars who’s “the biggest meg I’ve ever seen” – to attack them all. (Also Wikipedia says they mate with Haiqi? I guess that’s why at the end they awkwardly mention she might be pregnant.)

Their subs are down, so Jonas has them put on their underwater mech suits and try to walk across the trench to the mining station thing, which Mac says they don’t have enough air for. But they do it anyway, casually jibber jabbering and quipping up the air without a problem. Because they’re cool.

During the walk they get attacked by a giant octopus and some little chubby prehistoric gator dudes, already cleverly established in a Cretaceous period prologue. One of the characters, and I’m sure someone would know which one but that person is not me, gets bit on the head by one of these little fuckers, cracking her helmet, and before she can get to safety her head implodes. Not graphic (this is PG-13) but just the idea is pretty disturbing. Throughout this ordeal they keep mentioning megs, as if to assure the audience that the filmmakers remember this is called MEG 2 and not VARIOUS UNDERWATER THREATS.

Once they’re safely inside the station they learn they’ve been set up by a traitor on the crew named Jess (Skyler Samuels, THE STEPFATHER remake) working for billionaire Mana One investor Driscoll (Sienna Guillory, “Jill Valentine” in RESIDENT EVILs APOCALYPSE, AFTERLIFE and RETRIBUTION), who makes a big evil speech to them over the monitor explaining how she doesn’t care about the environment. These are perfect villains for this type of bullshit – Jess because she takes off her glasses when she reveals she’s evil, and Driscoll because she’s very pampered and all about expensive sunglasses and heels and stuff that you know are gonna get fucked up when she inevitably gets eaten. (Yes, they both get really funny deaths that are highlights.)

Those of our heroes who survive manage to get to the surface to battle Montes and other mercenaries who take over Mana One, and reunite with other friends. Just when I was lamenting that this one didn’t seem to have random civilians to get terrorized by the megs, they head to a fancy resort called Fun Island. One thing that’s surprising about the movie is that we get to laugh at these caricatures of rich tourists, and one tiny dog, but they end up getting saved by Meiying. She takes after her stepdad. She’s like a green James Bond Junior.

But there’s some enjoyable monster movie stuff, my favorite being some shots inside a meg mouth as it chews people. Also the chubby gator dudes, already shown to be amphibious, make it onto the island, ready to snack. And there are those little moments to enjoy like right before the mayhem starts, when Fun Island sunbathers wonder why a whole bunch of dolphins are hauling ass the fuck out of there.

I wasn’t that into the underwater part of the movie, which kinda seems like a not-as-good version of UNDERWATER, but once they get to the surface it’s a good time. Jonas gets on a jet ski and performs some outlandish feats, maybe the best being when he uses the propellor from a crashed helicopter to lance a meg like that part in 300 where the kid kills the wolf. Everybody gets their own goofy action things to do, there’s a variety of creatures, Haiqi shows up to fight an octopus and you’re like, “I know that meg! She’s my friend!”

You might wonder why they’d insist on keeping the title of the book, The Trench by Steve Alten (sequel to his 1997 novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror), even though the part in the Trench is the boring part you have to be patient with to get to the fun stuff. I would argue that in this movie “THE TRENCH” doesn’t mean the part where they wear suits and walk across the trench to the station thing, it’s more like saying “the hood” or “the rez” or “the boonies.” It’s like, this is what life is like for Meiying, growing up in The Trench. These are the kinda adventures she has, the kinda people and prehistoric creatures she knows, etc.

MEG 2 has the same credited screenwriters as the first one – Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (BATTLESHIP, TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS) and Dean Georgaris (LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER – THE CRADLE OF LIFE, PAYCHECK). But it’s a surprising new director this time: Ben Wheatley. That’s the guy who did KILL LIST, A FIELD IN ENGLAND and HIGH-RISE. I haven’t particularly liked any of his movies I’ve seen, but he is very respected in certain circles, and he’s not a guy I would’ve expected to do a movie like this, so it’s interesting. I can’t see any way that it’s identifiable as his work, but some of it is well executed. Some cool shots attached to jet skis and things, on real water, not as much of the crappy green screen and stuff I expected (though obviously there’s a megaton of digital creature animation).

One dumb thing I almost didn’t notice: the first movie was in development under the book’s title MEG for more than a decade, so when the studio decided to change it to THE MEG very late in the game, it sounded weird and dumb. Then we got used to saying it and forgot about it but all the sudden they called the sequel MEG 2 instead of THE MEG 2. So I guess we all can change our minds about these things.

I’m not gonna expend any effort trying to convince anybody they want to see MEG 2, but if you enjoyed the first one I think you’ll get what you’re looking for here. What I really need to do, since it’s been a while, is recommend checking out Wu Jing in SPL 2 (called KILL ZONE 2 in the U.S.). It’s in my opinion one of the best 21st century martial arts movies, and it’s only a thematic sequel so you don’t need to have seen the first one (though that’s also very good, and also has Wu Jing). KILL ZONE 2 has no megalodons (just Tony Jaa) but otherwise it’s a perfect movie.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 13th, 2023 at 7:21 am and is filed under Reviews, Action, Monster, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Meg 2: The Trench”

  1. You can’t see a lot of Ben Wheatley specifically here, but there’s definitely the vibe of a low-budget horror director who has spent his career needing to work hard to get maximum whammy out of not many resources. This movie probably cost more than his entire filmography combined up to this point, but it has way more hustle than comparable big-budget blockbusters, working way harder than you’d expect to pile up funny gimmicks and ridiculous setpieces rather than just dumping a bunch of expensive CGI on the ground in front of us and then standing around looking for praise. The cracked-helmet thing is a genuinely diabolical little horror conceit, for example, and little things like that make a huge difference in making this feel like big dumb fun, rather than just big dumb. (I’m frankly appalled that so many critics seem to feel like this is basically equivalent to the original — there’s such a huge upgrade in entertainment value here that not acknowledging it feels like a pretty good explanation of why so many big budget movies don’t bother to try)

  2. SPL2, hell yeah! I also really enjoyed Wu Jing – and indeed everyone else – in CALL OF HEROES, which is choreographed by Sammo Hung.

    Anyway, as I said in the comments of OPERATION FORTUNE: VOL AU VENT, this is more my Statham speed. Admittedly, I saw it only a little after OPPENHEIMER, so it was a valuable palate cleanser, but I had a lot of fun with it.

    My problem with Wheatley has been that he seems to want the trappings of genre, but he still wants the audience to know that he’s better than that. There’s none of that here; it’s just good fun, with all the cleverness working for, not against the movie. Wu Jing channelling his inner Jackie is particularly delightful.

    But I still think it’s a mistake not to have him in a movie with Statham and not have them come to blows.

  3. The dumber and siller this movie gets, the better it gets. The first act reminded me of what a Sea Devils movie would be, but since there will probably not be an AQUAMAN 3 guest-starring Jason Statham as Dane Dorrance, I will have to settle for this. The second act was very UNDERWATER, like you said. But it’s the third act, when the movie turns into a big budget SHARKNADO, that really sold me. And the end credits rap was a cherry on top.

    Wheatley is an… interesting director. I liked HIGH-RISE and his Doctor Who episodes (especially “Into the Dalek”) and I recall thinking SIGHTSEERS and FREE FIRE were solid? But I hated A FIELD IN ENGLAND. He was originally set for TOMB RAIDER 2 but ended up making MEG 2 instead. Seems like a weird career swerve for him, though I’m always down for auteur genre trash.

    I had no idea who Wu Jing was while watching this– not realizing he was the biggest star in the world– but I do have an unwatched KILL ZONE 2 DVD in the house, so I should get around to that.

  4. I think I enjoyed this one more than the first one. It was silly and fun and just what I expected from it. I liked that it had different scenarios in different places with different problems. I thought it kept things moving and made it interesting. I even like the change from Suyin to Jiuming. I would normally prefer to have a woman in the co-starring role, but honestly she was kind of a dud in the first movie and Jiuming is more fun as a foil for Jonas. I’m not sure Statham has much romantic/sexual chemistry in him. He’s better bro-ing it out with another dude.

  5. I adore Meg 2. It is screamingly stupid and everyone involved seems to understand and go with it. Wheatley seems to be playing up all the obvious twists and absurdity with his tongue definitely in cheek.

    I enjoyed the trench section as its a case of what if The Abyss was really stupid (check out their use of Statham surviving water pressure that would kill him instantly) with a bit of the late 80’s underwater trash movie vibes (such as deepstar 6)

    The final third is so over the top in its mix of silly and I’m glad I saw that crazy moment, in which both I and my nephew who I took to the film, were laughing with joy throughout (especially when the final meg got killed) I wish the Jurassic world films were more like this.

  6. I don’t know…for me this didn’t quite make the leap from stupid to entertainingly stupid. Not the way PIRANHA 3D or PIRANHA 3DD did, I do think it’s a bit of a waste casting ass-kickers in a creature feature, and in this one, they cast 2 and have only one of them throw punches (as an aside: Second, third and fourth the recommendation of SPL 2. It’s a great action movie, and a great Wu Jing Action Movie, which should explain my frustration at seeing him play Dork Scientist here, which is about as convincing as Mark Wahlberg: Inventor in Transformers 4 & 5.)

    It’s like the makers realized they have Statham in the cast and shoehorns a sub-plot that has him go against some baddies, then realize Ooo…it’s also a Shark Attack movie, we need that as well…and in the end pretty much fails at both.

    Sharks and The Stath ain’t doing it for me.

    Hope he has better luck with bees…

  7. Put me on Team Way Better Than The First One. Gone are the unbearable scenes of Statham clearly dying inside as he has to play Lifetime Christmas movie cutesy banter with a small child and an actress who barely speaks English, replaced with Statham getting to do what Statham does best: scowl a lot and kick people. The underwater segment might be a poor man’s ABYSS, but it does the one thing that separates a good shark movie from a bad shark movie: It creates a credible reason for air-breathing humans to come into sustained contact with water-dwelling sharks. The first one failed that simple test so it just made all the characters fall off a boat every thirty seconds. (Seriously, go back and watch that movie. It could be a drinking game.) The finale is enjoyably ludicrous, easily besting the original’s half-assed climax. If there’s a movie that isn’t improved by the inclusion of a colossal squid, I haven’t seen it. An R-rating would put it over the top but we can’t have everything.

    I’m not a Wheatley fan (I made the mistake of watching his pandemic movie IN THE EARTH recently and it’s a perfect encapsulation of the all-sizzle-no-steak folk-horror bullshit movement. It’s brown and mumbly and nothing happens, then it’s over. It’s even less watchable than the barely watchable KILL LIST) but when he takes the stick out of his ass, as he did here and in FREE FIRE, he can get the job done.

  8. In the interests of excellence, and definitely not pedantry, I want to point out that WOLF WARRIOR II is no longer the highest grossing Chinese movie of all time. I think 2021’s triple threat-(Chen Kaige-Dante Lam-Tsui Hark)-directed THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN now holds that record. It doesn’t diminish the point being made in this review though as it too stars Wu Jing!

    Unlike WOLF WARRIOR II, which received global attention, the box office for THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN seems to have been almost exclusively Chinese, which may account for its being overlooked here. Has anyone here seen it?

  9. When I sat down to watch this I couldn’t remember much about the first one at all. But I think I liked this one more. I didn’t expect it to be MAD MISSION 8, but that was okay. It takes a certain talent to be Hong Kong silly in a movie you know are going to be seen by people who start an online petition if the hero wears the wrong sweater.

    Haven’t seen THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN, and based on the story it tells I kind of doubt that we will see it on Netflix.

  10. The folks I know who have seen THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN said it was dreadful, but it’s the sort of film that would be pushed to the top of the Chinese box office. While I’m sure the film did get an audience, the CCP is known to cook the books on the box office to make certain a rah-rah patriotic movie like LAKE CHANGJIN comes out on top. That seems like a lot of work for what is essentially the answer to a trivia question but I guess it makes someone happy.

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