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.