VERDICT: Meg 2: The Trench wastes an hour or so before finally delivering what we paid to see: giant, prehistoric sharks eating tourists.
Meg 2: The Trench reminds us that there’s a fine line between the stupid and the absurd.
The ongoing Sharknado franchise, for example, is utterly stupid and knows it. 2018’s The Meg — which was essentially Sharknado with a bigger budget, delivered with a straighter face — was absurd, and it knew it. Less a horror film than a comedy with occasional jump scares, the movie posited that oversized, prehistoric sharks (megalodons, or “Megs”) still lived in the deep recesses of the ocean and were now emerging to chomp on tourists.
All Meg 2: The Trench had to do was deliver more hungry mega-sharks and more hapless swimmers, and fans of campy aqua-carnage everywhere would have been satisfied. Instead, this sequel wastes its first hour with dull exposition and incoherent action before finally, finally unleashing its undersea-eating machines on an unsuspecting resort.
Jason Statham returns as ass-kicking marine biologist Jonas, whom we first encounter here acting as a “green James Bond,” stowing away on a cargo ship and capturing evidence that the crew is dumping radioactive waste into the Philippine Sea. (For all the online ridicule that Statham’s Fast and Furious co-stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson took for having contracts that stipulate that their characters could never lose a fight, Statham’s near-god-like level of agility and competence here fairly boggles the mind.)
On another dive into the deep, deep trench where the Megs live, Jonas and his team — including Chinese superstar Wu Jing as Jiuming, the brother of Jonas’ now-deceased love interest from the first movie — encounter a secret underwater mining facility. The bad guys, who have infiltrated the aquatic science complex where Jonas works, sabotage the mission, hoping to cover their tracks by leaving Jonas and his colleagues stuck at the bottom of the sea.
Here’s where Meg 2: The Trench goes way off-course: apart from Jonas, Jiuming, and precocious teen Meiying (Sophia Cai), the other crew members are inconsequential and indistinguishable, more so when they all have to put on high-tech scuba suits and scuttle across the ocean floor.
Occasional fighting moments, involving either scary sea creatures or a miner (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) with a vendetta against Jonas, are mounted by director Ben Wheatley — who, not that long ago, was considered by some to be the next big thing in British horror — and edited by Jonathan Amos (Phantom of the Open) for maximum visual confusion.
When it’s not tedious, this sequence raises all manner of logistical questions: Why put a minerals-processing facility 20,000 feet below sea level? Reason: None. Can Jonas survive at deep pressure so long as he breathes seawater into his sinuses? Answer: No. The film asserts otherwise. The film thinks you’re an idiot.
Once The Trench leaves the trench and returns to the surface, Meg 2 offers all the mayhem promised by the trailer, with multiple Megs and even an enormous prehistoric octopus thrown in for good measure. The VFX team gets their moment to shine as well since the sea-monster attacks in the daytime are far crisper and more realistic than all the mucking about in the darkness on the ocean floor.
The best that can be said about Statham’s performance is that he commits to the bit; he’s no doubt fighting the temptation to wink at the camera when his character skirts around three giant sharks on a jet-ski, throwing explosive spears at them while soaring over the water. Wu Jing gets some acrobatic action moments, but otherwise, the script demands little of him.
Returning from The Meg, Page Kennedy had some demands this time around, from making his character DJ more than just comic relief to performing the film’s silly closing song “Chomp,” the goofiest shark-related hip-hop composition since LL Cool J’s “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)” from Deep Blue Sea.
Whether the eventual people-eating of the film’s final act merits enduring the turgid early portions of Meg 2: The Trench is, of course, a matter of opinion, but viewers might be well advised to wait until they can see the movie in a medium that involves a fast-forward button.