[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
The opening teaser of Meg 2: The Trench is a delightfully creative self-contained sequence that depicts a hypothetical prehistoric ecosystem. First, a mosquito is eaten by a dragonfly, which is then swallowed by a lizard. From there, we work our way up the food chain: an amphibious carnivore easily picks off the reptile, but is no match for the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. The king of the dinosaurs, however, is finally conquered when an enormous megalodon rises from the deep for a super-sized snack, cementing itself as the true apex predator.
The film’s climax is equally fun, with director Ben Wheatley delivering the same chaotic brand of spectacular mayhem that made Free Fire so irresistibly appealing. Our heroes must battle not only a trio of the eponymous sharks, but also a giant octopus, a squad of bloodthirsty mercenaries, and a corrupt corporate executive. If nothing else, it gives us the gloriously absurd image of Jason Statham riding a jet ski while hurling explosive harpoons, which more than makes up for its predecessor’s lackluster finale.
Unfortunately, everything in between the beginning and end is just fucking awful. The dialogue is clunky and awkward—I believe that the youth of today would describe it as “cringe.” The supporting characters are so bland and indistinguishable that they frequently border on interchangeable—which becomes especially troublesome when their already vague identities are further obscured by identical diving suits, making it literally impossible to tell who’s dying when shit inevitably hits the fan. And with the exception of the aforementioned set pieces, the visual style is rather flat and uninspiring—a poorly edited mishmash of generic blockbuster glamor shots utterly devoid of flavor or personality.
I don’t want to imply that the middle section is uniformly bad; some legitmiately decent ideas occasionally bubble to the surface. The main human antagonist’s genuine affection for his girlfriend, for example, is a welcome touch, elevating him above his fellow villains (who wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Captain Planet). Statham’s relationship with his surrogate daughter is also charming despite being a bit underdeveloped. And Cliff Curtis is the absolute MVP; he understands exactly how unserious the story is and adjusts his performance accordingly, enriching even those scenes in which his sole narrative purpose is to act as Statham’s hype man (à la Richard Crenna in the Rambo series).
Ultimately, though, these meager scraps fail to salvage Meg 2. I simply cannot recommend a movie on the basis of a few “cool” parts when the rest of the experience is so irredeemably boring, embarrassing, and joyless.