MEG 2: THE TRENCH (2023) is a movie where big sharks simply make a cameo

MEG 2: THE TRENCH clearly excels in one aspect: leaving viewers wondering how a film centered around massive, menacing sharks can feel as lifeless as a floundering fish out of water.
Orly Agawin

MEG 2: THE TRENCH (2023) really knows how to showcase its biggest stars - that is by keeping them off-screen. After all, who wants to see massive sharks in a shark movie, right? Who cares if they're the title's selling point; let's give them bit parts and make them the understudies to a story that's apparently more interested in anything but the actual Megs in the room.

It's like buying a ticket to a concert to see the headlining band, only to have them perform a 30-second tune during the intermission. But who needs epic shark spectacles when you can witness CGI so stiff it makes you wonder if the sharks are auditioning for a claymation remake?

Of course, when your antagonist is a prehistoric mega-shark that could swallow a school bus whole, why bother giving it anything more than a cameo? It's not like it has to break a sweat to be the terrifying centerpiece of the show. It just nonchalantly yawns and humans start offering themselves as a light appetizer. You'd think such an all-powerful creature would have a packed destruction schedule, but no, it's more like a bored guest at a dinner party, occasionally joining the conversation with a bite or two.

Ah, and let's not forget the non-shark action extravaganza that fills the screenplay like a buffet line at an all-you-can-eat diner. We're treated to illegal mining escapades for precious metals, a leisurely underwater stroll that conveniently ignores the pesky physics of water, and a child actor whose facial expressions are so exaggerated that they could star in a vintage Disney Channel show. Then there's a traitor subplot, a flurry of one-liners that make you cringe harder than a sunburn, and an oceanic exo-suit adventure that's supposed to be exciting but mostly feels like an out-of-shape turtle race.

Enter Jason Statham, the D-list action hero who's here to save the day. Sure, he can do stunts with the grace of a charging bull and survive underwater without so much as a snorkel, but his charisma has gone on vacation – possibly to Fun Island, the fictional resort in the movie's second half where humans voluntarily become shark snacks. And Statham's acting here is to peak Statham what a rubber shark toy is to the real deal – a hollow imitation.

But who needs Statham to be compelling when we've got a gigantic shark on the prowl? Because, as MEG 2 gleefully proves, it's far more thrilling to watch Statham play with a Jet-ski and recite cringe-worthy lines than to see him desperately try to outshine a CGI beast that's genuinely jaws-dropping... just not in the way they intended.

Oh! And let's not forget the movie's anthropocentric nature. Because obviously, if a megalodon were to escape from the depths of the ocean, it would naturally prioritize munching on humans – because who can resist a little human-flavored snack, yes? It's like expecting a marathon runner to find joy in racing against snails; the effort-to-reward ratio just isn't worth it. But in true human fashion, we assume everything new and colossal must be captivated by us, even if it's for a fleeting moment before turning us into an underwater buffet.

The plot, if you can even call it that, twists and turns like a lost fish trying to find its way home. It's almost as if the convoluted mess is there to keep us distracted from the real stars of the show – the colossal sharks. Director Ben Wheatley takes the reins this time, injecting style into the film like a desperate attempt to breathe life into an otherwise dead fish. The film's hybrid horror-action genre draws inspiration from the likes of ALIEN (1979) and THE ABYSS (1989), but it's more like a parody gone awry, with scenes set in the metallic bowels of the Oceanic Institute that feel like an unintentional joke.

Wheatley tries to make walking on the ocean floor feel otherworldly, but it's as believable as claiming water is as dense as air – just ask that oblivious alien tourist visiting Earth for the first time. And yes, let's not miss the subtle nods to the JAWS sequels because who doesn't love a reminder of the franchise's lowest points? It's like tipping your hat to cinematic blunders while casually throwing shade on the very essence of the genre.

MEG 2: THE TRENCH clearly excels in one aspect: leaving viewers wondering how a film centered around massive, menacing sharks can feel as lifeless as a floundering fish out of water. It's an art form that crams so much disappointment and missed potential into a single movie. At least this one is proof that not all big fish stories have happy endings – some just leave you with a sinking feeling of wasted time and an even deeper appreciation for the classics.

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