Review: Meg 2: The Trench

Review: Meg 2: The Trench

Meg 2: The Trench has a terrific director in genre favorite Ben Wheatley, but does the movie kick the franchise up a notch?

PLOT: When an evil mining operation unearths prehistoric beasts from the ocean’s depths, including multiple megalodons, rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) must suit up to face the return of an old enemy.

REVIEW: 2018’s The Meg overcame middling reviews (including one from yours truly) to become an unlikely global success at the box office. Like its predecessor, Meg 2: The Trench is based on a novel by author Steve Alten, and what’s exciting to genre fans is that the great Ben Wheatley is behind the camera. For those who may not know his work, Wheatley is widely considered one of the UK’s best genre directors, with him having made Kill List, Sightseers, Free Fire, High Rise and – recently – the Netflix remake of Rebecca. This is different for him because it’s a big-budget event movie. How does it fare compared to the original?

Honestly, it’s a mixed bag. While Wheatley adds a little camp to the film’s final act, where the Megs and other creatures attack the ironically named “Fun Island,” the PG-13 rating means it never gets too Grand Guignol or scary. Wheatley and his writers (who return from the original) seem to have given up on the idea of making it quasi-horror, with them doubling down on the action.

Like the first film, this is a China co-production. Due to her complicated situation at home, the film’s original co-lead, Li Bingbing’s Suyin, has been killed off. Instead, her character’s brother, Jiuming, played by Wu Jing, takes over as the secondary hero to Jason Statham’s Jonas, who’s now raising Suyin’s daughter as his own (a returning Sophia Kai). Of course, when Jonas and Jiuming are called to investigate the titular trench in mini-subs, she tags along, only for the whole thing to go awry.

In a nod to the physical prowess of the two leads, there’s more physical action in this one than in the first film. The movie has a handful of human bad guys, with a deliberately over-the-top Sienna Guillory playing the heartless CEO of an evil corporation that wants to raid the trench for priceless minerals. She’s hired a crew of mercenaries led by the psychotic Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), who wants revenge on Jonas for putting him in jail years earlier. More bad guys with guns mean that Statham and Wu Jing get to use some martial arts to fight them off, in addition to the CG-animated creatures.

What’s interesting is how the movie is edited. With a few tweaks and some re-ordering, I bet you could make a version of The Meg 2 where Wu Jing is the primary hero, and Statham is secondary, rather than vice versa. Indeed, the Chinese version is said to be longer, and one wonders how different the finished films are. Wu Jing is a terrific action star, but he really struggles with his English dialogue, to the point that he probably should have been looped. He’s quite hard to understand. This isn’t the first time he’s acted in English, with him effective in SPL 2: A Time For Consequences, but in that film, his limited grasp of the language was written into the script. Here he’s supposed to be conversing easily but is terribly stiff. Statham plays Statham, with him as invulnerable as ever, but he is having a good time in the lead and has a couple of great one-liners.

A new Meg 2: The Trench promo sets up some octopus action - including a giant shark vs. giant octopus scene!

One issue I had with Meg 2: The Trench is that the cinematography isn’t as good as in the original. DP Tom Stern gorgeously shot that film, but he didn’t return for this one, and it now looks like any old action movie. I saw it in a ludicrous format called Screen X which opens up the aspect ratio during the action scenes but adds absolutely nothing to the film.

In the end, Meg 2: The Trench is a mixed bag. More action should mean more fun, but despite more creatures, it feels like more of a B-movie than the first one did. Ben Wheatley is one heck of a director, but he’s a gun for hire here, and the movie doesn’t have the gonzo touches he’s brought to everything else he’s made. It’s passable entertainment but not much more than that. It would have been a great little B-movie had they leaned into the carnage more, but instead, it’s mostly just a generic action flick and a disappointing continuation of a franchise that’s never been as outrageous as it should be.

A featurette says Meg 2: The Trench is a supercharged sequel with bigger creatures and bigger action than its predecessor