Opening in theaters on August 10, “The Meg” stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao and Ruby Rose. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

by Brendan Sample

Say what you will about Hollywood’s lack of original ideas, but when executed properly, it becomes apparent that some formulas are tried-and-true for a reason. Watching a straightforward action or monster flick can still make for a fun time at the box office, and Warner Bros.’ upcoming release “The Meg” is definitely one of those such movies.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub and based off of the book “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror,” the film follows a group of marine biologists seeking to discover untapped secrets of the ocean floor. In their quest, however, they unintentionally release a prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon back into the world. With the largest shark in history free to kill countless people, the scientists, led by deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), must track down and stop the Megalodon before it’s too late.

My initial impression of the movie was that it would be a lot like “Jaws” on steroids, which proved to be a pretty accurate assessment. It’s certainly a similar premise in terms a group of people coming together to stop a killer shark, only this time the shark is far bigger and the crew has access to modern technology. The influence of “Jaws” is not only felt in the overall plot of the film, but also in specific moments using imagery that evokes the 1975 classic. This is particularly noticeable when the Megalodon first approaches unsuspecting shore-goers later in the movie.

One thing that “The Meg” is able to do well is find a successful balance between comedic and dark tones. The movie never takes itself too seriously or too lightly, which, instead of creating a conflicting tone overall, works to its favor. The notion of a 75-foot prehistoric shark wreaking havoc is a bit ridiculous, but not so ridiculous that it veers into “Sharknado” territory. Given this, the jokes peppered throughout the film still mostly work despite the magnitude of the threat the characters are facing.

Both the action sequences and special effects are also on point, creating the right kind of high-octane atmosphere that this movie needs. While some people may complain about the overuse of computer-generated graphics, it’s really the only way the filmmakers could’ve convincingly brought a massive, ancient animal like this to life. Whether the crew is engaging the Megalodon from a distance or swimming right up to it, pretty much everything looks believable enough for viewers to stay engaged with the story.

Jason Statham stars in “The Meg” as deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor, who claims to have encountered the Megalodon years prior to the events of the film. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

While nobody is going to win an Oscar for their performances here, the actors all do a solid job in their respective roles. Adding another action flick to his résumé, Statham is certainly in his element fighting a monster shark in the leading role. Rainn Wilson was also a standout as Jack Morris, the eccentric billionaire who funded the initial project. Wilson brings just enough of his signature quirkiness from his role as Dwight in “The Office” to enhance the character without making it feel like a complete rehash.

Additionally, one of the movie’s biggest scene-stealers was Shuya Sophia Cai as Meiying, the young daughter of Suyin, one of the lead scientists. While she could’ve been another annoying kid that always needed to be saved, she almost always had something witty to say that had everyone laughing out loud.

The film’s biggest weakness, however, is in its predictability. Without giving away any specific spoilers, the plot structure is a lot like most other monster movies in terms of how the threat is introduced, how the heroes solve it and which characters end up dying. There’s even a somewhat meta joke that Jonas makes when he’s being recruited for this mission, as he comments on what the scientists will offer to bring him in and how he’ll reject them all (that is until they bring up the one thing that does get him to go along). It was an amusing moment that poked fun at those kinds of scenes where the reluctant hero eventually agrees to fight the monster, but a bit of self-awareness doesn’t completely forgive an overly simple story.

The early screening I attended was also shown in 3D, which didn’t result in any particularly noticeable changes in how I saw the film. The only time I felt it enhanced anything was early on when the scientists first discover a new area of the ocean floor. The scenery is beautiful and the 3D actually does make the sequence feel immersive, as it is supposed to do for the entire movie.

Despite the general predictability of “The Meg,” this is still a fun flick that really embodies a typical big summer movie in a good way. With a tone that successfully mixes suspense and humor combined with solid action and effects . If you’re looking for an exciting, fast-paced movie to enjoy or just want to bring back Shark Week for a little bit, then this one is definitely worth checking out.

“The Meg” opens in theaters everywhere on August 10. Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

Rating: 7/10

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