Of all the big-budget sequels that are shown in this year’s summer movie season, I have zero expectations for ‘Meg 2: The Trench’. The first movie in 2018 was a decent fun-while-it-lasts kind of shark-centric blockbuster. It made an unexpectedly sizable chunk of money at the worldwide box office, swallowing a $530.2 million total against a $130 million budget. Frankly, I bet not many people saw this coming but ‘The Meg’ somehow did it, proving there are big appetites for a B-movie creature feature after all.
The huge success, of course, prompted Warner Bros. to greenlit an inevitable sequel since both movies – in case you have forgotten – were based on Steve Allen’s long-running ‘Meg’ book series. The second one, which is inspired by ‘The Trench’ published in 1999, sees Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), the hero from the first movie, returns to lead a new research team – among them includes scientist-entrepreneur Zhang Jiuming (Wu Jing) and crew member Rigas (Melissanthi Mahut) — on a voyage somewhere deep on the titular trench.
Jiuming turns out to be Meiying’s (Sophia Cai) uncle, and if you are wondering why Li Bingbing’s Suyin is nowhere in sight, the story briefly explains her absence. Jonas and Jiuming are both responsible for caring for Meiying, a 14-year-old teenager with a rebellious attitude.
If you saw the first film, history repeats itself… again. The voyage goes awry as Jonas and the rest of the crew – both new and old (Cliff Curtis and Page Kennedy reprised their roles as Mac and DJ) – face a greater danger this time around. The screenplay from Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber throws in a subplot revolving around Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), and his mercenaries have something to do with a rogue mining operation. Montes is Jonas’s foe in the past, but that’s the least of the problems here.
The mining operation, coupled with the explosions beneath the ocean floor, triggers the Megs’ appearances (yes, there are more Megs featured in this sequel) and other prehistoric creatures, too (don’t ask). The creatures in question? The sequel includes a giant octopus and even small but deadly dinosaurs (no, I kid you not).
Jon Turteltaub, who previously directed the 2018 original, didn’t return for the second time round. Instead, we got Ben Wheatley, the multiple-genre specialist behind the likes of ‘Kill List,’ ‘High-Rise’ and ‘Free Fire.’ He is given a huge budget at his disposal to go all out in the sequel. He did, but not without the obvious downside: he’s taking his sweet time getting to the main point. And that is, watching Jonas and some of his crew members battling Megs and other prehistoric creatures.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like the movie is devoid of action and thrills, as seen with Jonas and his surviving crew members not only trying to fend off the Meg’s attack underwater but also Montes and his mercenaries. But it feels curiously padded out as if Wheatley is making two movies: a B-movie creature feature and an action thriller.
The latter is what bogs the movie down into an unnecessary 116-minute runtime. A lean 90 minutes would be a sweet spot. Like the first ‘Meg,’ Wheatley repeats some of Turteltaub’s mistakes by taking this creature feature seriously. If only he embraced the campy nature of the premise, the outcome would be positively different altogether.
Besides, what’s the point of marketing the sequel heavily in a quirky, B-movie vibe in the first place? The same goes with the playful tagline ‘New Meg. Old Chum’, which can be seen in the theatrical release poster.
As for the cast, Jason Statham and Wu Jing play off each other well with their sardonic banters. Both characters have their respective moments, particularly during the all-hell-breaks-loose final hour (more on this later). The now-grown-up Sophia Cai (how times have passed quickly since 2018) and other recurring cast members, Cliff Curtis and Page Kennedy, all show up in their decent supporting turns.
Sergio Peris-Mencheta’s Montes, however, is nothing more than your typical garden-variety villain. Given the B-movie approach in ‘Meg 2: The Trench’, I expected him to play a gleefully over-the-top type of antagonist role.
Now, for the final hour. The one that ‘Meg 2: The Trench’ is supposed to look like. The CGI may have been spotty even with the huge budget provided. But credits go to Wheatley’s genre know-how direction in the action-packed finale.
We see Jason Statham in an effortlessly cool-as-Steve McQueen vibe going full throttle battling several Megs during a jet ski chase in the open sea. There are more: Wheatley has other characters fighting against the giant octopus and the dinosaurs underwater and on the ground. The climactic finale is equivalent to anything-goes, self-aware fun that is best to leave your brains at the door and just enjoy the show.
No doubt that ‘Meg 2: The Trench’ has plenty of entertaining moments, but it’s not enough to overcome most of the flaws, namely the bloated runtime and a subplot that overstays its welcome.