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New York Times Review: ‘Meg 2: The Trench’ Review: Gleefully Jumping the Shark

This lively sequel to 2018’s somewhat tepid killer-shark blockbuster greatly improves upon its predecessor by getting gorier, funnier and more stylish.The shak-hunting, ocean-protecting hero Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) now has a stepdaughter to protect in “Meg 2: The Trench.”
A man speeds on a jet ski, two shark fins trailing behind him.
Warner Bros. Pictures/CMC Pictures
Meg 2: The Trench
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Action, Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
1h 56m
A cute dog, an 8-year-old girl and countless sunbathing beachgoers survived “The Meg” (2018) miraculously unharmed. The British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, who steps into the director’s chair for “Meg 2: The Trench,” has racked up stomach-turning body counts (including dogs) in his darkly comic thrillers like “Down Terrace,” “Kill List” and “Free Fire,” so it seems only fair that his take on a killer-shark movie would lean a bit more vicious.

But “Meg 2,” like the first, maintains a box office-friendly PG-13 rating, so Wheatley is necessarily limited in how much carnage he is permitted to depict. Nevertheless, he finds many creative ways to butcher bad guys and side characters that hit the same horror-adjacent pleasure centers. There’s a shot from the point of view of a shark’s mouth as it’s eating people. I call that good directing.

The first “Meg,” with its story of a long-extinct carnivore re-emerging to wreak havoc among scientists, was reminiscent of “Jurassic Park.” “Meg 2” takes the natural next step and borrows from “The Lost World.” The shark-hunting, ocean-protecting hero Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) now has a stepdaughter (Sophia Cai) to protect, while the repertoire of prehistoric predators on the hunt has been richly expanded to include several land-roaming dinosaurs and (why not?) a giant squid. Of course, any shark movie will inevitably live in the shadow of “Jaws.” Wheatley has fun with it by nodding playfully to “Jaws 2.”

The director having fun is the presiding feeling here — which may account for why the movie is so frequently amusing, and occasionally delightful. It has a light, irreverent tone that sometimes verges on parodic, as when a villain’s archly confident victory speech is disrupted by a shark appearance straight out of “Deep Blue Sea,” or when a splashy pink title card cheerfully informs us that the populated area about to be descended upon by a trio of sharks is called “Fun Island.” Just how close does the movie get to full-blown parody? At one point, Statham literally jumps a shark.

It’s not that the first “Meg” was particularly serious: It contained comic relief, but the humor felt more studio-mandated. “Meg 2” has a spark of wit that feels looser and more appropriate to the material. The supporting cast — especially Page Kennedy and Cliff Curtis as scientists forced to join the action — are offered much more freedom to cut loose and get silly, while certain sight gags have a verve that really pops (including an escalating bit that has more and more of our heroes wandering into the same armed holdup). No dogs come to harm in this one either, it should be said. There’s enough madcap mayhem elsewhere that any more would have been overkill.

Meg 2: The Trench
Rated PG-13 for intense action, mild language and excessive shark violence. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. In theaters.

via New York Times 

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