The Meg Jumps The Shark Into Cynema

Summer is dying and Warner Brothers took a page from Universal Studios in 1983 and did a hit and run with a really bad shark movie. The Meg has more comparisons to “Jaws 3D” than it does with “Jaws” even though the filmmakers thought they were clever in their not so subtle “Jaws” references.

“Jaws”

All shark movies bow to the altar of “Jaws.”  While Cynema is not about movie reviews, I propose that this film is important for one Cynematic reason: “The Meg” crosses us over into the big budget SyFy Channel movie and from the reaction of the audience I watched this film with, people just don’t get it.

There is a Meg-sized difference between a bad movie and a “so bad it’s good” movie. It’s a wide area to cover but  look at Joe Dante’s “Jaws” ripoff, “Piranha.” While indeed a clone, it was made with heart and creativity and fun. It was low budget zaniness…so much that Spielberg relented and backed off a lawsuit to kill the film’s distribution. All of these shark movies profess to be a  nod toward “Jaws.” They’re “made with love” toward Spielberg’s definitive shark film.

No. Some of them are not. When I left the theater after seeing “Deep Blue Sea” someone in line asked, “How was it?” My reply was simple: “Rent “Jaws.” “ I would say the same of “The Meg” because where I felt “Deep Blue Sea” played to the lowest IQs, this film aims even lower.

“The Meg” is one big $200 million fart joke.

Before I go into the specifics, there is also a new trend with online film criticism–the belief we really can’t say anything bad about a movie anymore. We need to give everything a chance. While I appreciate some of that sentiment, as a filmmaker, it is upsetting to see tens of millions spent on junk and then passing it to an audience as something good.

This is the very definition of “Cynema.”

It’s All Subjective

We like what we like and I get that. I like some films seen as dreadful by others and I make films that some love and others have torn apart.  It’s not about saying no one can enjoy this, but if we lose the ability to UNDERSTAND what we are seeing then we end up in the situation we are presently in: bad big budget junk, remakes, reboots and re-imaginings and a further decline in the artistic aspect of filmmaking.

From the reaction of the audience, it reminded me of “Idiocracy” where people just sat in a dark theater laughing at someone’s ass farting on the big screen. The title of the movie was “Ass” and it was one big fart joke.

People were genuinely laughing at the middle school level humor and flat attempts at clever dialogue.  They found Jason Statham’s wooden and forced performance where he mumbles and growls his lines as endearing. Rainn Wilson got laughs as a billionaire version of Dwight Schrute whose real intentions are revealed way too late and could’ve given us a cool character if only his arc started much earlier.

People were laughing but not in the “Oh shit, this is deliciously awful in a Roger Corman way” but rather from the standpoint that they were watching something clever.

“The Meg” is one big $200 million fart joke.

This film is important for one reason: it jumped the shark to big budget SyFy Channel product. “The Meg” is the hybrid and this is why it’s important and why I am devoting an article to it.

Just as “Rogue One” represented the official jump into the cyber-resurrection of dead actors, “The Meg” is a dreadfully inept and bad motion picture that heralds a new blockbuster: The low budget crapfest with a mega-budget hybrid.

The Hit And Run Strategy

This film is “not so bad it’s good.” It’s simply bad with a lot of money spent to make you think otherwise. Warner’s dumped this at the end of summer, just as Universal did with “Jaws 3D.” By the time bad word of mouth gets around, they made their money back and it’s off to video. “Jaws 3D” was still making money when it was pulled from theatrical release, despite the terrible reviews and audience reaction.

While the previous two “Jaws” films were released at the start of the simmer season, “Jaws 3D” was thrown out in the dog days of summer for a quick buck.

That’s called a “hit and run” and we got it with this giant shark movie.

See a similar strategy used for “Halloween III” in a previous piece: http://horrorfuel.com/2015/08/18/halloween-iii-second-look/

I am going to go out on a bigger limb. The Asylum has done its shtick and created their own Meg movie in their “mockbuster” format simply called “Megalodon.” I think it is airing this weekend to run in conjunction with “The Meg’s” release. Let’s not forget The Asylum corners the market on giant shark movies and killer fish flung from wind storms.

The Asylum makes Cynema. However, I am going to bet that their shark knockoff is more entertaining than Warner’s financial iceberg.  A movie made for the catering budget of “The Meg” will deliver a better time than this big screen, 3D, IMAX mess.

That’s how bad I thought this was.

Development Hell

Steve Alten’s novel opened with a T-Rex being destroyed by a Megalodon. You want to open this movie with a fun “fuck you” to “Jurassic Park/World?” Open with that scene and you’ve set the tone for a fun roller coaster ride.

We get a bad, TV movie style rescue mission opening  where our hero, Jason “I can save everybody because I’m a super hero” Statham, is ineptly shot with too tight angles, confusing edits that in the end leave us guessing as to what we just saw.

Oh….he rescued people and The Meg or A Meg sunk a sub and maybe died in its explosion? Or maybe it was another Meg? Or did it die at all? Doesn’t matter, it’s all telegraphed to the audience in pounding fists that Statham is misunderstood, was right but we gotta first see him in self-exile in Thailand in a bad Thai local costume pretending to be the Col. Kurz drunk.

“The Meg” is just fucking stupid. It’s badly made, badly written and badly acted. It also appears to be cast to pander to Chinese audiences as Hollywood continues to try and crack the Asian market. I have no issue with a multi cultural cast, but sonofabitch can you find some folks who can act?

Over twenty years to bring this story to the screen. Eli Roth was attached or about to be attached at one time to direct and then left the development early on. My guess is he had a whole different movie in mind—a nasty, violent romp akin to “Piranha 3D” with cock-eating fish and a spring break blood bath like Aja delivered.

The Jaws 2 Connection

Roth made a smart move in walking. In a weird way, Roth parallels John Hancock who left “Jaws 2” six weeks into its production. The Hancock version was said to be a dark, brooding and haunting vision. Universal didn’t want that. Hancock left (whether fired or under his own accord) and we got the big budget final result.

To this day I would love to have seen what Hancock would’ve done with “Jaws 2” even though I hold that the final film is often wrongfully maligned and is a solid sequel because of its dedication to production value and quality. The producers cared.

I can’t say that in the case of “The Meg.”

Ratings and Gimmicks

Instead we have a PG-13 mess that actually would’ve benefited from some “R” gore to compensate for its terrible acting, bad casting and atrocious screenplay and photography.

Like “Jaws 3D” the whole 3D process is wasted. There are too few wide, establishing shots and when we have them, they are brief. 3D is about taking in the space, immersing you into the world through the illusion of depth. This movie is not shot for that intent, and in fact the 3D seems an afterthought.

“Oh yeah, and throw in some 3D to get the higher ticket prices.” I can hear some exec tossing that one out.

Everything Old Is New Again

The 3D process is a waste of time and money. We cut from things before we should and the buildup to the big assault on bathers at the end is a big waste of time. There was great potential to do a full onslaught like “Piranha 3D” Instead we got “Jaws the Revenge.”

Statham himself has expressed public dismay for cutting the film to a PG-13 rating. He even invoked “Jaws 2” in describing the final product. It’s big. It’s expensive. But there’s something missing.

I have said many times that “Jaws 2’s” biggest crime is that it wasn’t “Jaws.” Nothing could be. I wasn’t expecting “Jaws” when I walked into “The Meg.” I was looking, however, for a fun time and a fun movie. Instead I got a big, expensive bad one with no heart and soul.

This pic sums up the hot, romantic chemistry between these two.

“The Meg” is just fucking stupid. It’s badly made, badly written and badly acted. It also appears to be cast to pander to Chinese audiences as Hollywood continues to try and crack the Asian market. I have no issue with a multi cultural cast, but sonofabitch can you find some folks who can act?

Statham and female love interest Li Bingbing have about as much chemistry as Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in “The Shining” or Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts in “I Love trouble.”

The infamous “Shark Attack 3” pick up line has more sexual energy than anything between Statham and Bingbing in this entire film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1XOfHax6Q8

“The Meg” is about making product. Big, bad product. This was a slap job movie that’s been in and out of development hell for two decades. I read one account calling it the movie that almost never got made.

Perhaps that is how it should’ve been.

“The Meg” is important for one reason: the film represents the arrival of the big budget SyFy Channel movie where Cynema is the driving force. There is no attempt to make a good movie here. This was assembly line filmmaking to tap into a quick cash grab with no pretext of quality.

Summing it Up

So for those who get upset when films are criticized, sorry. We all love junk food and there is nothing wrong with that. When our diets become one giant shit menu, we have a problem. This kind of Cynema filmmaking is expanding a shit buffet and we are lining up to eat it.

We don’t have to. There are healthy choices out there and they can taste just as good and are better for us. There are better alternatives to the shit sandwich I ate watching “The Meg.”

Demand better.