Shark rise instead of high rise. Is Ben Wheatley’s MEG 2 – THE DEPTH the sequel to the blockbuster “Meg” from 2018, which was disappointing on all levels except for the economic one, a summer Hailight, or do you want to go straight to the Haia during the film?
OT: Meg 2 (USA/CHN 2023)
That’s what it’s about
As the leader of a research team, the lonesome Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) and his crew of ambitious marine biologists undertake a daring expedition into the deepest depths of the ocean. Circling above them: a group of megalodons around the captive shark Haiqui, who has escaped from her oversized aquarium. The dive turns into a disaster. First, an unscrupulous mining company thwarts their mission, parts of the team turn out to be opponents and ultimately everything boils down to a bitter fight for survival. Because all sorts of prehistoric sea creatures are after the crew and are heading straight for a holiday home where there are thousands of tourists who actually just wanted to have a little fun…
When the Hollywood studio Warner Bros. decided to put over $100 million on the table for a basking shark trash spectacle in 2018, it turned out to be absolutely the right decision. After the “Sharknado” series created a new hype about the sea creatures hyped up into monsters, the “shark horror” subgenre became an integral part of various low-budget film companies. Surely that should also work with a larger budget!? It has! In any case, the mediocre to weak reviews could not have been the reason why “Meg”, more of an action film than a horror film, grossed around four times its budget internationally. This was probably due to other components. For example, the commitment of action icon Jason Statham (“Fast & Furious: Hobbs and Shaw”), who personally took on the fight against the basking shark. But the marketing campaign with its outstanding posters and the (too!) promising trailers also gave rise to a desire for a film that ultimately could not live up to these expectations. Solidly crafted, but completely interchangeable and far too humorless, director Jon Turteltaub was unable to make “Meg” what it could have been. Or at least somewhat entertaining…
The 14-year-old young researcher Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) has joined the research unit against Jonas’ wishes.
After this rather unsatisfactory review of the first part – apart from the opening film, of course – the signs for the sequel “Meg 2 – The Deep” were surprisingly good. With the signing of Ben Wheatley (“High Rise”) The studio didn’t necessarily make an obvious, but exciting choice. It once again made use of a genre director who has previously worked primarily in the independent sector. In the best case scenario, this adds a little prestige and signature to a canned product and in return, indie filmmakers can get used to high budgets, larger sets and the rigid requirements of Hollywood studios. Meanwhile, the author positions remained identical. The triple from Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts”) and Dean Georgaris (“The Manchurian Candidate”) had already worked together on “Meg” in this constellation. And also before In addition to Jason Statham, several returnees arrive at the marine research station to study the megalodons a second time – and fail miserably. “Meg 2” even has a 3D evaluation. And both the poster and the trailer campaign were able to hide the fact for a long time that in the first part everything wrongly seemed as if we were getting a highlight (or at least Shark Light) of the cinema summer to do. After all: “Meg 2 – The Deep” delivers significantly more and better than its predecessor in the home straight. The previously announced images of Jason Statham armed with a spear, riding a giant wave and then holding off a shark with his bare feet didn’t promise too much. Unfortunately, “Meg 2” doesn’t just last these twenty minutes…
“After all, the scenario and the characters have long been established, and the true size of the megalodon has been revealed. ‘Meg 2 – The Depth’ could be a hit right from the start. But puff cake!”
At 116 minutes, the sequel is only a few minutes longer than “Meg”. Nevertheless, this running time feels even more unnecessary this time. After all, the scenario and characters have long been established, and the true size of the Megalodon is revealed. “Meg 2 – The Depth” could be a hit right from the start. But puff cake! Instead of simply picking up where its predecessor left off, the script confronts the rough-and-tumble ocean explorer (and eco-terrorist) Jonas Taylor and his crew with a new project in the previously unexplored deep sea. After dinosaurs even appear in the prologue of “Meg 2” and a diving session with the supposedly tamed megalodon lady Haiqui almost goes wrong, sharks are over for the time being. From now on, “Meg 2” becomes a diving thriller in which the researchers are first confronted with technical complications, then with an enemy within and outside their own ranks and finally with a task that is actually impossible: three kilometers on the surface in futuristic high-tech suits Walk along the seabed to the next research facility. Of course, equipped with just enough oxygen to keep the action on a knife’s edge. And surrounded by all kinds of sea creatures that you don’t know whether they are good or evil. During this phase, the Megalodons remain identifiable at best as circling shadows above the crew. Instead, they crystallize later – as with “Jurassic World: A New Age” Giant grasshoppers instead of dinosaurs – completely different beasts as killer antagonists…
Helicopter – essential in “Meg 2 – The Deep”. Also for Jing Wu.
This passage on the seabed, which dominates the first half of the film, is staged in a fine manner. In general, “Meg 2 – The Deep” has to put up with a lot of criticism. With the exception of the crazy finale, which some… weird Although effects design is produced, the technical presentation can hardly be blamed. The film isn’t particularly pretty; Ben Wheatley was much more aesthetic (and visionary) in his previous films. But for a $129 million blockbuster from the post-“Avatar has made the most of underwater animation” era, the primarily computer-generated set design is rock solid. Unfortunately, cameraman Haris Zambarloukos can (“Belfast”) get little to nothing out of the monotonous, muddy blue-gray look. The rare light displays with beautifully designed sea plants are pleasing. The red lighting on the submarines also creates some nice contrasts. The scenes above sea level, be it in the research stations or later on land, seem even less ambitiously photographed. In any case, a uniform look cannot be read from “Meg 2”. Neither in the use of different color spectrums nor in the lighting or other camera gimmicks. Especially just that Fun Island Titled holiday paradise, which takes center stage in the final third, looks surprisingly uninviting. A small island with crystal-clear water, a white sandy beach and various tourists in brightly colored water vehicles is actually ideal for a visually bright exaggeration.
“Once ‘Meg 2 – The Depth’ has established all the characters, it takes off. Admittedly with the help of an aggressive pack of prehistoric-looking giant lizards instead of the titular Megs, but at least: It works!”
But as it is, the characters first drag themselves through the deep sea. Equipped with exposition dialogues from hell, which are now and then interrupted by Statham’s (at least tongue in cheek) one-liners. Hardly any exchange of words between the characters feels lifelike. Instead, the sometimes unnecessarily confusing plot almost requires you to constantly downplay the positions of the crew and the motivation of the villains. Measured by mainstream blockbuster standards (and with an FSK rating of 12 and above, “Meg 2” is designed exactly as one), the script is at least remarkably consistent with everyone involved. After the first third at the latest, it is no longer possible to predict who will actually survive this expedition. Nevertheless, Wheatley smothers this tension at some point – and let’s be honest: finally! – in the bud. “Meg 2 – The Deep” has all the characters, including the scene-stealer Cliff Curtis (“Reminiscence”) and Page Kennedy (“Some Differences”) Established as a constantly babbling buddy duo Mac and DJ, it’s a blast. Admittedly with the help of an aggressive pack of prehistoric-looking giant lizards instead of the titular Megs, but at least: It works!
Is Megalodon Lady Haiqui really as good as she thinks?
Or better: you run! On land from Fun Island an absurd hunt ensues. People versus reptiles, humans versus humans, humans versus helicopters, helicopters versus giant squids. The spectacle, which increases in madness and absurdity from second to second, finally creates the mood that the trailer promises. And also lets Ben Wheatley play to some of his strengths. While on the one hand he has Jason Statham fighting three megalodons on a jet ski (alone!), the rest of his crew takes care of the chaos on land. The plot cleverly jumps from one set piece to another and, with the help of the precise placement of the scene changes, gets the most dynamic out of the final act. Statham can then fire exploding spears at basking sharks or, armed solely with a metal chain, keep a megalodon at bay. While on land an oversized octopus fights with a helicopter from which people jump and always land in far too large arcs exactly where they are safe for a brief moment. Now the cast also seems to know what kind of film they are starring in and are switching from “We are a serious deep-sea thriller” to “We put absurd water monsters to flight with pure muscle power and tactics” mode. The lengthy explanatory monologues from the villains no longer have any chance of even remotely slowing down the action. It’s a shame that you have to endure a lame hour and a half for this finale.
Conclusion: One and a half hours of lame diving action for twenty minutes of extremely entertaining basking shark madness. Even if the ending delivers, this division of “Meg 2 – The Deep” is disproportionate.
“Meg 2 – The Deep” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 3, 2023 – also in 3D.