The piece below was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn’t exist.
Five years ago, The Meg, a mid-budget creature feature released during the dog days of summer (i.e., August), opened to enthusiastic audience responses and, more importantly for The Meg’s producers, a reasonably positive spend-to-revenue ratio. Then and now, The Meg’s international take was more than enough to greenlight a sequel with international action star Jason Statham, once again loosely based on one of Steve Alten’s Meg-related novels. Gone, though, was The Meg’s original director, Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure, While You Were Sleeping), inexplicably replaced by indie horror favorite, Ben Wheatley (In the Earth, High-Rise, A Field in England) in the directing chair.
In the interim between The Meg and Meg 2: The Trench, Jonas Taylor (Statham), renowned rescue diver and occasional eco-warrior, and Suyin (Li Bingbing), an oceanographer and scene partner, decided to cohabitate, Taylor became a stepfather to Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), Suyin disappeared (literally), presumed dead in an underwater accident, and Taylor moved into primary caregiving duties, sharing custodial duties with Meiying’s surviving uncle, Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu), a billionaire and corporate CEO of a forward-looking tech company (or something). Jiuming also doubles — or rather triples — as head of the marine institute, Mana One, located off the coast.
While Jiuming splits corporate responsibilities with Hillary Driscoll (Sienna Guillory), a wealthy financier who — as expected in any Chinese-funded co-production — steps into the likely villain role (i.e., Westerners can be out-and-out villains, Chinese characters can’t be). Just as inexplicably, Jiuming has dedicated most of his waking, non-corporate life to “taming” Haiqi, a super-sized, prehistoric shark (aka a Megalodon) found as a pup several years earlier. Using super-advanced acoustic technology (i.e., a whistle), Jiuming tries to prove that humans and giant, prehistoric sharks requiring a high-protein diet can somehow coexist in the Earth’s oceans.
Highly unlikely, of course, as Megalodons, born and raised in captivity or not, will only see humans as a bite-sized snack. Still, Jiuming pushes forward, including co-leading the latest two-vessel exploration of the world below the Mariana Trench’s thermocline layer. While Taylor captains one submersible, Jiuming captains the other, and Meiying, apparently on perpetual break from schooling, predictably stows away aboard Taylor’s vessel. Since turning back isn’t an option, Meiying remains onboard, a de facto member of the crew.
After an encounter with an entire Megalodon family, the team is forced to ditch their research vessels and — the most unconvincing, murkily lit, under-rendered set piece in the entire film — walk across the ocean floor, hoping to reach a newly revealed mining operation managed by an old adversary of Taylor’s, Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). Apparently, Montes sees Taylor as his white whale and he’ll do anything, including sacrificing anyone and everyone, to separate Taylor from his mortal coil.
Contrary to the pre-release trailers and TV ads, the underwater scenes take up the bulk of Meg 2‘s running time. It’s not until well past the halfway mark that Taylor and a reduced combo crew resurface near an oil exploration platform, battle the equivalent of pirates (mercenaries), and find themselves fighting not one, not two, but three newly emergent Megalodons (plus Haiqi) along with a few other ravenous escapees from below the thermocline layer. Cue all manner of PG-13-related chomping by the Megalodons and their associates on villains and non-villains alike.
The frenetic third act culminates not back at Mana One or the oil exploration rig, but in an oceanside vacation resort, the perfect location for the “fun” (random tourists receiving the treatment they so unjustly deserve) promised by the aforementioned trailers and TV ads. While Taylor and Jiuming strike heroic poses, the other Mana One survivors, including the always-in-trouble Meiying try to get either help from offsite authorities or avoid becoming a snack for any one of the ambulatory, four-legged beasties that have emerged from the deep.
Practically humorless right up until the third act, bogged down by a surplus of expendable characters, while relying on nonsensical plot turns (forget science-based logic), Meg 2: The Trench all but scuttles the reserves of goodwill generated by its predecessor developed over the course of its two-hour running time. With barely competent, forgettable set pieces (trench walk excepted, but not in a positive way) sinking an otherwise promising premise (more and bigger Megalodons unleashed on the world) and likely ending the series before it reaches trilogy status.
Special Features (4K/Blu-Ray)
The Making of Meg 2: The Trench
Up From the Depths: Even More Beasts
Meg 2: The Trench 4K/Blu-Ray is now available for purchase via the usual online and offline retailers.