Meg 2: The Trench (United States/China, 2023)

August 04, 2023
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Meg 2: The Trench Poster

When The Meg was released in 2018, it did strong enough international business to warrant a sequel. Although not entering blockbuster territory, it crossed the $100M mark in both the United States and China, reassuring producers that the multinational approach (less plot/more monsters+action) was the way to go for the sequel. In the tradition of second installments, decisions were made to increase the creature count (as well as the associated body count) and diminish anything remotely resembling intelligence. Meg 2 (it lost the “The” somewhere along the way) is pretty awful stuff even in comparison to its predecessor.

It's probably unfair to expect Meg 2 to be saddled with things like character development and a credible plot, but it is too much to ask for things to be a little fun? Pushed into the forefront are dumb dialogue, flaccid one-liners, pointless action scenes without monsters, lots of cheesy CGI, and some fake buddy material featuring Jason Statham and Chinese mega-star Wu Jing. The current writers’ strike is in part about the use of AI in script-writing; Meg 2 has all the hallmarks of having been assembled by a computer (despite three screenwriters receiving credit alongside novelist Steve Allen).

Events in the movie pick up about four years after the conclusion of The Meg. In the interim, Jonas Taylor (Statham) has been working as an environmental activist alongside cohorts Mac (Cliff Curtis), DJ (Page Kennedy), and Jess (Skyler Samuels). Following the death of his wife, Suyin (played by Li Bingbing in The Meg), Jonas has also been parenting his step-daughter, Meiying (Sophia Cai, reprising her role). Along with his brother-in-law, Jiuming (Wu Jing), Jonas plans a dive in submersibles deep into The Trench to discover more about life there and assess the number of megalodons in existence. Predictably, things go wrong and a bad situation is exacerbated when it turns out that one of Jonas’ support crew has turned traitor to participate in a lucrative and illegal mining operation deep in The Trench.

The monster movie aspects of Meg 2 are merely okay. They follow pre-determined trajectories that are more reminiscent of the bad Jaws sequels than any of the better shark movies out there. At times, they are silly enough to recall the Sharknado movies but lack the requisite self-mocking tone to be enjoyed in a comedic/satirical vein. The problem is that there’s not enough of this material to attract even ardent B-movie lovers. Of the nearly two-hour running time, probably three-quarters of it focuses on human bad guys. The most menacing of these is Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a Bond henchman reject. His sole purpose is to give Statham a human enemy to battle, thereby enabling several fistfights and giving the audience a relatable antagonist, since there’s a tendency to want to root for the megalodons and the various other prehistoric monstrosities that pop up. The final act, which transpires on Fun Island, feels like a Jurassic Park parody, except that it’s neither funny nor clever.

As for Statham, his role is the same square-peg-in-a-round-hole that it was in The Meg, with a script that could have been written for anyone with decently-shaped biceps. The filmmakers fail to utilize Statham’s snarky, acerbic wit, instead putting him into a cookie-cutter action hero mold. The PG-13 rating is also problematic because it forces the movie to sterilize scenes that should be awash in blood and viscera. At its heart, Meg 2 is exceptionally violent but the violence has been neutered to placate the MPAA. One can almost hear director Ben Wheatley gnashing his teeth at the restrictions.

The film’s ending leaves open the possibility that there could be a Meg 3. The potential for one rests almost entirely on the Chinese box office since it’s hard to imagine the film doing well in the United States where it has been underpublicized and is facing stiff competition from the juggernauts of Barbie and Oppenheimer. Young teenage boys and lovers of bad movies might appreciate Meg 2 but that’s not exactly a winning recipe for theatrical success these days. Hopefully, this sequel will sink into the trench from whence it came and nothing else will surface in its wake.

Meg 2: The Trench (United States/China, 2023)

Run Time: 1:56
U.S. Release Date: 2023-08-04
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Science Fiction/Action
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1