Star Rating:

The Meg 2: The Trench

Director: Ben Wheatley

Actors: Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Cliff Curtis

Release Date: Friday 4th August 2023

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Horror

Running time: 116 minutes

While exploring a 25,000 feet-deep trench in the Philippine Sea, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), Mac (Cliff Curtis), wealthy financier Jiuming (Wu Jing) and his niece Meiying (Sophia Cai) are attacked by a group of Megalodon sharks, which leads them to discover a rogue mining operation that threatens to unleash a variety of deep-sea monsters on the world above...

It goes without saying that 'Meg 2: The Trench' was not a sought-after prospect by any sane moviegoer. The first one was fine, a bit camp and silly, but mostly passable stuff. Odds are you probably watched it on a plane, enjoyed it, and then immediately forgot about it as soon as you left the plane. After all, it's based on an airport novel so the same would be true of its adaptation. Where 'Meg 2: The Trench' reached a level of interest, however, was in its director - Ben Wheatley.

Ben Wheatley's filmography thus far has been pretty intriguing to follow. 'Kill List', his second feature-length film, was a dark and heady blend of kitchen-sink drama, Brit crime, and folk horror with an ending that is shocking beyond belief. 'A Field In England' is a black-and-white psychological horror about psychedelic mushrooms set during the English Civil War. 'High-Rise' was a mid-budget adaptation of JG Ballard's biting social satire of England in the '70s. Directors like Nicolas Roeg and Vincenzo Natali tried to get an adaptation of it off the ground and failed. 'Free Fire', which was produced by Martin Scorsese, had a vibe of Walter Hill action classics and starred an ensemble that included weighty talents like Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, and frequent collaborator Michael Smiley.

The point of all this is to impress upon you, dear reader, that Ben Wheatley was once a director known for making good movies that had critical appeal that, maybe, unfortunately, failed to reach a wider audience. 'Meg 2: The Trench' will likely be his most widely-released movie, and probably his last. There are so many moments in this movie where you have to wonder if Wheatley was even present on the set, or if it was a case of renting his name and letting an AI direct and edit the thing afterwards. Either way, it's an utter disaster that speaks to a level of disregard that it is unconscionable.

If a movie is at least terrible but entertaining, or the cliched so-bad-it's-good, there's at least something to talk about. Here, however, there's nothing. It is a black abyss of empty, wasted time. There are only actors taking a paycheque, saying their lines in one take, and everyone moving on with their lives and putting 'Meg 2: The Trench' behind them. Even Jason Statham, who is a capable actor when given the right material, can be compelling on screen. Even when he chews out a couple of one-liners - knocking a guy into a passing shark and saying "Goodbye, old chum" is the highlight - there's nothing there. Likewise, the supporting cast is made up of bad TV actors, Cliff Curtis, and computer-generated aquatic creatures that look like they were copied and pasted from a CD-ROM of Encarta95.

What's even more frustrating is just two weeks ago, you had a movie directed by an indie wunderkind, who had a similar budget, was working within the confines of a corporate overlord with various, competing demands, and that effort is now comfortably on its way to becoming the biggest movie of the year and a heavy favourite for Oscar glory. If there's talent, ingenuity, and a script and story that makes sense and it's directed with care and passion, you can make something good inside the studio system. It's definitely more difficult than working in the indie system, of course, but it is possible. There are numerous examples of it working out. Even the failures can speak to some kind of talent that was perhaps caught in the web of studio bullshit. Here however, 'Meg 2: The Trench' is barely recognisable as a movie. The best thing for it is to be buried beneath 25,000 feet of ocean and never spoken of again.