Yes, yes. I have no one but myself to blame. It’s like eating 6 Zingers and expressing displeasure at the ensuing bloat and shame. But there is awful, and then there is awful on just an entirely different level.
When I was watching Mission Impossible on the IMAX, I saw the preview for The Meg and thought, “A shark the size of a tug boat!? When he eats bathers, they’ll be like krill. What can go wrong?” And fronted by Jason Statham? As a friend mused, “How is he going to be able to drive a car into the mouth of the shark?”
I expected camp, calamity and chaos. I got a dead-straight, cookie-cutter snoozer that still managed to entertain, only because the film proved to be so bizarre. I’ve concluded it was written by someone who just learned English and directed by someone under the influence of Quaaludes. I have to say, I enjoyed it, even though:
- The lead actress, Li BingBing, is so bad, she’s good. She is beautiful, but her acting chops can be best equated to the work of Siri. I laughed loud and often.
- The comic relief, Page Kennedy, is almost as bad. It’s not that he can’t act, but as the sassy, African-American, tell-it like it is, I hate the water stereotype, he was given an impossible task. Be Kevin Hart. He’s not Kevin Hart. He’s not Gary Hart.
- Statham seems like he was actually never present for filming. I mean, he’s there, but his mannerisms suggest that he’s acting to a green screen.
- Statham’s first 15 lines reference beer. He has to be coaxed to risk the depths “one last time” after his last dive ruined him. And he is coaxed from some backwater Thai sea town bar, where he drinks a lot of beer and licks his wounds. And apparently, talks a lot about about beer. And offers everyone beer. I have never seen the beer Statham is hawking, but I assume it is Asian, as the film is up to $150 million globally (and $60 million domestic).
- The driver – the reason Statham is licking his wounds in the bar until he is called upon to perform “one last time” – is nonsensical. The film opens with Statham and two fellow rescuers extricating survivors of a downed nuclear submarine from the ocean floor. Statham has to make a split second decision when his fellow rescuers are trapped – go back to save them, or shove off. He shoves off. Now, there would be conflict if we, the audience, never learn the fate of the fellow rescuers. Or better, we are provided information that they died a slow, long harrowing death. But in The Meg, 2 seconds after Statham makes his fateful decision, the subs blows up. So, he was right. Verifiably, provably correct. And yet, he is pilloried.
- BingBing has a child, a precocious sweetheart of a daughter, who stays with her on the underwater research center. The Meg appears at that center. Thereafter, for some unknown reason, the child is brought along on almost every mission.
- That said, I don’t think the child was in any real danger, because people are not eaten like krill. In fact, this picture has a body count just north of Murder on the Orient Express.
- But the visuals, you say. The CGI! They must have made it worthwhile. Unfiortunately, no. Most of this flick looked like it as filmed in the shallows of Rockaway Beach.
The orgasmic acclaim is a little much, but this is mostly good fun. A little Lion King, a little James Bond (they have their own Q, who shows off the technological gizmos, and a CIA operative Felix Lighter) and even a Millennium Falcon. There’s also some simplistic politics thrown in. Should Wakanda, a magical African kingdom powered by vibranium (a kick ass metal that provides strength, power and wealth) stay hidden in its borders or should it come out from shadows and take on the world struggle for the black and dispossessed?
I dunno. Who cares? Let’s cut the high-minded chatter about what happens when vibranium becomes plentiful and get to clever quips and fisticuffs.
As with most of these movies, it is weakened by the need to have comic book characters in silly suits address weighty matters (guess what? Vibranium is going to revitalize Oakland!) but as these things go, it’s a solid popcorn flick, and the action is first rate.
This is what a superhero movie is supposed to be. Consistently clever, mainly for young people but with crossover to adults, and devoid of all the dreary seriousness of Gotham city and world politics and ethical dilemmas for people dressed up for Mardis Gras. Add the fact that the characters are almost impossible not to enjoy, the CGI is nifty rather than a blaring assault, and there are some really funny bits. And the finale is a blast (rather than a dark, dull, crashing snorefest ala’ Wonder Woman). The film also has a proper villain, the sleek, sultry, campy goddess of death Cate Blanchett.
Quintessential popcorn flick.
Much like all of the rest of the DC/Marvel dreck, although this one is plagued by an even higher degree of contempt for the audience. The script is lazy and moronic. The look is cheap (Gal Godot reminded me of Harry Hamlin in Clash of the Titans). The slo-mo seems positively retro. The soundtrack is oppressive and unyielding. The villain is obvious. The homily (“only love can truly save the world”) overly earnest even for this kind of popcorn flick. The Battle Royale finale a snore.
This is a movie you can’t even really fold laundry to. Though Godot ain’t hard on the eyes and she and Captain Kirk have a few cute moments together, she’s at heart a dolt, wide eyed and stupid or, when she kind of gets it, petulant and stupid.
And the proof is in the historical pudding. After World War I ends, which coincides with the end of the film, she makes it her mission in voiceover to spread peace in our time. We all know how that turned out.
In John Wick, the Mob tried to take the man’s car and they killed his puppy. In response, he killed all of them. Hundreds. Everywhere. It was gloriously simplistic and fun.
This time around, we delve deeper into John Wick’s criminal world, where he has a debt to pay pursuant to a criminal code, and there is an entire bad guy underworld and ruling structure, with politics, and apparently, 75% of the folks walking the streets of New York City are potential assassins. More explication makes for a lesser film, and with the shootouts essentially the same as in the first picture, it’s pretty blah.
Spoiler – the new dog does not die.
The first 20 minutes of this movie serve as a primer as to how to get a comic book flick started. Simple, short scenes introduce our characters, several pop hits set the mood for the time (late Vietnam era), and away we go to confront King Kong. When a Vietnam helicopter pilot sees Kong, he laconically remarks, “is that . . . a monkey? “. Indeed, it is, and he is big and he is angry.
Death and destruction follow, our fearless survivors work assiduously to get off of Kong’s island while at the same time dealing with their own issues, and the entire endeavor is laced with fun, primarily in the form of John C Reilly, who has been abandoned on Skull Island after his fighter went down during World War II. So he’s a little loopy.
It gets a little ragged at the end, and the emotional connect between Kong and his new gal (Brie Larsen) is rushed, but this is loads of fun. The likes of Zack Snyder should take note. It’s a monkey. A big monkey. Just like Superman and Batman are not real people, there is no need to delve deeply into their anguish, deepest thoughts, and societal implications. Lighten up.
After getting through the hackneyed “man leaves wife and daughter to go to the sea” introduction, made more unpleasant by the spunky, Nickelodeonesque cutie pie daughter of oil rig safety engineer Mark Wahlberg and wife Kate Hudson, Peter Berg’s (Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day) disaster flick settles down nicely. The pace is taut, the action gripping, the explanation of foreign concepts effective, and the clash of personalities (true blue safety guys Wahlberg and Kurt Russell versus corporate, dollar-watching rig manager John Malkovich) not too heavy-handed. A decent expenditure of time, but as my daughter remarked, probably better delivered as a documentary.
The movie hewed pretty close to the facts, but, incredibly, left one off that perhaps seemed to incredible to portray: college kids were fishing under the rig when it blew up.