In their 2018 venture, The Meg, a joint American-Chinese undertaking inspired loosely by Steve Alten’s novel, left the audience wanting more with its rather mellow approach to the depicted megalodon chaos. The cinematic vehicle, tailored to suit Jason Statham’s action-packed style, while echoing B-movie vibes, was too mild for the voracious tastes of its audience. Meg 2: The Trench offers a retort to these criticisms, albeit in an unexpected manner. Rather than amping up the gore, Director Ben Wheatley pushes the B-movie narrative to its limit, creating a two-hour long cinematic kaleidoscope teeming with maritime horrors and ceaseless entertainment.
Six years on from The Meg, Jonas Taylor, embodied by Statham, has now blended seamlessly into the newfound family born from the first film. In the idyllic underwater research facility, they continue to delve into the mysteries of the Trench and the Megalodon sharks – one of which they have under captivity. The narrative unfolds with surprising personal turns, including Jonas co-parenting Meiying Zhang (Sophia Cai) following her mother’s passing, with her uncle Jiuming (Wu Jing) taking on the parental mantle.
In this heart-racing aquatic adventure, the unconventional family trio of a teenage girl and her two action-hero fathers serves as the narrative spine of a film that offers non-stop action, suspense, and drama without ever pausing for breath.
Guided by the screenplay penned by returning writers Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris, Wheatley fearlessly propels the narrative with grandiose thrills and breathless sequences, making little concession for narrative pause or plot logic. After a brief reintroduction to familiar faces, along with a few fresh ones, Meg 2: The Trench dives headlong into the underwater abyss, marking the start of an exhilarating spectacle.
Relentlessly, every possible hazard is thrown at the crew, ramping up the stakes while humorously thinning the ranks. Wheatley’s cinematographic style fills the screen with more marine creature chaos than anticipated, rushing through diverse set pieces with breakneck speed.
In Meg 2: The Trench, pretense is set aside. The film embraces its genre wholeheartedly, flaunting its influences unabashedly. DJ’s (Page Kennedy) increased action sequences and witticisms further underline the film’s unapologetic self-awareness. Despite an overstuffed plot that includes human villains, corporate avarice, betrayals, allusions to the original film, and precarious underwater situations, the film remains engaging, with a cast of aquatic creatures that only adds to the excitement.
Nevertheless, the film’s relentless ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is both its greatest strength and its most glaring shortcoming. The incessant action sequences, creature feature fun, and survival elements overwhelm, leaving little space for character development. A much higher body count fails to have the intended impact as characters are introduced and eliminated in quick succession. At times, Wheatley’s chaotic camera movements muddle the fight scenes. While the climax offers much to celebrate in the B-movie horror tradition, it also unnecessarily revives overused elements from The Meg.
Overall, Meg 2: The Trench, despite its chaotic execution and relentless pacing, offers a fun and entertaining experience. The film’s humor oscillates between enjoyable cheese and irksome silliness. Still, it’s difficult to resist the charm of this delightfully self-aware sequel, which pays homage to the campy aquatic horrors of the 80s, such as Lords of the Deep or DeepStar Six. Wheatley trades the sober ambiance of The Meg for the more eccentric, Meg-infested waters of the Trench, resulting in a wild spectacle of creature feature chaos.