Movie Review: The Meg

Warning: contains lots of spoilers

It’s been quite some time since I shared a terrible movie with you, dear readers, so I’m going to do it again. This is one you really need to know about.

First, watch this trailer. Admire how the vibe goes from “sinister, terrifying ocean monster” to “giant shark comedy!”

The movie itself is a bit like that, although it isn’t quite so starkly divided down the middle.

I originally watched The Meg on the flight back from the UK in November last year. I also watched A Quiet Place and Get Out because I was trying to do a little horror/thriller fest. Boy, did I misjudge things with The Meg.

I thought it would be terrifying. I have thalassaphobia, so the thought of deep water with low visibility petrifies me, as do giant squid drifting through the gloom. Whilst I’m not scared of sharks in the same way, I do have a healthy respect for them, and the only time I met a shark in the actual ocean I did literally pee myself out of fear. I was under water, though, so I think the impact was lessened. I found Jaws to be scary. I’m also scared of prehistoric sea creatures, like the liopleurodon, and yes, the megalodon. Anyway, I thought that this movie had a really promising combination of things that terrify me. On paper, it was my worst nightmare.

Image description: liopleurodon, which kind of looks like a green slug with a crocodiles head and four flippers.  Kind of cute until you remember it’s 7 metres long and weighs more than 1.5 tonnes.  Image credit: wikipedia

In practice, not so much. The bottom of the ocean was charmingly illuminated by phosphorescent wiggly things and submarine lights, and because nothing could really come up from underneath them (my biggest fear about the ocean is things being beneath you) the first part of the movie lost some punch for me. There was also the utter implausability of the whole “how the megaladon survived” theory. The first death was touching but there was no terror. There was no submarine sneaking through the dark. It was just a “mysterious” large creature smacking into things and causing mechanical failures for a very long time, twice.

Enter the grizzled hero (Jason Statham) and the absurdly pretty Li Bingbing as his love interest and badass marine biologist. She does an impulsive thing, probably because WOMEN don’t listen to MEN and nearly gets eaten by a squid but then she learns that THE MAN is right and a tender romance blossoms, because nothing is hotter than being told you’re wrong and then being saved from a squid (notably by the megalodon, not Jason).

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Image description: Lee Bingbing and Jason Statham sitting on a boat in wetsuits looking serious.  Image credit: Screen Daily

There’s this whole backstory about how several years ago, Jason Statham was on a rescue mission for a submarine which had been attacked by the meg, which nobody except him believed, and he had to leave some people to die, and the doctor who certified him as mentally ill after that is now on the deep sea research station that discovers this megaladon . Other people continue to contradict or not believe Jason Statham, and the movie sort of ends up as a weird giant-shark-infested parable about why you should always believe Jason Statham, even when he’s positing that prehistoric giant sharks are attacking submarines.

Things get a little scarier in the next part of the movie when the folks move back onto the partially-submerged hi-tech deep-sea research station and the shark nearly kills Li Bingbing’s daughter (in addition to her other badassery, she’s a single mother). Then a couple of whales get eaten and I cried a little. Lots of whales die in this movie.

The crew the resolve to rid the earth of this giant shark. There are some boat-based shenanigans, then some shark-cage shenanigans where Li Bingbing shoots the shark in the mouth then nearly gets eaten, then Jason Statham swims around and snatches her from the Jaws of death (see what I did there?), the shark dies from the poison on Li BingBing’s shooty spear, and everyone celebrates.

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Image description: shark cage shenanigans.  Li Bingbing in a clear Plexiglas shark cage in the jaws of the megalodon.  Image credit: Bloody Disgusting.

Then another megaladon leaps from the ocean and eats the carcass of the first one.

Not joking.

Meg 2 smashes the boat the matchwood, kills or seriously injures a number of people, including Li BingBing’s father, then swims to a Chinese holiday resort, crashes a wedding and tries to eat some tourists.

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Image description: top down view of Meg 2 drifting underneath a bunch of Chinese tourists on paddleboards, her fin just breaking the water.  Image credit: Study Breaks Magazine

At this point, the billionaire who owns the station tells the scientist and crew, who for some reason include Ruby Rose smouldering her vaguely androgynous way through the complexities of deep sea computer systems, to evacuate, and that he’s told the Chinese navy and they’ll fix it. He then sneaks off in the middle of the night, having done no such thing, blows up a whale he thinks is the megalodon, and in a very slapsticky sequence gets eaten himself. The megalodon carries on sharking.

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Image description: Ruby Rose pulling a quirky yet very attractive face at someone off-screen.  Image credit: Bloody Disgusting

The team back aboard the station then twig that the billionaire is an arsehole and that they need to do this shark hunt themselves.

Thankfully, Statham and Co have another boat, two submarines and a recording of whale song, so they are able to lure Meg 2 away from the tourists and into their fiendish trap. Their fiendish trap seems to mostly involve barely functional torpedoes. When the torpedoes inevitably fail, Jason Statham drives a twisty bit of metal poking off his damaged sub through the Megalodon’s belly, jams another poison needle in its eye (because apparently a massive gut wound is only a minor inconvenience to a shark), and a bunch of ickle great whites, hammerheads and other more usual sharks spring forth and eat it. The Chinese wedding is able to continue and the dog we all thought got eaten turns out to be fine.

Let’s be totally clear about something. This is not a thriller in the same way that Jaws was. There’s no sense of suspense or terror. There’s a couple of moments where you tense up, but generally its because you can see exactly what’s about to happen. It’s not scary. It’s an action movie with some shark slapstick.  The only real suspense comes when you realise that the directors are going to let anyone but Statham and Li get eaten, so you don’t know who is on the menu next.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie takes itself sooo seriously, which is really funny. The acting is actually quite good given what the cast have to work with. The CGI could be a lot worse. The shark is actually properly huge, unlike in the computer game Stranded Deep, where the megalodon is not much bigger than your standard great white. If you are willing to suspend quite a lot of disbelief and ignore all the massive holes in their sciencey theories, it is a very fun, action-packed movie with some light bits of comedy and genuinely likeable (and some hateable) characters. If you find yourself with 130 minutes of nothing to do, they would not be wasted if you filled the void with this.

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Image description: a poorly rendered megalodon leaping from the sea.  There is a poorly rendered dead whale underneath it and a poorly rendered shipwreck behind it.  Image credit: NOGAMEdoesPC on youtube

10/10 would watch again.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I’m not usually a fan of the modern chick flick/romcom.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them, they just don’t really do anything for me.  I have an equal apathy towards movies about sports or music.  To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, though?  Sign me up for a rewatch.

The movie follows Lara Jean, a high school student who sort of has a crush on her sister’s boyfriend, and over time has had crushes on four other lads.  To each of these lads she has written a love letter and keeps said letters in a pretty box in her wardrobe where no one will ever see them.

The story begins with Lara Jean’s older sister (the one with the boyfriend) going off to university in Scotland and leaving said boyfriend (Josh) back in the US with a broken heart.  Lara Jean is naturally filled with conflict and angst, until her helpful younger sister finds those letters and mails each and every one of them off to their intended recipients.  Two of them (Josh and a boy called Peter) go to Lara Jean’s school.  Peter has, very fortuitously, just broken up with his girlfriend Gwen, Lara Jean’s nemesis.

After some brief and enteraining hijinks, Lara Jean and Peter enter into a contract; they will fake date.  Peter will do it to fill his ex’s heart with jealousy and make her come back to him; Lara will do it to convince Josh and everyone else that she is not in love with him, because the awkwardness of being in love with your sister’s very recent ex is pretty extreme.

You can see where this is going, of course.  Slowly, adorably, and with many complications, Lara Jean and Peter realise that their fake relationship is becoming the real thing.  It becomes a big old will they/won’t they thing.  It’s really sweet.

I don’t know what it is about this movie that makes me so happy.  It could be that we have not one but three Asian American women, one of whom is the lead, and none of whom are token or stereotypical.  Maybe it’s that the people who spread rumours about Lara Jean are shot down by Peter, who could have bolstered his reputation as a stud by letting them spread.  Maybe it’s the adorable dynamic in Lara Jean’s family, the bonding over absent family members between Lara Jean and Peter, or even just the really sweet, cathartic ending that didn’t feel cliched even though you could see it coming a mile off.  The characters are well-rounded and well-developed.  Lara Jean’s little sister is hilarious and adorable.  Lara Jean’s relationship with her very feminist and slightly wacky best friend is super fun to watch.  I was never bored.

I really enjoyed the way the story was told, too.  Sometimes we get flashbacks to little Lara Jean and her historic crushes (really cute!).  Sometimes we see her talking to imaginary versions of Peter and Josh.  Sometimes she narrates the story, and at other times is totally oblivious to things happening around her.  Keeping it switched up like that helps keep you engaged, but also keep it firmly in the cutesy chick-flick arena.  It also helps build your sympathy and affinity for Lara Jean as the protagonist.  She’s already likeable, but this puts you in her head.

If you want your teenager to have a healthy view of how relationships should be and understand the importance of communication, this is a great movie for them to see.  If you want to watch something cute and satisfying and just plain nice, this is a great movie for you to see.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  What other Netflix originals have you tried of late?  Let me know in the comments.

Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

I’ll be very honest with you – Tom Hiddleston is the only reason I watched this movie.

Kong: Skull Island is a slightly updated take on the original, but it has more or less the same basic elements.  Giant monkey?  Check.  Woman he becomes attached to?  Check.  Men who want to kill him?  Check.

Read on for spoilers, if you haven’t already seen it.  It’s been on Netflix for ages, so you’ve had time.

The original

In the original 1933 movie, a producer takes a pretty blonde woman called Ann for a location filmshoot on Skull Island.  She gets kidnapped by the local tribes who offer her as a sacrifice to King Kong.  Enamoured with her, he kills a dinosaur or three to protect her (yes, there are dinosaurs).  She gets

The poster for the original 1933 movie

rescued, Kong gets captured and taken back to New York and put on display.  He escapes, snatches up Ann and climbs the Empire State Building, where he gets shot by a bunch of biplanes and dies.  On the deep and philosophical line, “twas Beauty killed the Beast”, the movie ends and the citizens of NYC presumably get on with cleaning up the massive mammal that just plummeted 102 stories onto their streets.

The new plot

The 2017 reboot is a little different.  Set in 1973, the expedition to the island is for sciencey reasons instead.  We have a mad scientist and his team who provide the impetus for the expedition but then really don’t do much at all, the gorgeous Brie Larsen as the pretty anti-war photo-journalist (the new Ann, only useful), Tom Hiddleston as a beautifully spoken mercenary who is apparently an expert at exploring uncharted territory, and Samuel L Jackson as the slightly unhinged commander of a bunch of American troops.

They all go flying into the island in a bunch of big helicopters and start dropping depth charges, allegedly to measure seismic echoes or somesuch.  This confirms Team Mad Scientist’s theory that the island is hollow.  Unfortunately, it wakes up Kong who beats 10 bells out of the helicopters, leaving the survivors (of which there are a surprising amount) scattered across the island.

After some initial fumbling around and the discovery that everything on this island is super-size, including the spiders, the expedition is split into roughly three groups: Team Explorer, made up of the two younger scientists, Brie Larsen and Tom Hiddleston; Team Kill Everything, led by Samuel L Jackson and composed of the surviving soldiers and the oldest scientist; and Team I’m Clearly Going to Die, which is a single soldier who writes a touching letter to his child.  Team Explorer start bush-bashing optimistically but cautiously through the wilderness in search of the choppers coming to pick them up on the other side of the island.  Team Kill Everything do much the same, but are instead searching for Team I’m Clearly Going to Die.

Team Explorer come across a tribe of very quiet native people who have been looking after an American soldier (played by John C Reilly) who crashed on the island in WW2 and became besties with a Japanese pilot who also crashed there, after their initial attempts to murder each other.  He’s long dead by the time Team Explorer finds his American buddy, presumably because we already have a black man in a lead role, two black supporting characters who get actual spoken lines AND an Asian lady in a supporting role who gets at least two words, so we’ve filled our racial diversity quota.  Anyway, we find out that the tribe worships Kong, who protects them from giant two-armed lizard things who killed his family.  Kong is the last giant ape.  There is a myth that when he dies the most giantest of giant lizards will arise from the earth and kill everyone else.

Meanwhile, having taken on killing Kong as his life’s purpose, Team Kill Everything are continuing on their merry way doing as the name suggests.  In a twist NOBODY SAW COMING (I mean, he’d written a heartfelt letter to his child) Team I’m Clearly Going to Die gets murdered by a giant lizard thing (but not the really big one.  Just a little giant one).

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Giant Lizard Thing

After various shenanigans, the two surviving teams meet up and instantly have a difference of opinion.  Team Explorer wants to escape; Team Kill Everything wants to kill Kong.  Because Team KE has all the guns, Team E has to sort of capitulate and starts to run away to the choppers.  Unsuprinsgly, because they are main characters and clearly have some simmering sexual tension, Brie and Tom, joined by John C Reilly, tell the supporting characters to leave and then go and try and stop Team KE.  They make a nice attempt but Kong still gets mostly murdered and super-lizard arises.  There’s a long battle with multiple “is he dead?  No, he’s got a last reserve of strength!” moments and eventually Kong survives, the lizard and Samuel L Jackson are both dead, and the remaining characters chug into the sunset on their makeshift boat.

Worth watching?

If you want a straight-up action movie with good CGI and a plot that doesn’t get deep, yes.  If you want to watch Tom Hiddleston play a badass who secretly has a heart of gold but also a dark past we never really talk about, then yes.  If you want to see Samual L Jackson act a little crazy and get trigger-happy with the napalm, then yes.

Nothing about this movie is mind-blowing or unexpected, but it is a good little action romp with gorgeous scenery, some funny characters, and the occasional moment that tugs on the heart-strings.  Brie’s character actually gets to do some stuff rather than just being scenery, which is nice.  Tom Hiddleston’s character is a little inconsistent (stone-cold but also really not?) but he carries it off, largely due to speaking so beautifully you forget any other problems with what he’s up to.  Samuel L Jackson’s character is almost bizarrely sympathetic – he clearly feels like he has no purpose with his role in the Vietnam war ending, he’s mad as hell that his men got killed, and he wants to avenge them.  However, because Kong is also clearly sympathetic – he reacts to his home being bombed by coming out and taking out the bombers, and is actually largely pro-human – we as the audience expect Jackson to just get over it, forget all his dead soldiers and learn to be a functional civilian.  He plays the character with just enough madness to take away just enough sympathy for us to be happy casting him as the bad guy (a spot he shares admirably well with Giant Lizard).

It’s clear that a great imagination has concocted this world, populated by a range of bizarre and beautiful creatures, and some phenomenal artists have clearly worked very hard to make this movie a thing.

The biggest let-down of the movie is its intense predictability.  Yes, it is a remake, but they change so much about the plot that you’d have thought it wouldn’t be as clear where it is going.  It is, though.  In terms of the overarching plot, there wasn’t a single narrative point that surprised me.

Would I watch it again?  If I was in the right mood.  Does it rank amongst my top ten?  Not even close.  Is Tom Hiddleston’s voice still to die for?  100%.