Meg 2: The Trench

I liked The Meg. The movie knew what it wanted to be – two hours of Jason Statham fighting a giant shark – and was content to be just that. Meg 2: The Trench can't decide what it wants to be. Right there is the problem. Rather than doing much that's truly fun, the sequel wastes a ton of time breaking away from its predecessor before deciding to imitate it at the very end.

Jason Statham returns as expert rescue diver Jonas Taylor. After his previous adventure, he now works as an eco-warrior, sneaking onto barges that are dumping radioactive waste into the ocean so that he can expose the illegal activity. He’s called back into action when colleague Jiuming Zhang (Wu Jing) needs someone to accompany him on an exploratory dive way down into a deep trench where it is believed more megalodons live. The men and their team hop into two fancy new submersibles and venture into what they think is unexplored territory. To their surprise, they find a station built by a rogue mining operation. And the people behind that station don’t want them poking around.

That’s the first hour of Meg 2. Aside from having bland, one-dimensional villains whose identity and motivation are never fully established, this section is light on shark action. Instead, we get routine underwater-movie thrills related to characters being trapped in small spaces flooding with water, along with a bit where Jonas must hold his breath for a long time to swim from one area to another. We’ve seen this kind of stuff before, and the lack of real stakes renders the whole mining company storyline dull.

Once back at the surface, Jonas spends a half-hour realizing that more megs have followed him, together with other undersea creatures, including a massive octopus. They’re headed for a resort known as Fun Island, where they will surely kill a lot of people, thereby ruining the “fun” part of that name. He begins making his way there to save as many unsuspecting vacationers as he can.

That leads to the final thirty minutes, which are the best part of Meg 2. The only section of the sequel that feels similar in spirit to the original, it delivers insane shark and octopus action. People are chomped on, squeezed to death by tentacles, and chased around by little dinosaur-like creatures. Director Ben Wheatley (Free Fire) even gives us a shot of helpless swimmers being chewed on from inside the megalodon’s mouth. Aquatic mayhem of this nature is what we’ve come for, and the big finale is undoubtedly fun.

It’s also tonally different from the self-serious first three-quarters of the film. The carnage comes too late in the game to save the day, no matter how awesomely crazy things get. We’ve already grown bored by the nondescript villains and the half-baked story. Switching gears to become a humorously over-the-top creature feature is insufficient to make us forget the prior tedium. Meg 2: The Trench knows what made the original entertaining. It simply chooses not to resurrect that quality until it’s almost over.

out of four

Meg 2: The Trench is rated PG-13 for action/violence, some bloody images, language, and brief suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 56 minutes.