When it comes to summer blockbusters, we don’t usually expect them to bask in critical acclaim or become awards contenders, but somehow, they nearly always impress at the box office. These big-budget adventures may never make it to a prestigious film festival but they attract moviegoers like no other! Ultimately, summer blockbusters aren’t meant to be taken too seriously.  They’re CGI and stunt-heavy like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mission Impossible: Fallout, or animated and family-friendly like Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and The Incredibles 2; they keep the summer season laid back and fun-filled. Over-the-top, even. It’s true, this type of cinema remains popular year-round, but what better time than the fishtail-end of the summer to release a mythologically prehistoric shark movie set in international waters? The answer is… there’s no better time!

The Meg (short for “Megalodon”) is the latest shark movie to make waves in Hollywood, but it’s not just any shark movie; based on the 1997 New York Times best-selling science-fiction novel, MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Allen (his first published work and the first book in the MEG Book Series), is now the biggest-grossing shark movie of all time! Initially, director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel, Knock Knock) was attached to the film, and he was reportedly determined to make the movie an extremely dark and frightening R-rated adaptation of Allen’s novel. But Roth ended up leaving the project altogether due to “creative differences” with Warner Bros. Studios, mainly because he wanted the film to maintain both its R-rating and a $150 million budget.  

Subsequently, Eli Roth was replaced by seasoned writer/producer/director, Jon Turteltaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), who not only managed to keep The Meg afloat with a PG-13 rating, but pulled it off with a $130 million budget. Since its release last week, The Meg issued a surprise attack debuting in the number one spot at the domestic box office with $45.3 million! It’s safe to say that the rough waters surrounding the production of The Meg have calmed down, especially since, in its first week running, The Meg has swallowed $213, 402, 357 worldwide! It hasn’t even opened in China yet! The Meg really is HUGE!

The overall cast, crew, production and filming locations for The Meg are rather unique in that they are very diverse and worldly – something many people have been demanding of big-budget studios for what seems like forever. The Meg is a cinematic commodity with American-Chinese co-production. Filming locations included both China and New Zealand, and the entire cast represents nearly every continent on the globe: leading man and English action star Jason Statham (looking like a snack to both the Megalodon and the audience) did what he does best in his role as Naval Captain Jonas Taylor. It is hardly his best work as an actor, but Statham leads both the movie and his fleet with steamy conviction. The human shark bait scene was some edge-of-your-seat, shark-movie fun!

American actors include Rainn Wilson (TV’s The Office) as Morris, and Page Kennedy (TV’s Rush Hour) as DJ; New Zealander Cliff Curtis (TV’s Fear the Walking Dead) lends his chops and Australian-born Ruby Rose (Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black) apparently came close to drowning on set! Rose also announced her new role as Kate Kane (aka Batwoman) in the new CW series of the same name (Batwomanand while critical, even homophobic DC Comics “fans” may have bullied Rose to the point of deleting her Twitter account, she remains the first openly gay actress to play an openly gay LEAD superhero! And she has the number one movie in the world to top it all off!

The standout roles in The Meg, however, are the heartfelt ones, and they were mostly carried out by Chinese actors, like Winston Chao as Zhang, the adorable newcomer Shuya Sophia Cai as Meiying, and award winning actress, Li Bingbing, as Suyin, Captain Jonas Taylor’s love interest. All three of them truly do a fantastic job, and little Shuya Sophia Cai will likely have a great career ahead of her. Now, The Meg will go head to head with the highly anticipated new romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians, which is also being praised for its diversity, boasting an entirely Asian cast! The first time a Hollywood film has ever done so! No matter who comes out on top this weekend, August 2018 has proven to be an impactful and visible time for Asian representation in Hollywood. Something many people, of all races and genders, are proving has a place at the movies. 

“Before chasing sea monsters, check your place on the food chain.”

TIP: Watch The Meg in 3D! The CGI is impressive and it actually looks and feels like you are navigating the depths of the ocean!

3.5 Shark Fins / 5


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About the Author

Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.