This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.Five years after Jason Statham first punched a giant shark, Meg 2: The Trench comes to theaters to deliver a sequel that’s bigger in every aspect. There are more underwater monsters, higher stakes, and action set pieces that are even more over-the-top than in The Meg. Yet bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and Meg 2: The Trench repeats some of the same mistakes that gave The Meg such a mediocre critical reception.
Meg 2: The Trench picks up six years after the events of the first movie. Following the Oceanography Center of Hainan uncovering the existence of megalodons beneath the thermocline at the ocean floor, the scientists involved in the discovery were tasked with expanding their research on the mysterious trench. Of course, since megalodons are still a threat, the Mana One research center invested in creating submarines capable of emitting electrical charges and exoskeletons that allow divers to walk 25 thousand feet under the sea. The Hainan’s center has even raised a baby megalodon of their own to study the creature’s behavior and expand human knowledge about the secrets hiding in uncharted corners of the ocean.
In the sequel, Statham’s Jonas Taylor has fully embraced his role as the dad of Meiying Zhang (Sophia Cai), now a rebellious 14-year-old that’s eager to explore the trench. Meiying’s mother, Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing), was written out of the sequel so now Jonas shares his parental responsibilities with Meiying’s uncle, Jiuming (Wu Jing), who has taken over the research center. While far from being the action hero Jonas is, Jiuming is still introduced in the sequel as a co-protagonist, contrasting Statham’s frowning personality with a permanent smile. It’s not only the good guys who got some backup for the sequel as Meg 2: The Trench also introduces a group of mercenaries led by Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a villain with ties to Jonas.
The new elements introduced in Meg 2: The Trench serve to expand the first movie’s world and assure director Ben Wheatley has enough wiggling room to chase a threequel. Unfortunately, all the technological and human additions make the film bloated, leading to a story that stretches too thin in many simultaneous directions. While Wheatley is better equipped than The Meg’s director Jon Turteltaub to deliver the thrills of the franchise’s horror-focused sections, Meg 2: The Trench is weaker than the first film when it comes to action with a convoluted third act that bores more than it excites.
‘Meg 2: The Trench’ Takes Us Deeper Into Horror
Just as was the case in the first movie, Meg 2: The Trench dedicates the first half of its lengthy 116-minute runtime to sequences that are light on action but filled with undersea terrors. The concept of megalodons swimming free on the ocean floor is ripe for horror, serving as a spine-chilling reminder that the deep waters remain underexplored. Since the unknown is such a significant source of fear, the existence of sea monsters has haunted our dreams for centuries. The Meg 2 taps into that dread to create adrenaline-inducing chase sequences in which Jonas and his allies must outsmart a predator they don’t fully understand.
Their world has changed a lot in comparison to the first movie and the Mana One crew are now rather used to dealing with megalodons. So, to put fear back into their hearts, Wheatley dives deeper into the trench, bringing new creatures and situations to torment Jonas. The lack of natural light in the trench sometimes gets in the way of audiences following the attacks of these new creatures. At the same time, the lack of visibility heightens the dire situation the characters are trapped in, increasing the tension of the horror-based sections of Meg 2: The Trench.
Without spoiling the experience, the script by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris creates the perfect excuse to explore the dark alien world of the trench, and Wheatley uses the opportunity to showcase how good this franchise could be if it stuck to horror. However, Meg 2: The Trench goes all in action for the ending, which makes for the weakest part of this sequel.
‘Meg 2: The Trench’ Fails to Deliver Engaging Action
Due to the introduction of human enemies, Meg 2: The Trench uses Statham’s long history as a martial artist to create many fistfights that are supposed to be electrifying. Sadly, Wheatley’s close-quarters framing of these scenes, in addition to some over-editing, makes most of the action bland and hard to follow. That only gets worse in the movie’s expansive third act when heroes, mercenary villains, and sea creatures converge. Lamentably, Meg 2: The Trench repeats the error of the first movie’s shark-punching extravaganza by failing to embrace the campiness of its concept and trying to make something serious out of it.
The sequel overextends itself with many loose threads to tie up in the explosive ending. In the middle of Jonas’ final duel against the megalodons, Meg 2: The Trench must find something for every side character to do, reveal the fate of the human villains, and still let the monsters wreak enough havoc so that the audience can grasp their destructive power. What ensues is an unreasonably long action sequence that asks the audience to focus on too many simultaneous and intertwining subplots.
Adding insult to injury, Meg 2: The Trench has some of the most incompetent human villains in recent history. No one expects a franchise that struggles to give its heroes some depth to do a better job with its antagonists. Still, Montes and his business partners are surprisingly poorly written, sucking the fun out of any scene where they appear. As such, their inflated presence in the third act only hurts the sequel, as it draws attention away from the man versus beast spectacle.
That said, Meg 2: The Trench has some goofy moments that deserve to be seen, such as Statham jousting against megalodon sharks. It’s the kind of scene that raises the question of why the sequel is still trying to invest in a blockbuster action setting when it would do so much better as pure horror or a horror comedy. In the end, Meg 2: The Trench is not much different from the first installment in the franchise, for better and mostly worse.
The Big Picture
- Meg 2: The Trench repeats some of the same mistakes as its predecessor, with a convoluted third act that bores rather than excites.
- The horror-focused sections of the film tap into the fear of the unknown, creating adrenaline-inducing chase sequences that heighten tension.
- The action scenes in the film suffer from close-quarters framing and over-editing, resulting in bland and hard-to-follow fights. The inclusion of poorly written human villains also detracts from the man versus beast spectacle.
Meg 2: The Trench comes to theaters on August 4.