Five years after Jason Statham’s wits and kicks took out a prehistoric shark in The Meg, the sequel Meg 2: The Trench arrives with more sharks but no bite.
I enjoyed the 2018 film, a dumb fun movie about a thought-extinct megalodon terrorizing a research facility and a beach in China after an exploration of the Mariana Trench sent it to shallower waters. It grossed $529 million on a budget of $130 million, so no wonder Warner Bros. snapped up a sequel.
Meg 2: The Trench brings back some characters and the same screenwriters, but the film feels lost at sea. Instead of focusing on more Megs on the loose—a thread hinted at the end of the original—it retreads plot points from the first film and gives us talky scenes about corporate espionage and illegal mining. It’s like promising dinosaurs running amok while focusing on giant locusts instead (I’m looking at you, Jurassic World: Dominion).
Statham, also an executive producer, returns as diver Jonas Taylor, but he seems bored. Or miserable. His performance has a grumpy flatness, not even the winking humor of The Meg (or the Fast & Furious films, where he also appears).
Jonas has a fatherly relationship with Meiying (Sophia Cai), whose mother he flirted with during the earlier film. She’s died since The Meg, leaving Meiying in the care of her uncle Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu, Ride On) whenever Jonas is elsewhere.
Jiuming runs the underwater research company from the earlier film and also inexplicably has a young Meg in captivity that he wants to train. It soon busts out of its enclosure and vanishes, leaving the munching to other Megs.
Returning screenwriters Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris once again send Jonas to explore the Mariana Trench, this time accompanying Jiuming and his crew. Cai, who played a cute little girl in peril in The Meg, is now a spunky teen who puts herself in harm’s way. She hides aboard Jonas’s sub just as someone sabotages the mission to both cover up the mining and take over the research company.
Meanwhile, Megs again breach the surface and swim toward a tourist resort after the film treads water for way too long. Did the writers forget they were repeating themselves, or were they hoping audiences would?
The characters seem interchangeable, with forgettable banter. One amusing standout is Page Kennedy (The Upshaws), whose character was so unprepared in The Meg that he’s made a survival kit with a Taser, pepper spray, and other helpful necessities.
Nevertheless, director Ben Wheatley (In the Earth) can’t shake the feeling that the film keeps trying out ideas on the fly. Meg 2: The Trench promises more cheeky humor and thrills, but it’s a movie with no teeth.