No one needed a bigger megalodon after 2018’s shockingly dull shark exploit, “The Meg.” But we’re getting one anyway with Ben Wheatley’s outsized shipwreck “Meg 2: The Trench,” a dimwitted sequel committed to plunge into the depths of agonizing boredom, doing so at 25,000 feet, to be exact.
At least the initial chapter came with something that resembled a story. No such luck here, thanks to an inexplicably broad script by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber (the same trio that penned the first tedious installment) that liberally borrows from “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” “Piranha 3D,” “Alien” and so on. In certain sequences, the references from the first two of these pictures feel so shameless that one ponders whether Steven Spielberg would have a legal case against “The Trench” if he didn’t have much bigger fish to fry.
The film superfluously starts in the Cretaceous period to give us an intro to some creatures buried in the depths of the earth for millions of years. After some embarrassingly bad CGI of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures battling each other, you might ask why that budget wasn’t allocated elsewhere in the film. Perhaps towards sharpening the script or polishing up all the other laughable CGI?
Thankfully, the prologue doesn’t last that long and we cut to present-day where the returning character Jonas (Jason Statham) is in the Philippine Seas, rebelling against what appears to be some ecological offenders. His rescue comes from the air, when a sea plane steered by fellow protestors slurps him right out of the water (the editing is so incoherent it’s impossible to tell what’s going on) and pukes him out of its bowels on land. Spelling this occurrence out is necessary because it’s one that closely mimics the experience of watching “The Trench.”
Then we’re somewhere in China, where a poor megalodon is being held in captivity by the environmentally conscious and clearly well-funded clan Jonas is a part of, strictly for research purposes. Another returning character, little Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), navigates the facility’s underwater rooms where one can observe this lowly lonesome meg. “Do you miss your mom, big fish?,” Meiying pensively asks in a moment that’s supposed to be heartfelt but lands amid cringe-y chuckles instead. It feels like a minor crime to sacrifice Cai to such bad writing considering she is the film’s one redeeming presence.
We quickly gather that Jonas has taken Meiying under his protective wing after the events of the first film, preventing her from attending research-based trench dives at all costs. But the resourceful girl manages to sneak into one anyway and off the band goes, down to that aforementioned 25,000-feet depth in the Pacific. Down there resides an unexplored world hidden from our own where the group is bound to do their “research.” On what exactly? “The Trench” doesn’t bother so much with supplying an answer, opting to be one of those “just go with it” movies instead.
The characters involved in this chapter range from multi-hyphenate Chinese star Wu Jing’s institute head Jiuming Zhang, Cliff Curtis’ Mac, Skyler Samuels’ Jess, Sergio Persis-Mencheta’s Montes, Page Kennedy’s DJ and various others played by the likes of Melissanthi Mahut, Sienna Guillory and Whoopie Van Raam. It doesn’t matter if you can’t work out what each of these actors do exactly. (The story doesn’t seem to comprehend all that well, either). Just know that there is much backstabbing and internal betraying once Jonas’ latest test dive goes south. If it wasn’t obvious from the act of keeping a shark captive, not all of the institute’s money-crazed moguls are true environmentalists.
That particular reveal gets delivered in a scene with absolutely zero stakes and laughable line deliveries. Even if “The Trench” is intentional with its comedic tone at times like this, there is a big difference between a campy film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and one that is just wall-to-wall miscalculated execution. For clarity, “The Trench” is firmly in the second camp.
The film doesn’t even push the comedy as far as it can, leaving Statham in acting limbo. His performance and physicality often knowingly dangle on the verge of comedy, especially evidenced in a ridiculous scene when Jonas’ deviated septum comes in handy. Except, the material he’s given is no match for how far he’s clearly willing to go.
The final act of “The Trench”—set somewhere fictional called “The Fun Island” (but instead filmed in Thailand)—is when Wheatley finally tries to have a good, truly unserious time with all the megalodons and prehistoric creatures on display, unleashing dinosaurs that look like giant slugs and an enormous octopus onto the audience. But the whole sequence feels like amateur-hour “Piranha 3D” made for kids, boring the viewer even more.
Somewhere during the film’s over-long runtime that nears two hours, a character says, “This is just some dumb sh*t. Mark my words,” in relation to one of the movie’s convoluted machinations. I couldn’t have put it better myself.