“The Meg 2: The Trench” is one of the more under-the-radar tentpoles this summer, even though it may end up being one of the biggest global grossers. Why is that?
Well, “The Meg” earned $155 million in North America and $155 million in China toward a $530 million global total. That cume was bigger than any giant monster movie save for “Kong: Skull Island” ($569 million in 2017) and the various “Jurassic” movies. It was the first and thus-far only big-budget Hollywood/Chinese co-production that qualified as a success on both shores. And now “The Meg 2” will try and repeat that performance.
“They’re back for seconds,” the trailer eventually declares, echoing the tongue-in-cheek tone of the first film’s marketing campaign. The trailer opens with two land-bound prehistoric monsters eating a large bug, with onscreen text warning that for 65 million years one species ruled the world. The T-rex? No, the Meg which eats a T-rex (in what was the prologue of the first novel which didn’t make it into the first movie). Jason Statham is recruited again by Cliff Curtis to hunt another giant creature in the trench.
But then, deep underwater, the team starts getting picked off by the biggest meg anyone has ever seen. We then get various monsters attacking by land and by sea, with Statham almost getting eaten by a shark. We get more scenes of tourists almost getting eaten, and a tentacled creature grabbing and devouring a helicopter. The teaser ends with Statham leaping into the air on a jetski to face off against a shark with a sword.
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While the franchise could be a case of “folks were just curious the first time,” it is based on Steve Alten’s long-running (eight novels between 1997 and 2022) and popular airport/beach read series about various prehistoric underwater killing machines. There is a fanbase beyond the core hook of Jason Statham fighting a giant shark in and around China.
However, this new installment, with director Ben Wheatley subbing in for Jon Turteltaub, pairs Statham with Wu Jing, who is quite possibly China’s biggest movie star.
If any Hollywood flick is going to thrive in China despite years of comparatively declining grosses, it’ll be “The Meg 2” which pairs Statham with the star of “Wolf Warrior II” ($754 million in 2017), “The Wandering Earth” ($700 million in 2019), “The Battle at Lake Changjin” ($912 million in 2021), “The Battle at Lake Changjin 2” ($626 million in 2022) and “Wandering Earth 2” ($604 million in 2023).
A pre-COVID normal box office performance for “The Meg,” think around $150 million, will be $150 million that most Hollywood releases won’t have this summer. Or, pardon the hyperbole, if “The Meg 2” plays like a local Chinese blockbuster, it may end up flirting with the worldwide totals of Hollywood’s biggest summer movie releases no matter how well it performs elsewhere.