“Meg 2: The Trench” (2023) hits rock bottom, but it’s not such a bad ride…


Five years ago saw the summer release of “The Meg,” a Chinese-US coproduction based on a 1997 book by Steve Alten (I swear). “The Meg” was a big, silly, check-your-brain-at-the-door action flick that wisely chose not to compete with “JAWS” in terms of direction, innovation, skill, or talent. If anything, “The Meg”’s humble ambition to simply be a B-movie was its most charming asset—it stayed in its lane.  As a longtime fan of silly shark flicks, I respected that. Then COVID happened, and plans for a “Meg” followup were understandably delayed.  

“Sitting on the dock of the bay…”

Now it’s 2023, and with summer just about over (and Shark Week long over), I finally got around to seeing “Meg 2: The Trench” digitally projected at home, on a 7 ft/2 m screen. It was more or less everything I expected, too…

“Meg 2: The Trench” 

“My dear Dr. Grant, my dear Dr. Sattler, welcome to Cretaceous prologue…”

A hilarious prologue takes place in the Cretaceous era, 65 million years ago, where we see the circle of life; an insect is eaten by a small lizard, lizard is eaten by a bigger lizard, who’s then eaten by a small dinosaur, who’s then eaten by a T-Rex, who comes too close to shore and gets taken out by a monstrous megalodon (à la Samuel Jackson in “Deep Blue Sea”).  The movie’s off to a predictably silly start…

65 million years later, our gruff returning hero, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is caught stowing aboard a cargo ship to expose its illegal dumping of radioactive waste into the ocean.  He escapes by simply diving off, and the crew is presumably busted (but not the government responsible, of course).  

You just know Driscoll (Sienna Guillroy) is evil because she’s a wealthy corporate head who’s dressed in white…

Sometime later, Jason, his buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis), now-teenaged moppet Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) and her uncle Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu) are attending a black-tie corporate gala thrown by their powerful CEO patron Driscoll (Sienna Guillroy), who is generously funding our heroes’ deep-diving R and D aboard the Mana, their offshore research platform…with ulterior motives, of course.

Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu) is training a giant prehistoric ancestor of a Great White shark…what could possibly go wrong?

Later, aboard the Mana, Jiuming demonstrates his method of training a young megalodon he’s named Haiqi to respond to remote clicking commands (if you can swallow this, the rest will be a breeze). The demonstration is a success—barely—and the mysteriously-orphaned Meiying asks her uncle and Jonas if she can tag along on a dangerous expedition to “the trench”; their answer is a firm ‘no,’ which of course, is meaningless in action movies where a kid needs to be placed in danger.

Jonas (Jason Statham) îs exactly zero-point-zero percent surprised to see his semi-adopted daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) stowed aboard the submersible.

As Jonas, Jiuming, tough pilot Curtis (Whoopie Van Raam), security officer Rigas (Melissanthi Mahut), and several expendable cast members head out in twin submersibles to explore the titular trench (the deepest firmament below the thermal barrier where they first discovered megalodons). Once underway, they learn that Meiying has stowed away aboard Jonas’ sub—a twist that everyone and their slow-witted kid brother saw coming. 

Note: Other than an inferred tragedy, there is no solid explanation given for the conspicuous absence of the first movie’s romantic lead Li Bingbing (“Suyin”), who was also Meiying’s mother.  Suyin and her father Zhang (Winston Chao) are now reduced to a photo on Jiuming’s desk…

Don’t come a knockin’ when the megalodons are a rockin’…

As they approach the trench, the subs find themselves in dangerous proximity with several mating megalodons (a party that includes hot-to-trot Haiqi), and are unable to turn back. The two sub crews then discover a previously unknown mining operation already settled on the trench bottom. As the base is discovered, its leader, Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta, who looks like an evil stunt-player from an Indiana Jones movie) sets off an explosion to kill his own crew rather than allow them to be captured.  The high-pressure explosion’s shockwave cripples the subs, and cuts off their communication with Mana

DJ, Mac and Jess lose contact with the subs.
Returning characters DJ (Page Kennedy), Mac (Cliff Curtis) and mystery newcomer Jess (Skyler Samuels) lose contact…

With their subs’ oxygen supplies dwindling, the two sub crews have no choice but to suit up in Jiuming’s custom-made pressure suits in order to reach the mining base for refuge.  Along the way they discover an “Avatar”-like realm of bioluminescent ocean life in the trench, as well as prehistoric octopi and small dinosaurs who pick off a panicking redshirt, and crack the faceplate of another. Barely reaching the base’s airlock in time, the second expendable’s faceplate caves under the extreme pressure before the airlock is emptied of water, killing her instantly.  

Note: While the faceplate implosion was an effective moment, I was too distracted by the fact that the submersible happened to have an exact size-matching pressure suit for small stowaway Meiying, who wasn’t supposed to be there. The YouTube channel CinemaSins will have a great time with this movie…

Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu) has found some of the mining base’s precious minerals worth billions, you know, just lying around

Once inside the base, Jonas and the other survivors learn that the mining operation is extracting rare earths and other materials to create superconductors; an operation worth billions. The group is soon locked into a sealed-off chamber where they learn their traitorous ‘benefactor’ Driscoll used Mana’s technological innovations to create her off-the-books mining operation.  To keep the base a secret, Driscoll had an operative aboard Mana named Jess (Skyler Samuels) posing as an engineer.  Jess effectively sabotaged Mana’s communications and its rescue sub, much to the frustration of Mana’s controllers, Mac and DJ (Page Kennedy), an ever-resourceful jack of all trades.

Note: Page Kennedy’s “DJ,” another returning character from the first film, strongly echoes rapper/actor LL Cool J’s resourceful security guard character “Ronny” from “Halloween H20” (1998) and his equally resourceful “Preacher” from “Deep Blue Sea” (1999).  One gets the sense that LL Cool J might’ve been the producers’ template for this role when casting the original movie…

Evil mining base boss Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) whose mustache practically twirls by itself

Jonas then comes face-to-face with the mustache-twirling Montes, who has a vendetta against ‘tree hugger’ Jonas.  Jonas’s sting operation from the opening act sent Montes to prison for several years.  After some pointless fisticuffs, Jonas escapes with the remaining sub survivors.  Montes then consults with Driscoll, who sends several squads of goons to seize Mana and take over the research station.  By this time, Mac and DJ have already worked out that Jess was their saboteur and are hidden away, “Die Hard”-style, aboard Mana.  DJ’s resourcefulness comes to play, as he surprises Mac by overpowering armed intruders with his quick-thinking and handy ‘emergency bag’…

“Yeah, those rubber rafts are plenty safe,” said the supplier to the buyer.

As freshly-released megalodons emerge from a massive hole created in the thermal layer by the mine’s activity, one of the mammoth sharks crashes through Mana’s control room window—interrupting a reunion between Jess and her surprise lover, Montes.  Montes watches as his two-faced paramour becomes an hors d’oeuvre for the hungry megalodon.  With the overrun Mana in shambles, Jonas’ group is reunited with Mac and DJ, as they flee the base in powered life-rafts…with freshly-released prehistoric creatures in hot pursuit. 

Saboteur Jess (Skyler Samuels) gets her just deserts by ending up as a shark’s dessert.

Note: The ‘hole in the thermal layer,’ much like the hole in our earth’s ozone layer, is the film’s weak sauce ecological message, which rings a bit hollow coming from a Chinese/American coproduction—two of the world’s greatest environmental polluters. 

“My dear guests, I am your host, Mr. Roarke. Welcome to er, Fun Island…”

With limited range in their escape crafts, Jiuming realizes the only reachable destination is a generically-monikered tourist trap called “Fun Island.” The survivors and the corporate commandos storm the island looking for each other, as oblivious tourists soon realize they’re a buffet for megalodons and several other prehistoric creatures released from the damaged thermal layer. Also on the menu is a repeated gag from the first movie involving yet another tiny endangered dog named “Pippin.” Or it could be the same dog from the first movie. Who cares? Eat your popcorn…

Note: The first film’s “Pippin” joke is, of course, a reference to the dog “Pipit,” who disappears during a playful game of fetch on the beach in the original “JAWS” (1975).

Curtis (Whoopie Van Raam) and the ever-resourceful DJ outwit corporate commandos and Cretaceous creatures…

Mac, DJ and the others easily outsmart their numbskull commando captors, as Driscoll and Montes are soon felled by the prehistoric menaces the movie has unleashed upon them. Meanwhile, über-macho Jonas takes a jet-ski with several exploding-tipped harpoons, which he hand tosses into several megalodons (as you do), leaving only one remaining giant shark to be picked off later, at a more opportune, cinematic moment…

Note: At this point, the movie becomes a “Jurassic Park” parody, as well as a repeat of the first movie’s final act. The only difference between the first film’s resort attack and this one is the addition of the giant octopus and the trench-dwelling dinosaurs; which inexplicably adapt from the ocean’s heaviest pressure environment to dry land without any transition whatsoever…

Jason Statham aims to put too fine a point on it…

The final act sees the resort town in shambles, as Jiuming heroically plunges a homemade bomb into the beak of a giant octopus, while Jonas plunges his final exploding harpoon into the gaping jaws of an attacking megalodon over a collapsing boat dock.  The survivors—including the silly little dog Pippen—are safe (for now), as they plunder the local bar’s liquor supply and drink to their survival (l’chaim).

The End.

Note: This is a movie best washed down with plenty of snacks and drinks, if one can swallow with tongue pressed so firmly in-cheek…

Summing It Up

If you’ve seen the first film, you know what you’re getting with its sequel.  Lots of Jason Statham machismo, an international cast, evil/stupid corporate suits gumming things up, a cute kid, and, of course, lots of unimportant supporting characters (and bad guys) who end up as shark snacks. It’s a simple formula, and the sequel sticks to it, albeit with a lot more padding this time around.

Jason Statham races giant prehistoric sharks he’s going to destroy with exploding harpoons.
That may just be the most macho sentence ever written.

Despite my generally forgiving attitude with the undemanding “Meg” movies, I did have some issues with this sequel.  The first hour spends way too much time with corporate skullduggery, as the suits double-cross the heroic researchers by privately funding an off-the-books mining operation. The audience is already several steps ahead of this generic plot lifted right out of “ALIENS” (1986), which doesn’t help.  

I also wasn’t too fond of the unexplained orphan status of Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), whose mother and grandfather are absent with little more than an inferred tragedy of some kind. Given their key roles in the first film, they deserve a little more than ending up as a photo on a desk. 

The final half hour of the movie, set on the generically-named “Fun Island” (I guess “Pleasure Island” and “Fantasy Island were taken), is a virtual rinse-and-repeat of the first film’s final act—right down to the rescue of another tiny dog named “Pippin” (a cheeky reference to “JAWS”).  But hey…they added little dinosaurs and a giant octopus this time, so I guess that makes it original, right?

Meiying saves reheated JAWS gag Pippin for a grateful tourist.
Yes, humans are perfectly edible as shark/dino snackage, but the dog just has to survive, right?

Mercifully, “Meg 2” isn’t as obnoxiously fourth-wall shattering as the “Sharknado” movies (that novelty ran out of chum very quickly). If anything, “The Meg” series is spiritually closer to the Godzilla franchise; particularly those sillier Godzillas of the late 1960s and 1970s. And like those middling G-movies, “Meg 2” even manages to throw in a perfunctory ecological message as well.

With one’s expectations suitably lowered, this sequel works well enough; so long as viewers go in without hoping for another “JAWS,” or even the suspense of 2016’s “The Shallows.”  Like its predecessor, this is the sort of flick that drive-in theaters were practically made for when I was a kid. The movie is big, dumb, shallow entertainment, and that’s fine for its ambition. “Meg 2: The Trench” doesn’t aspire to anything beyond the simplest form of crowd-pleasing.

Where To Watch

“Meg 2: The Trench” is currently available for streaming rental or digital purchase from iTunes, YouTube, or Vudu.  My YouTube digital copy cost $24.99 to buy (less than the price of two movie tickets, and I own it).  When it comes to a streaming platform, it’ll most likely end up on Max (formerly HBOMax), which streams most new Warner Bros releases.

Images: Warner Bros, CMC

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