Meg 2: The Trench: enjoyable, over-the-top sharky schlock

Ben Wheatley seemed an improbable choice of director for The Meg sequel, but the breathless absurdity of this self-knowing summer blockbuster serves up even more fun than the original.

Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

An insect is eaten midair by a dragonfly, the dragonfly is snatched up by a lizard, that lizard by a larger lizard, which is chased into the surf by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which in turn is caught in the massive  jaws of a breaching Megalodon. This prologue to Meg 2: The Trench, set in “The Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago,” reveals first that the film is occupying the Spielbergian littoral space where Jurassic Park (1993) meets Jaws (1975), and second that we are witnessing the circle of life, or at least the triangle of the food chain, with the predatory Megs very much at the apex.

Cut to the present day, and they are still there, although rescue diver turned Bond-like eco-warrior Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is humanity’s match for them, single-handedly taking out “scumbag” polluters of the ocean’s ecosystems, when he is not helping the equally risk-embracing CEO Jiuming (Jingwu) explore the hidden depths of the Mariana Trench. When an underwater mission goes wrong, this intrepid pair must keep their crew – including Jiuming’s young stowaway niece Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) – safe while enduring attacks from multiple Megs and other creatures at the Trench’s base, and also facing illegal miners who will do anything to cover their tracks, as well as treachery from within. Worst of all, they will unleash upon the surface a Vernean menagerie of ravenous monsters.

The big novelty of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg (2018), adapted ever so loosely from Steve Alten’s 1997 novel, was that it was sharky schlock made on a much larger budget than the selachian subgenre could normally attract. In this sequel, drawn even more tenuously from Alten’s 1999 follow-up book, the scale, stakes and spectacle are even larger, but perhaps the greatest innovation here is keeping the same team of writers while improbably handing the reins to British indie director Ben Wheatley, better known for folk horror, small-time criminality and low-budget social satire. You would never confuse this summer blockbuster for one of Wheatley’s earlier works, but he handles the ensemble cast, the relentless dumb-assed stunts and the CGI mayhem well, while holding everything together with his trademark black humour.

It seems apt that the third act of Meg 2: The Trench should take place at a vacation spot named Fun Island, where sun-loving tourists become floating snacks. For in all its breathlessly over-the-top absurdity, this self-knowing, self-consuming artefact serves up more fun – and more fin – than the original. 

 ► Meg 2: The Trench is in UK cinemas now.