The biggest complaint about 2018’s The Meg, an American and Chinese co-production loosely based on author Steve Alten’s novel, was that it lacked bite. The PG-13 action vehicle for Jason Statham brought the B-movie sense of fun, but it was too restrained regarding the megalodon carnage. Meg 2: The Trench answers the first film’s criticisms, though not in the way you’d anticipate. Director Ben Wheatley forgoes retreading the same waters with a higher body count. Instead, Wheatley goes full throttle on the B-movie spectacle, packing the nearly two-hour runtime to the gills with aquatic horror madness and nonstop entertainment.
Picking up six years after The Meg, Jonas Taylor (Statham) is now a fully integrated member of the found family forged from the last film, living at the underwater research facility and furthering their studies of the Trench and the Megalodon sharks, one of which they have in captivity. On a more personal level, Jonas now proudly co-parents Meiying Zhang (Sophia Cai), but not with who you’d expect. Meiying’s mother passed between films, with her uncle Jiuming (Wu Jing) stepping up to fill that void.
The odd couple family of a teen girl and her two action-hero dads serves as the backbone of a nonstop action-adventure movie filled with aquatic creatures and villains that doesn’t ease up for a second. Not for setup, exposition, character beats, or even punchlines.
Wheatley, working from a screenplay by returning writers Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris, tenaciously commits to big thrills and frenetically paced set pieces, breathing room or logic be damned. After a quick hello to familiar faces that include returning players DJ (Page Kennedy) and Mac (Cliff Curtis), as well as a few new ones, including Driscoli (Sienna Guillory), Meg 2 plunges straight to the depths to get the party started. It’s here where the spectacle of it all kicks into overdrive. Every conceivable obstacle gets thrown the crew’s way, increasingly the dangers and culling the numbers in amusing ways. Wheatley fills the frame, delivering more aquatic creature mayhem than expected as he runs through numerous set pieces with extreme velocity.
There’s zero pretense with Meg 2. It knows exactly what type of movie it is and wears its influences proudly. DJ, getting more shining action moments than before, brags about his “poison-tipped bullets like in Jaws 2” to Mac, one of many tongue-in-cheek jokes that signal that Meg 2 doesn’t take itself seriously, so neither should you. That’s what ultimately evens out the severely overstuffed plotting. Human villains, corporate greed, backstabbing, nods to the first film, capsized submersibles with no escape, and more ensure that no attention span gets left behind here. And that’s before you toss in the plethora of aquatic creatures, including the biggest Meg yet.
The kitchen sink approach winds up being the movie’s biggest asset and its most glaring flaw. The nonstop thrills, battles, creature feature fun, and survival elements crowd out everything else. The body count is much higher, but most of the supporting players come and go so quickly that many deaths don’t register. Wheatley often gets too chaotic with the camerawork, rendering some fight scenes a mess. While the climax does enough right in B-movie horror style, it also needlessly revives tired moments from The Meg.
Meg 2: The Trench is messy in execution and almost exhausting in how much gets packed into the runtime without a second wasted. The humor is the precise type of cheese that’ll amuse you or drive you nuts. And yet, it’s a blast. It’s hard to get upset about a big summer blockbuster sequel releasing in 2023 with the schlocky sensibilities of ’80s aquatic horror like Lords of the Deep or DeepStar Six. It’s dumb and it knows it. Wheatley leaves The Meg behind in favor of wackier waters filled with more Megs, more problems, and an entire Trench worth of creature feature chaos.
Meg 2: The Trench is out in theaters now.