One of my pandemic projects, as I think I have mentioned before, was the watching of many, many movies. I have watched almost 500 movies since the beginning of the pandemic, and in so doing I have identified a heretofore unrecognized genre of movie that I particularly enjoy: “Movies that realize at some point during production that they are absolutely off-the-rails deranged and choose, gloriously, to lean into their exuberant implausibility as hard as they can.”
A woefully incomplete list of examples: Pacific Rim, 2012, Xanadu, My Spy, Showgirls, National Treasure, Tenet, Independence Day 2. At no point during the filming of any of those movies did anyone accept the suggestion, “Let’s maybe tone it down.” If anything, they realized the movies they were making were unsustainably ridiculous and elected, God bless them, to turn that “ish” up.
A good rule of thumb for identifying movies of this type: If during a film you are moved to laugh aloud in delighted disbelief at the sheer audacity required to put what you are seeing on the screen, there is a good chance you are seeing a movie in this genre. Same goes for being inspired to laughingly say, “Are you <expletive> kidding me?” at any cinematic choice.
Summer is for blockbuster movies. We are all aware of this, having marinated in 200 Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings over the past couple of decades, but this year people seem especially excited. I have seen Barbie, and Oppenheimer is in my near future, but today I am instead going to evangelize a movie that is far superior to either of these two artistic offerings. Only one movie I have seen so far this summer has truly leaned in to true-bats potential of imaginative cinema. I am speaking, of course, of The Meg 2: The Trench.
Hear me out.
There is not one second of wasted time on the screen. It is as lean and taut a movie as it has ever been my pleasure to enjoy, even if any of the other entries in this genre do not have sharks twice the size of box cars attempting to settle strangely personal scores with the always-welcome Jason Statham. (I don’t remember the names of anyone else in this movie.)
The plot is not especially convoluted. There are enormous, enormous sharks. There is also an evil corporation because you can only extract so much dialogue from giant sharks, and also evil corporations have greater access to plastic explosives. There is an additional giant sea creature, whose appearance I won’t spoil except to suggest that all I could think was, “You know, a little olive oil and some lemon and a really big charcoal grill …” There is an imperiled child who is vaguely important to Jason Statham in unspecified ways. There are several plot twists, each approximately as difficult to puzzle out in advance as your average episode of Scooby-Doo. There is aggressive defiance of the laws of both nature and physics. There are several new revelations about scientific phenomena of which I had not previously been aware. For example, did you know that you won’t be crushed by pressure if you are free diving 25,000 feet underwater as long as you are willing to fill your sinuses with seawater? I did not.
Not sure if the people visiting the Titanic were aware of this hack; if this movie had been released in May perhaps they would have survived.