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Jason Statham and a colossal shark can’t save The Meg from a lifeless existence

Halfway through The Meg, I squinted at my notes and realized I’d just been writing down names of other blockbusters I’d seen this summer. And in the case of The Meg (a.k.a. Jason Statham Fights a Giant Prehistoric Shark), that’s a feature, not a bug.

To call the film “derivative” isn’t pejorative; it’s kind of the point. The Meg is a shark movie (a well-established and dearly loved summer blockbuster subgenre since Jaws codified it in 1975) starring Jason Statham (an action subgenre unto himself) that never gets too ambitious, despite the size of its “monster,” as several people call the shark. There’s some sluggish action, a little tension, a few clearly telegraphed jump scares, a bit of romance, a cute kid, and some blandly conceived wisecracks nestled into blandly conceived dialogue.

What results is a film that’s both eminently watchable and eminently skippable. Based on the novels by Steve Alten, The Meg may be the Platonic ideal of a big, brainless summer movie: fun to watch and very easy to forget. It’s exactly the movie you’re expecting.

When big, mean, angry prehistoric shark turns out to not be so prehistoric

In a sense, The Meg’s predictability works in its favor; late-summer entertainment often seems engineered to give people an excuse to enjoy overactive air conditioning for a few hours without having to think too hard about what’s playing in front of them. But it’s also a bit of a shame, since the posters for The Meg suggested something epic, visually stunning, and a tad quippier — both a shark movie and a feature-length joke about shark movies.

Instead, in the hands of Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure), it’s just a shark movie, and a kind of inert one

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