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Meg 2: The Trench review: watch a franchise eat itself alive!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the target audience for this action movie sequel is not the Barbenheimer crowd. Who needs irony and profound speeches when you can have Jason Statham sticking it to a prehistoric shark?

The first instalment, 2018’s The Meg, was simple-minded and pleasingly, well, simple. With British director Ben Wheatley at the helm of the sequel, things are less focused. Even in the more entertaining second half, the editing is so frantic that none of the many plot threads have room to generate suspense. Ultimately this is good for a few laughs, but not a second of it is scary.

Ace diver, Jonas Taylor (Statham; reliable as a metronome), is a “green James Bond”, i.e. the butchest thing on a planet he’s desperate to save. He’s also taking care of his dead girlfriend’s daughter, Meiying (sweet Sophia Cai), with the help of the girl’s idealistic, billionaire uncle, Jiuming (agreeable Chinese mega-star, Wu Jing).

Jiuming owns an oceanic institute, near the Mariana Trench, where apex predators – aka “megalodons”, a species of huge shark once thought to be extinct – are treated with respect. Jiuming and Jonas do a lot of joshing, as do Jonas’s old pals, DJ (Page Kennedy) and Mac (Cliff Curtis). Bromance is in the air.

Meanwhile, a two-faced villain, using the Trench as the centre of an illegal mining operation, is in league with snarling Spanish twit, Montes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). Montes is the sort of guy who can lose a fight even when he’s got a knife in his hand and his adversary is semi-conscious. As a result of his reckless behaviour all kinds of ancient aquatic/amphibious beasties are unleashed on a nearby tourist spot known as “Fun Island”, where Pippin the dog (such a scene-stealer in The Meg) is living her best life.

Before we get to the bezonkers mayhem at the beach, though, we have to endure a whole load of blather inside various submersibles, as well as a trek across the (moodily-lit) ocean floor. It’s tedious because Jiuming’s team of experts are vapid and interchangeable. As the megs swim around the depths, their beady eyes keep rolling around in their heads. It’s like they’re giving the one-dimensional human characters the fish eye. You may wish to do the same.

The dialogue (courtesy of Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber) is truly dire. The heroes say stuff like, “We’re a strong group, we can do this!” A baddie gloats, “We’re making so much money it ceases to have meaning!”

A lot of things cease to have meaning in a blockbuster that nods to, but can’t match, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Alien and Aliens. Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and James Cameron are old school (some might call them dinosaurs). Yet, when it comes to creature features, they’re still crushing the competition. Wheatley has said he’s up for making Meg 3. He thinks he’s got this. The sad truth: he’s being eaten alive.

116mins, cert 12A

In cinemas