One of the last big movies of the summer, The Meg offers passable monster-movie fun for a couple of hours. Had the movie been less concerned with its inherently ludicrous story and leaned more heavily into its own self-awareness (as promised in the marketing), the movie could’ve been so much more. But taken as it is, audiences could do a lot worse than this movie about a giant prehistoric shark.

Jason Statham plays Jonas, a deep-sea rescue diver who chooses early retirement after a critical decision to save nearly a dozen men comes at the cost of his two teammates’ lives. Five years later, divers from the Mana One marine outpost — including Jonas’ ex-wife — make an incredible discovery that the Mariana Trench is even deeper than previously thought. However, in exploring uncharted territory, they accidentally unleash a prehistoric monster: Megalodon, a shark 75 feet long with a voracious appetite. Now, it’s up to Jonas, international team of scientists (including Li Bingbing, from Transformers: Age of Extinction), and their billionaire funder (Rainn Wilson) to stop “The Meg” before it starts claiming more lives.

For a movie that was marketed as being incredibly wink-wink about itself, The Meg spends an inordinate amount of time taking its premise seriously. Director Jon Turteltaub (the National Treasure movies) has clearly taken a page from the Jaws handbook, delaying Megalodon’s first appearance til nearly a half-hour into the movie. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can lead to some squirminess as viewers wait for the good stuff to get going.

Obligatory character-building scenes clog up what should’ve been a streamlined monster movie. Obviously no one’s saying character development is a bad thing, but the scenes themselves aren’t exactly Shakespeare, and it’s obvious from the moment we meet every character who they are, what their arc will be, and (more importantly) who’ll survive and who won’t.

Thankfully, the shark action does not disappoint. The Meg is surprisingly hard for a PG-13 (reports indicate that Turteltaub was forced to make several cuts to avoid an R rating), and the climactic fight against the behemoth is simultaneously ridiculous and thrilling. The movie deserves credit for delivering what it promises; if only it had made that more of a priority.

The actors are all fine; Statham is allowed to smile a few times here, which is a nice change-of-pace. Bingbing is also good and displays nice chemistry with Statham. Wilson plays a Mark Zuckerberg-type, whose overtly jovial nature belies a more sinister character core. The other actors are hardly around long enough to make much of an impression, except maybe Ruby Rose, who’s building quite a nice career for herself.

Visual effects are fine, though hardly exceptional. The score is sadly generic. Sound credits are top-notch, as expected, while cinematography is suitably crisp. Editing could’ve used a little tightening.

Overall, The Meg won’t ever be mistaken for one of the upper-echelon monster movies, particularly in this era of rebirth for Kaiju flicks. But taken on its own terms, it’s decent popcorn fare. Would I see a Meg 2? Sure, as long as the filmmakers learn from their (admittedly non-catastrophic) missteps the first time around.

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