Updated: Feb 22, 2020
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
British actor Jason Statham plays rescue diver Jonas Taylor, who battles the Meg, a giant hydrodynamic killing machine.
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images, and some language; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Creating the Beast” one of two featurettes
“THE MEG” is nothing more than a good old-fashioned monster thriller wrapped as a prehistoric Megalodon. At more than 100 tons and 75 feet long, it was the largest killing machine that ever existed in the ocean.
Since sharks are cartilaginous and don’t have a bone skeleton that stays intact over time, fossilized teeth over seven inches long are the only record left.
“It feared NOTHING! And we didn’t make it up.” — director Joe Turteltaub (“National Treasure,” “Cool Runnings”)
The storyline follows a freak of science: A Megalodon has somehow survived six miles beneath the Marianas Trench in the East China Sea, living in a secret ecosystem with species “completely unknown to science.”
A team of oceanographers, on an expedition to the unknown, is based on Mana One, an extravagant underwater research facility 200 miles off the coast of China. It’s financed by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) and overseen by Dr. Minway Shang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing). The submersible team includes Lori Taylor (Jessica McNamee), ex-wife of rescue diver Jonas Taylor, played by action star Jason Statham, once an elite diver on the British swimming team. Lori's sub has been attacked by a huge squid or the Meg and has lost power with at best 18 hours of oxygen left.
Wildman Taylor is convinced by Dr. Shang to rescue them, even though he’s been banished by the diving community after what was deemed a failed mission five years ago. He left a handful of U.S. Navy personnel on a nuclear submarine that exploded after it was attacked by an unknown creature, most likely the Meg.
Taylor did save 11 men that day, but this rescue won’t be perfect either. The Meg is angry and has the rescue team in his (her?) sights.
Turteltaub has no hesitation ripping off Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975) almost shot-for-shot. Exhibit A: A boy’s on a raft off a beach in Sanya Bay and the underwater shot shows thousands of legs kicking in the water. Thank goodness John Williams’ Oscar-winning score doesn’t surface. Apparently “humans are not even a good meal,” says producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, so the Meg, a giant hydrodynamic killing machine, feeds in a tasteful frenzy, much like a whale enjoying plankton.
The computer-generated effects were handled by three post-production houses: Scanline, Double Negative and Imageworks. Fish shark skeletons were first tested to see and how they moved. The artists, painters, sculptors and scientists then studied the swim cycles of sharks to come up with a believable Megalodon, says Turteltaub.
The 4K presentation is out of whack—the HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning completely blows out the highlights with no detail in the reflective waters, clouds and facial bright spots. I can’t imagine it was intentional.
Cinematographer Tom Stern (“Flags of our Fathers,” “Changeling”) used 2.8K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) to capture the action in the waters off New Zealand and China. Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” (2005), released last year on 4K (disc and streaming) by Universal Studios, was marred by a similar highlight miscue.
To fix this error, I readjusted the contrast level on my JVC projector from -3 to -18. The too-bright highlights dropped to a respectable level, giving the 4K a solid picture from highlights to mid-tones and shadows. (Frame shot comparisons show the difference.) Interiors and underwater shots look perfect, but the daylight scenes on the water are still too bright for my taste, and I’ve worked in photography for 40 years.
To confirm the contrast error wasn’t with my projector, I popped in another 4K disc — iTunes’ 4K/HDR version of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” with the lowered contrast. Both were too dark and flat.
The color fidelity also improved slightly with the readjusted contrast and facial toning was natural. Overall sharpness is outstanding from an up-converted 2K master to 4K, providing fine detail and clarity from close-ups to the far horizons.
The 4K (disc and streaming) and Blu-ray include the extremely active Dolby Atmos soundtrack, pushing effects and music cues to your height speakers and rears for a completely enveloping experience. Everything is nicely balanced from composer Harry Gregson-Williams’ (“The Martian,” “Shrek”) score to the front-centered dialogue. The explosions and the Meg’s violent hits rumble in the subwoofer.
All and all, “The Meg” is fun mindless entertainment, no different than last year’s “47 Meters Down,” “Sharknado” (2013), “Open Water” (2003) and “Deep Blue Sea” (1999). “The Shallows” (2016), starring Blake Lively as a surfer attacked by a shark, is better than those B-movies, but none are anywhere close to being in the same league with “Jaws.”
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer