Tag: Steven Spielberg

Review: The Meg

Sharks are awfully misunderstood creatures. Ever since a young Steven Spielberg directed Jaws they have been wrongly labeled as killing machines with a taste for human flesh. The reality could not be more different. In fact, more than twice as many people are killed each year from champagne corks. The only saving grace is that Spielberg paved the way for many more shark-based classics. Movies like “Sharks in Venice” and “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” would be sadly missing from every film buffs DVD shelf had he never signed on in June 1973. Jon Turteltaub’s “The Meg” is not “Jaws”, far from it,  it’s not even “Jaws IV”.

As the opening credits roll and the Chinese production company’s name flashes on the screen, the feeling of inevitability begins to sink in. The inevitability of a film with shoehorned Chinese supporting characters, shoehorned Chinese landmarks and agenda, shoehorned anything that will get the film released into the Chinese market. Whilst this will undoubtedly increase worldwide box office gross from the Far East’s penchant for CG monsters, it dramatically reduces the quality of any film that features one of these collaborations. Blockbusters were never about creating great cinema, only great profits, but there is only so much garbage the average cinemagoer can take before they stop going, right?

When watching The Meg, it’s advisable that you take with you your shark film cliché bingo cards. Unnecessary helicopter crash? Stamp. Finally defeat the shark but find out it’s just the main shark’s baby? Stamp. One of the characters mentions something about needing a bigger boat? Bingo. It feels as though Google fed the script of every shark film into an AI and this is what it came up with.

Thankfully Jason Statham is here to give the viewer something for the £12 they paid for their ticket. With far too many supporting characters jostling for screen time to develop properly, Statham’s is the only one you care for. He tries incredibly hard to inject as much charisma and charm as he can into his limp lines, but ultimately drowns under the weight of the over-seriousness in the delivery from the other characters. He isn’t helped by the nonsensical script.

A personal highlight takes place when the scientists searching the deep originally try to recruit Statham’s Jonas into their team. Jonas goes off on a grand speech about how there is no way in hell he will join them, that his diving days are over and that’s that, nothing they say can possibly change his mind. After he’s finished one of the scientists simply asks him to go and just like that he’s grabbing his coat and running out the door.

All, and I mean all, of this can be forgiven if there are copious amounts of shark-on-man action. Bad swiftly turns to worse though when you realise that this is a 12A. Making the film a 12A means compromising on the gore and actual shark destruction on screen, which I’m sure is the only reason many people were in the cinema to begin with. It’s like shooting a romance film without any of the romance. More screen time is devoted to a little girl playing with her remote control toy than the Megalodon has playing with its gnashers. This is yet another decision driven purely by profits.

A lower rating means more people paying to see it and in turn more money for the studio. This is disappointingly in keeping with every other aspect of “The Meg”, a film that screams cash grab, which is ironic considering Jaws was the first summer blockbuster. One that ushered in the new era of Hollywood in the 1970’s, and disappointingly one that won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

Review: The Post

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. Are we living in Nazi Germany” — Donald Trump, 2017

Steven Spielberg’s latest directorial drama utilises a trope that until now has been absent from his films: relevance to current affairs. In an interview with The Guardian Spielberg recognised that fact, stating ‘the urgency to make The Post was because of Trump’s administration’, and there is no difficulty in drawing parallels between the two. However, just like the crack team of reports at The Washington Post who rushed to get the story out, this film feels equally rushed.

Liz Hannah’s original script, featured on 2016’s Blacklist, was completely rewritten in two and half months by Spotlight’s Josh Singer and suffered because of it. The opening act changes dramatically with several long and ultimately meaningless expositional scenes added, including the much-loathed flashback and flash forward. Peppered throughout the film are several bizarre scenes filmed in a ‘Peeping Tom’ manner through the window of the Oval Office.

The scenes, another addition of Singer, show the back of an ever-incensed Nixon’s head with synced up audio recorded at the time with the supposed reasoning being to give additional context to the audience. Yet they also serve no narrative purpose. In fact, it feels suspiciously like these scenes were added purely to provoke comparisons to Trump, and if so it certainly worked.

The Post’s narrative surrounds the Pentagon Papers, thousands of pages of reports detailing how the United States systematically lied about Vietnam War, including crucially that they knew from the beginning that the war was never going to be won. 58 thousand United States soldiers died for a lost cause and one government employee, Daniel Ellsberg, spent months photocopying the entire thing.

He initially approaches the New York Times who publish stories about the materials provoking public outrage. Quickly though the Nixon administration gets an injunction to stem the flow of these ugly truths, in a move that sees protests in the streets. Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), the incumbent editor of The Washington Post, manages to procure the Pentagon Papers and must decide, alongside publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), whether to break the law and print more stories to defend a free press.

Meryl Streep’s performance as Graham was noticeably poor, although perhaps the breakneck speed of the filmmaking process allowed her little time to explore the nuances of who she was to become. Her character faces multiple moral dilemmas and adversity in the form of sexism from her all-male peers but Streep traverses these potentially powerful moments with a lightness of footing generally attributed to bull in a shop selling fine china. That didn’t stop the Academy from nominating her performance for an Acting Oscar for the 21st time, a feat unrivaled in the history of the awards.

In order to make The Post Spielberg left post-production of the upcoming Ready Player One, which happened previously during the production of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Within eight months the script was rewritten, cast, filmed, edited and mixed. As a result, this is his weakest film since 1989’s Always. The timeless quality his films usually possess is missing here, and it is no coincidence that this corresponds to his first attempt at contemporary political commentary.