Never really allowed to have the winking fun he gets from his best action parts, Jason Statham looks visibly bored this time as Jonas, the deep-sea diver employee of the Zhang Institute, the facility that discovered the continued existence of a prehistoric predator known as the Megalodon in the first film. The sequel reveals that the research facility has even kept one in captivity to continue to study it. Jiuming (an inconsistent Wu Jing), the head of the institute, is even convinced that he can train the megalodon, but everything goes wrong when it escapes, and … no, this is not just a shark-escape-attack movie, although you’ll wish it was as simple as that.
Instead of focusing on the fugitive meg—who escapes hysterically easily while the crew is focused on something else—the script by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Dean Georgaris sends Jonas and his crew deep into the ocean to the trench that the megalodons have called home for centuries. On their way into the murky, poorly shot ocean—seriously, Wheatley’s answer to recreating underwater photography is just to turn the lighting down—they discover other megalodons, but that’s nothing compared to the evil humans who also happen to be in the trench, mining it for resources. Yes, Jonas and his team stumble upon an illegal operation in the middle of the ocean, which leads to their vessels being destroyed. A sequence in which they’re forced to walk the ocean floor to a facility is one of the most poorly executed in years. It almost felt real-time.
A few personality-less characters get chomped or blown up, but most of the faux tension is saved for Meiying (Sophia Cai), who survived the first film and becomes the main creature Jonas tries to keep alive. It’s barely a spoiler to say that Jonas, Jiuming, Meiying, and a few others eventually make it back above the surface, fleeing the facility now overrun with soldiers for reasons I couldn’t possibly care enough to explain. They head to a resort called Fun Island, and almost 90 minutes into this mess, “The Trench” finally gets a little fun. You see, the underwater explosions destroyed the temperature shield that had kept things like a giant octopus away from tourists. Finally, Wheatley and his team get to have a little fun, but it’s far too little and far too late.