The cultural impact of “Jaws” can’t be overstated. Any child of the ‘80s remembers frantically paddling from the deep end, thinking there was a shark lurking somewhere below them in the hotel swimming pool. It brought a frightening new genre into clarity from which there was no turning back, and for that, we thank you, Steven Spielberg.

Then, in the 1980s, we experienced the undersea perils of discovering prehistoric creatures, or deep sea phantoms (“Leviathan,” “Deep Star Six,” “The Abyss”). “The Meg” harkens elements from both, but does really nothing well in the process.

The film begins mid-rescue, where we meet Jonah (biblical reference much?) played by the ever-swarthy Jason Statham. He’s saving the day in a stranded submarine when an unfortunate bit of foreshadowing forces him to make a deadly choice, and it clearly haunts him, because five years later, he’s an alcoholic beach bum living off the grid in Thailand.

Meanwhile, billionaire Morris (Rain Wilson) has financed a state-of-the-art marine biology lab that unleashes a Megalodon (or more… no spoilers here) into the South China Sea. From there, we experience several poor choices, followed by mishaps and unexpected carnivorous predatory behavior. Lots of boats and equipment is destroyed, and everyone goes swimming. Then the survivors hatch a ridiculous plot to outsmart the nearly hundred-foot-long beast, but can they do it before the Meg finds a snack on one of the most packed beaches in Asia? You’ll have to shell out the money to find out.

They say filming on and underwater is one of the most challenging and costly locations, and I can see why. Sharks are unpredictable creatures, so they must have spent a bunch on safety while filming. Wait, my sources now tell me it wasn’t a real shark. It was computer generated, so that makes me feel better. Kidding aside, cameras and water just weren’t ever meant to mix, and although there are some beautiful shots of underwater scenery, anytime there is action that goes above and below the surface, there is a mess of transition.

Director Jon Turtletaub (“National Treasure”) doesn’t do anything particularly well or poorly, but, like the shark in the film, his eyes are bigger than his stomach. He bites off more than he can chew by allowing obvious issues to remain unanswered (science, decompression, gravity), but that may be by design to fit the whole cheesy marketing angle. 

With a reported budget of $150 million, it may make its money back, but most of that will be overseas. Just like last month’s “Skyscraper,” the film is seeking a wider audience by taking place in Southeast Asia, and casting popular Chinese actress, Bingbing Li, in a lead role. It’s a tremendously smart move, but doesn’t improve the quality of the film at all. Throw in the inevitable bad reviews, and this will be a forgettable project.

I will be the first to admit I was wrong. I thought that this would be upbeat, fun, maybe some witty dialogue and some cool shark-bait situations. Not so much. Dialogue was awful, jokes were worse. Sexual chemistry was awkward and unnecessary, and the characters were so vapid that there wasn’t really any reason to hope for their survival.

Remember what made “Jaws” so great in the first place? It wasn’t seeing the giant mouth open, with the razor sharp teeth and shreds of freshly chewed flesh dangling. It was the anticipation of seeing the giant mouth. That, and the three lead characters establishing rapport, shared fear, and engaging in pure survival together. Robert Shaw’s monologue about the tiger sharks in the water during World War 2 is still one of the best examples of cinematic storytelling I can recall. “The Meg” could have used a little of that.