Visually illegible to a point that it’s almost impressively impossible to tell what the hell is going on, the first hour of Meg 2: The Trench is among the more aggressive big-studio jerkoff motions in recent memory. 

Meg 2 is a sequel to 2018’s shockingly boring but sturdily profitable human-versus-mega-shark movie; it was neither Deep Blue Sea nor Deep Rising, just deep disappointment. And this follow-up’s first few acts largely take place in its sub-titular spot several miles below the ocean surface, at what was previously the planet’s deepest underwater point. The Meg supposed the Mariana Trench is a cloud beneath which an entire passel of prehistoric creatures live, like the giant-shark megalodon (or “meg” for short).

Our heroes — including a returning Jason Statham as rescue diver Jonas Taylor — are stranded in the trench after a violent underwater explosion follows their discovery of a strange station on the ocean floor. (Can it really be considered a “landslide” when it’s that far underwater? Talk amongst yourselves.)

Good news: Mech suits can protect the survivors from pressure so they can walk to that weird station. Bad news: There are a lot of megs down here, all hungry. One is named Haiqi, whom research scientist Jiuming Zhang (Chinese megastar Wu Jing) has raised since she was a pup and believes he has domesticated with a billion-dollar spin on the type of clicker we use to give dogs two-cent treats. (The way in which Haiqi escapes her pen is but an amuse-bouche on Meg 2’s comically simple bill of narrative fare, as is Jiuming’s response: “How did that happen?”)

Beasties feast. Humans run. Someone hitches a ride on a squid. Or something. Who knows. Not you. Certainly not director Ben Wheatley, who could have asked cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos to attach cameras to industrial-strength yo-yo lines and yielded more clarity. These moments of Meg 2 pass in a brain-deadening blur, where even the fully-digitized movement of the mech suits resemble a death march rather than a mission of derring-do. Perhaps even less discernible are the sundry scientific explanations for how everyone keeps surviving; one key juncture devotes a lot of syllables but very little sense to how Statham’s sinus manipulation keeps him from turning into a stubbled, squishy mess.

Indeed, Meg 2 would seem worth preserving only as some sort of test pattern to see how many more matinees a multiplex can squeeze out of their perpetually dimmed bulbs. But hold out if you can until the moment one character says “So, we’re walking fast with a bit of determination, which is great. But what’s the plan here?” Thankfully, it is for Meg 2 to bench the trench, trade bland for sand and become the bonanza of big-balled bugnuttery it was born to be.

It’s sparked with a little side-quest from Statham’s fellow returning castmates, Cliff Curtis as Mac and Page Kennedy as D.J. You’ll recognize Curtis from at least a dozen such films before. Meg 2 is the first one where he appears to be having fun, as his loosey-goosey physicality pings well off Kennedy’s exuberant bewilderment and practical preparedness. (Having survived the last film, D.J. has a stylish, well-stocked go-bag to protect himself and the people around him.)

No big surprise that Statham and Wu eventually scamper topside. Even Statham seems to smile a bit at the sheath-clink sounds made by his harpoon boomsticks when he goes after multiple megalodons on a jet ski. And wearing form-fitting polos that will inspire dads worldwide, Wu brings his pleasurably pliable rubbery-action approach to all manner of close-shave escapes. After one of them, it seems to be the explosion — not Wu or Curtis — screaming “Oh yeah!” in the surround speakers. Yes, there is even a John Woo-worthy dive with a blazing gun.

Returning screenwriters Dean Georgaris and Jon & Erich Hoeber have also penned far, far funnier moments of people becoming meg meals — including one with a comically macabre chomp cam and another with a henchman conveniently kicked into a meg’s maw at the perfect time. Even prim, proper little dog Pippin returns to once again find itself in megalodon-, squid- and other beastie-infested waters. Make it through the mostly murky, misbegotten start and Meg 2: The Trench eventually comes around to the creature comforts you’ll crave.