Directed By: Jon Turteltaub
Release Date: August 10, 2018
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis
To say that I've been looking forward to The Meg would be an understatement. Back in 1997, author Steve Alten's first novel, Meg, was published, with a sequel, The Trench, following two years later. In the summer of 2000, while looking for something to read during a flight to Orlando, Florida, the cover of the latter caught my eye – a massive shark's open mouth bearing down on an unfortunate swimmer – and it wasn't long before I'd consumed both books. Alten himself became one of my favorite authors to read throughout the first decade of the 2000s as a result, thanks to other works like Domain, Goliath, and The Loch, and the Meg series has only continued to live on with four further sequels and another on the way.
Alten's original book isn't flawless, but it's an incredibly entertaining read, one that I continue to revisit now and again nearly two decades on, packed with neat science, coated with a sense of adventure and danger, and armed with a slick premise: Deep within the Mariana Trench, an ancient ecosystem has been preserved for millions of years, one in which megalodon sharks - a very real, very frightening, yet thankfully extinct beast that could grow upwards of 65 feet in length - have thrived. But after man dares to step into this ecosystem for the first time, a series of events allows a megalodon to escape into the world above, forcing a team of people, including series' lead Jonas Taylor, a disgraced marine biologist and deep sea diver whose encounter years before with a meg had been dismissed by everyone as a lie, to track and stop the monster shark as a body count rises in its journey across the globe.
Over the years, the film rights to Alten's novel have exchanged many hands, with directors ranging from Jan de Bont (Twister, Speed) to Eli Roth (Hostel) attached along the way, until Warner Bros. finally got the ball well and truly rolling a few years back, with Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) saddling up to bring The Meg to the big screen. As the film's casting was announced in the latter half of 2016, though, my own concerns about how loyal the film would be to the book started to grow, both with the casting of Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor – the actor a far cry from the character's depiction in the book – and the clear excision of nearly every single supporting character from the book. And when the first footage began to roll out, it became all the more clear that The Meg would not be the movie many fans of the books had been hoping for; certainly, for me at least, not a payoff to nearly two decades' worth of hype and hope.
As such, I have to make this perfectly clear having now seen the film: As an adaptation, The Meg is terrible. It strips away everything that made the book so unique as to be almost unrecognizable. From the characters to huge chunks of the plot, very little here feels familiar, and even the shark itself is robbed of what makes it so compelling to read about. In the novel, thanks to millions of years of evolution having passed by while being trapped in deep, dark waters, the megalodons had developed bioluminescent skin, and once the shark at the heart of the story is unleashed into open water, the book deals with the fact that it is sensitive to sunlight, opting to frequently hunt at night, its presence signified by a haunting, ethereal glow. Visually, it's a fantastic idea, and one that adds a distinct flavor to the book that would've been great if translated to film, and yet The Meg casts it all aside to its detriment.
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