Steve Alten’s fantastic novel finally hits the big screen but lacks the killer instinct to make a big splash
With the wind at your back and the salty sea air permeating your lungs, it’s hard to resist the overwhelming feeling of freedom the deck of a ship affords you. The sunlight gleams over the surface of the azure, clean water and the vastness of the enormous body of water is both humbling and beautiful and stretches as far as the eye can see…until an enormous shadow appears beneath your craft. The sleek silhouette glides effortlessly through the water, as if millions of years of evolution had made it perfectly adept for life in the deep oceans of the world.
It is a colossus, a behemoth of the underwater kingdom. It’s sheer size dwarves that of your vessel which appears puny in comparison. You identify the creature as a species of whale…the only creature in the animal kingdom capable of reaching such sizes…until the enormous dorsal fin breaks the surface and the true identity of the monster is revealed.
It is a shark…but no ordinary shark. The creature circling your vessel is the largest shark in the fossil record. A lost remnant of a bygone era when monstrous predators stalked the oceans with the largest jaws in earth’s history. Your blood runs cold as the gravity of the situation dawns upon you and the monster turns and charges towards your tiny craft. The monster gains an incredible burst of speed from its enormous tail before it breaches the surface and vaults into the air…and the last thing you ever see is the monstrous jaws of the Megalodon closing in around you!
After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible who finds themselves stalked by a monster from earth’s past.
A motion picture adaptation of Steve Alten’s incredible novel MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror has languished in developmental hell for well over a decade. For one reason or another, the creative minds behind the various production companies attached to the project have failed to agree on the creative direction the movie adaptation should take, and so the project languished on the shelf waiting for the right team to take up the challenge.
And this summer thanks to Warner Bros, The Meg rises anew.
The movie stars Hollywood legend Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor, Ruby Rose as Jaxx Herd and Rainn Wilson as Jack Morris, an American investor in Dr Minway Zhang’s (Winston Chao) research into the Mariana Trench. When the projects’ deep-sea submersible pierces the veil of a superheated underwater layer of water which acts as a barrier between the surface waters and the deepest recesses of our oceans, they inadvertently unleash a prehistoric Megalodon on the unsuspecting modern world. The movie follows the team’s exploits as they attempt to prevent the colossal shark from reaching the densely populated areas of human habitation.
The casting of Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor raised many an eyebrow in the fan community. The actor is typically cast in one-dimensional action roles, and the idea of him playing a marine biologist and deep-sea submersible expert was highly questionable. And sadly, those fears have been realised with Statham coming off as a square peg in a round hole. His typical level of macho bravado fails to pay off in The Meg, and many of his witty anecdotes fail to hit the mark and detracts from the essence of the character. Ruby Rose puts in a solid performance as Jaxx. As does Li Bingbing as Suyin Zhang, Dr Zhang’s daughter but thanks to a lethargic and often tacky script, Rainn Wilson’s Jack Morris comes across as a monotonous American investor, over-reliant on cheesy one-liners which are as lethargic as they are dull.
In the novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror Jonas Taylor encounters the monstrous shark in the opening chapter, an encounter that sparks his obsession with proving his outlandish tale. However, in The Meg, he has no such encounter. On a deep-sea rescue mission, the submarine he is tasked with boarding is struck by “something” massive. The Meg, we are led to believe, but Taylor cannot see beyond the thick steel hull of the submarine and has no insight into what perpetrated the attack. The next time he descends to those depths, however, he comes face to face with the prehistoric monster and is completely unfazed by its existence, as if the emergence of a prehistoric monster thought to have died out millions of years ago was an everyday occurrence. The encounter is bizarre, to say the least, and devoted fans of Steve Alten’s novel will be bemused by the unnecessary alteration.
Despite several bemusing alterations to the story and the incredibly dull and cheesy one-liners, The Meg is actually a pretty solid film and stays true to the majority of the original source material. The opening twenty minutes focusses on the scientific aspects of the story and reveals the vast, previously undiscovered underwater world below the thermal barrier in intricate detail. The images are gloriously vibrant and leave you feeling entranced by the immersive alien landscape. Sadly, the scientific premise is abandoned once the Megalodon breaches the barrier and ascends to the higher depths and unfortunately, so does the suspense. Unlike Jaws and The Shallows, the Megalodon doesn’t really carry much of a screen presence and therefore the suspense factor is resigned to fleeting moments designed to make you jump out of your skin.
All in all, The Meg is a perfectly fun thrill ride and will undoubtedly appease its fair share of the audience. However, fans of the original book will come away feeling a little short-changed by the cringe-worthy one-liners forced into the script to gain cheap laughs, the unnecessarily altered storyline and the wooden performance of Jason Statham. In the plus column, Harry Gregson-Williams produces a perfectly acceptable and immersive score which is as regal as the underwater realm explored by the research team, and the cinematography is simply breath-taking at times. The movie looks incredible, particularly during the underwater sequences and it affords the viewer a beautiful look at the remarkable terrain of the ocean floor.
Whether or not The Meg can claim its share of the box office gate receipts remains to be seen, but with a colossal shark, Jason Statham’s machismo and a gloriously immersive experience awaiting the audience surely, it’s a recipe for success. The Meg may play loosely with the source material, but it’s a fun ride nevertheless. But, fans of the novel will have to concede many of the more refined plot points of what will always be regarded as Steve Alten’s definitive version.
Chomp on this.
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