In 1997, I read Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror. It was at the height of my love affair with aquatic horror. I remember running across a copy of Jaws in the late 80s/early 90s at some point, in a grocery store checkout line. I devoured it and it was probably the first time that I understood that movies aren't always like the book. And that the movie could actually be better than the book. That said, the book Jaws spurred me to find and consume all manner of aquatic horror; particularly of the killer shark kind. So, flashing forward to 1997, I was a sixteen year old who was obsessed with sharks. And, like Jaws and White Shark before, I quickly devoured the slim novel.
Facts are Facts
Writer: Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Gayly: it's finally...finally here; better characterizations
Dreadful: Pacing and lack of mayhem
Pairs With: Deep Rising
Even at sixteen, I found the book a little lacking. Of course, I grew up reading Stephen King, so coming to this first novel by Steve Alten was kind of like taking a step back, no offense. But, like Jaws before, I found myself enraptured by the idea of this massive shark terrorizing the modern world. I can't be completely sure, but I remember there being a sticker on the front of Meg that stated, "Soon to be a major motion picture." That was over 20 years ago and The Meg has gone through so many iterations by so many different directors that it's kind of a miracle that last night I was able to sit down and watch it, on the big screen and with an incredibly large budget.
For those not following the story for 20+ years, The Meg is about a
marine biologist rescue diver who sees a Megalodon sees something on a rescue dive and is diagnosed as having hallucinated and panicked. Five years later, he is holding a lecture about the existence of the shark lounging on the beaches of Thailand, drinking himself into oblivion. His ex-wife is a vicious news reporter onboard a submersible in the Trench when something attacks them and leaves them on the bottom of the ocean, with dwindling air and time. Jonas gets pulled back into the action and is able to give his haters a big "I told you so!" when it's revealed that Megalodons are actually really alive. The shark eventually gets through the frozen layers and it's up to Jonas and crew to stop it and save the world from a "living fossil."
I'm very conflicted about this movie. Moments of it brought pure, unadulterated joy to myself and the audience. But for a movie where the trailers focus on the mayhem the shark causes on the surface, it takes an awful lot of time to actually get there. And when it does, the action is limited to one major (albeit fun and funny) set piece. A couple other moments stand out, like the sequence with a clear shark cage, as they were trying to get close enough to poison the shark. A lot of it is good and I'm thankful that it's better than the book. I know Meg has a lot of fans, but I was more partial to The Trench. The series lost me when the reality show part of it happened.
The film Jonas Taylor is a lot more sympathetic than the novel. He's kind of a douche in the book. Leading up to the movie, I listened to it on audio book and it really emphasized just how little I cared for the characters. So I was happy to see them pretty much scrap everything except the major throughline and have actual stakes with the characters. I also appreciated the multicultural cast and that the female characters had as much agency and importance to the male characters (something the book also lacked).
Also, Pippin and Popsicle Boy for MVP.
I don't know. I wonder if part of the problem was that it had two midpoints, where the characters have a false victory; or, where the characters experience a high before plumetting with a low. Typically, this moment happens towards the end of the film and is the device that sets the third act in motion. The Meg has two of these and I think that really messed with the pacing. The intertwining bits between the two moments slowed the pacing to a stop, even though it had a couple nifty moments.
The audience I was with really enjoyed it. Everyone was laughing at the right moments. It was a packed house, full of cheering and laughing. And I didn't not enjoy it. I just wanted something more; for them to truly go for broke with shark mayhem. I mean, shit. Jaws had more actual violence (if much smaller body count) and blood than this. For me, it was just missing that "X" factor. That thing that raised the movie from a very expensive SyFy movie to a Deep Blue Sea. It took forever to get going and when it finally hit its peak, it ended quickly. I left with that feeling that you get when you go to McDonald's. Satisfied but somehow empty.
This is already a very polarizing movie and regardless of my sort of "meh" feelings toward it, I have to celebrate the fact that, after 21 years, there is a Meg movie. Here's hoping for a sequel.