As a mega fan of shark attack horror films, even the ones that aim for big stupid fun and little else, you could say that I was precisely the target audience for a film like The Meg, an adaptation of Steve Alten’s novel that had been begging for a big screen adaptation for over 20 years. Alas, Jon Turteltaub’s film failed me even on that level, as I found it mostly a bore that delivered only fleeting moments of the wild entertainment it should’ve been providing the whole way through; worth noting, our own Scott Weinberg had more fun with it than I did.
In my book, The Meg gets a whole lot wrong in its quest to deliver mindless summer popcorn fun, with its hotly anticipated “beach scene” highlighting many of those issues.
Leading up to the release, the beach scene played a large part in The Meg‘s marketing, featured on the very first poster as well as its most recent IMAX art. Images, trailers and TV spots similarly played up what promised to be one of the most epic scenes in the history of shark horror: in the waters of a crowded beach, the Meg makes lunch of HUNDREDS of swimmers.
In the IMAX art, seen at bottom, the MASSIVE shark leaps out of the water, sending swimmers and their colorful, Fruit Loop-like rafts flying up into the air… many headed for its mouth.
Mind you, attention-grabbing marketing that builds up hype for things that don’t actually happen in the movies themsleves is nothing new in the world of horror, but The Meg‘s beach scene is a particular disappointment because how of how tame and ultimately useless it turns out to be. As it’s been well documented by now, mostly thanks to our interview with Jon Turteltaub wherein the director got admirably honest about the production, The Meg was originally intended to be an “R” rated film, but the studio axed all of the more gruesome bits in favor of a PG-13, decidedly family friendly action-horror experience.
Turteltaub told us, “I am so disappointed the film wasn’t more bloody or disgusting. My wife is glad about it and I’m glad my kids can see the movie, but the number of really horrifying, disgusting and bloody deaths we had lined up that we didn’t get to do is tragic. There was some really good shit that didn’t survive to the final cut.”
We don’t know what exactly didn’t make the final cut at this time, but it seems pretty clear that The Meg‘s beach scene was *probably* neutered for the sake of the PG-13 rating that ultimately may have helped the film do better than expected at the box office. Despite the titular Megalodon swimming into waters occupied by nearly 1,000 swimmers, we only actually see the shark *maybe* kill a couple of them, and only in quick flashes that don’t actually show anything at all. At one point, the Meg appears to swallow a woman underwater. At another, the shark pops a massive inflatable ball that a man had been running around inside of. Like all the carnage in the rest of the film, no blood. Only the suggestion of shark-on-human violence.
The scene comes to an end quickly after being clunkily inserted into the film, with our heroes using whale sounds to lure the shark away from the beach before it does any real damage. I ask, what’s so scary about a shark that barely feeds when presented with 1,000 meals?
It may seem like I’m suggesting that The Meg‘s biggest problem is that it’s not rated R and graphically violent, but the issue (among many others) is more that it just doesn’t ever really *go for it,* even when it gives itself the opportunity to do precisely that. Again, it’s not without its wild moments of over-the-top fun, but the beach scene perfectly highlights that resistance to fully embrace the fun of it all. Hell, even without any blood at all (I sure wasn’t expecting the all-out gory mayhem of Piranha 3D‘s “beach attack” scene), that scene easily could’ve been an all-timer in the shark horror canon. Could’ve been and by all means should’ve been.
Just one day after seeing The Meg, I went to the beach and swam in the ocean without fear. If that’s not proof positive of an ineffective shark movie, well, I’m just not sure what is.