The Summer of Giant Sharks!
Ever since Jaws made you afraid to go into the water in 1975, shark movies have tried to emulate the terror and pure enjoyment found in that first film. Sharks have been made more intelligent, more plentiful, more aggressive and sucked up into tornadoes to wreak havoc.
I love sharks. I love shark movies and I love shark books. I’ve read Peter Benchley’s Jaws books and I’ve also read the books in Steve Alten’s Meg series. That’s what I want to talk about today. With the upcoming film The Meg, I thought I’d give some background not only on the books and movies but also the sincerest form of flattery as far as summer blockbusters go, an Asylum “mockbuster”.
Steve Alten’s book tells a tale of a giant, thought-to-be-extinct shark Carcharadon Megalodon being found in the depths of the Marianas Trench that, through a series of incredible events, made its way to the surface, causing untold carnage in its wake. If you are unfamiliar with a Megalodon, imagine essentially a great white shark the size of a bus, with seven-inch teeth and a mouth large enough for six full-grown adults to stand in comfortably…or as comfortably as you can be standing in the mouth of the greatest apex predator of all time. This film is a big-budget summer blockbuster and it is clear from the trailers that it will be a big, fun action movie. This is a bit of a departure from its source material, which was more dramatic and spent a lot more time on the science of deep-sea exploration which of course doesn’t translate to the big screen as well as a giant shark attacking everything in its vicinity.
The Meg film stars Jason Statham (The Transporter, The Expendables) as Jonas Taylor- the protagonist from the book series, Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Resident Evil: Retribution), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Cliff Curtis (Sunshine, Training Day), and Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black, John Wick 2) among others and is directed by John Turtletaub (Rush Hour, National Treasure franchise). It has been in development in one form or another for many years and is finally coming to the big screen in a way that is actually approved by author Steve Alten. In a recent interview with OutrightGeekery.com, Alten said, “Belle Avery and I co-wrote the script used to raise the budget, but since then I’ve had very little input. Still, I have read the final script and it is well done.” This is encouraging because Alten has an incredible skill for crafting both tension and action in an exquisite balance.
As I mentioned already, there cannot be a summer blockbuster (especially one that features a giant shark) without a nearly obligatory Asylum film loosely based on the same premise. Generally, these are tongue-in-cheek nods with similar titles that don’t necessarily take themselves too seriously. These are films like Transmorphers, Atlantic Rim, Android Cop, Tomb Invader, and The Fast and the Fierce. Of course, The Meg is not exempt from this. Where The Meg premieres on August 10, The Asylum’s Megalodon premieres on August 13. But this is not your typical Asylum/SyFy movie team-up.
The cast of Megalodon made an appearance on the Throwdown Thursday Podcast recently (Episode 101, Danger is Rising), including Dominic Pace (Captain Streeper), Ego Mikitas (Captain Ivanov), Paulina Laurant (Cheng), Caroline Harris (Commander Lynch) and Elizabeth Cron (Munoz). They revealed how they took this job very seriously and it’s not the usual fare you’d expect from the same studio and channel that brought you the Sharknado franchise. This is a serious film that takes not only the science but military aspect of the plot into account much more than other films in this category. I know it sounds like I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that I’m not being serious, but I assure you, this is true.
One thing folks don’t always think about is the fact that it’s much more difficult to make a low-budget film than a large-scale, big-budget film. For one, you have a much tighter shooting schedule so you have a smaller window in which to learn all your lines, fight choreography, and get all of the shots you need without the benefit of innumerable takes. You have to hit your marks and deliver your lines perfectly on the first or maybe second try because you simply have no other option. Straight from the cast, director James Thomas did a masterful job with the film. And after hearing what the cast had to say about the work that was done on Megalodon, I’m not sure which film I’m going to enjoy more.
There has been a sort of shift between these two films, and I find it intriguing. The big-budget film from a major studio (in this case, Warner Brothers) is the fun action movie that doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously and the Asylum film has gone out of its way to be scientifically and militarily true to life. I’m very curious to see these two films side by side and compare them.
I’ll be live-tweeting the SyFy premiere of Megalodon on Monday, August 13th with the hashtag #DangerIsRising and you can follow me @PatrickRahall for all my thoughts on this film.
What about you? Are you excited for these giant shark movies, The Meg and Megalodon?
Are you, like most people I’ve talked to, skeptical that a film by The Asylum can take itself seriously and not go over the top with the ridiculous plotlines? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment on this article and we can discuss it.
Patrick Rahall covers entertainment for MFST. Follow him on Twitter at @PatrickRahall.