The Meg, a movie where Jason Statham fights a giant shark, is utterly ridiculous in that perfect dumb summer blockbuster kind of way. But, the film is downright tame compared to the gory insanity of the book it’s based on, Steve Alten’s Meg.
I mean, the first scene in the book is a Megalodon eating a Tryanousaurs. Even Jason Statham can’t match that.
The Meg has been a long time coming. Alten sold the film rights before he even published the book way back in 1997, but it was mired in development hell for two decades before Warner Bros. and Chinese studio Gravity Pictures finally managed to get the big shark into theaters. In doing so, the story changed from a pulpy horror tale about a giant shark to an action-packed, extremely PG-13 Jason Statham joint. Some of the changes are understandable, and they don’t make The Meg worse than the book since the film is wild in its own enjoyable ways.
Warning: Full spoilers for both the book and movie ahead.
The Movie Is Much More Chinese
Meg (the book doesn’t have a “the” in the title) takes place all over the Pacific Ocean, beginning in the depths of the Mariana Trench and ending off the coast of California. The movie, though, takes place largely off the Chinese coast. That’s not the only Chinese change, though. In Meg, protagonist Jonas Taylor gets roped into this whole Megalodon business because his old friend, Japanese-American Masao Tanaka, needs help. Jonas ends up dating Tanaka’s daughter, Terry. In the movie, every Japanese character is Chinese instead. Maso Tanaka becomes Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) while Terry Tanaka becomes Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing).
The Chinese movie market is a major moneymaker for would-be blockbusters. So it’s not surprising that The Meg, which was co-financed by a Chinese production studio, made alterations to be more friendly to a Chinese audience. Still, kinda weird!
The Characters Are Nicer Remixes of Their Book Counterparts
Making the Japanese characters Chinese isn’t the only way The Meg alters the cast of the original book. Everybody is a lot cooler and much better of a person than their literary counterpart. Statham’s Jonas Taylor is, well, Jason Statham, a badass Brit who was a high-stress rescue diver, but the book’s Jonas is a somewhat average-looking, slightly over-the-hill disgraced marine biologist and submersible pilot, not an action hero.
In the movie, Jonas has a pretty healthy relationship with his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), a fellow submersible pilot who needs rescuing at the start of the film. In the book, though, Lori is a power-hungry journalist who cheats on Jonas and is explicitly portrayed as a “bitch ex-wife.” She dies, horribly. Meg is good pulpy fun, but it’s maybe not… great when it comes to its female characters.
Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), the old army guy who initially thinks Jonas’ shark talk is crazy cowardice, ends up being an okay dude who makes a noble sacrifice in the film. In the book, he remains a straight-up villain until the end. Cliff Curtis plays Mac, who is a totally different character despite having the same name. Book Mac was a helicopter pilot and an old buddy of Jonas’, while movie Mac is somehow in charge of this underwater lab.
The Book Is Insanely Gory
With the exception of some bite-ridden whale blubber, The Meg is remarkably bloodless, the result of a PG-13 edit that left much of the violence on the cutting room floor. Statham and director Jon Turteltaub both gave interviews lamenting this.e-ridden whale blubber, The Meg is remarkably bloodless, the result of a PG-13 edit that left much of the violence on the cutting room floor. Statham and director Jon Turteltaub both gave interviews lamenting this.
The book, though, spends paragraph after paragraph detailing the severed limbs and eviscerated organs the Meg leaves in its wake. The giant shark also has a much, much higher body count in the book, as although Alten isn’t the world’s best author, he can write the hell out of a shark attack, and he does, in some insane ways. The book is crazier than the movie, Statham’s stunts be damned. Here are just a few of the bonkers scenes that didn’t make it to the big screen.
The Meg Eats a Tyrannosaurus
Even though dinosaurs went extinct millions of years before Megalodons ever swam in the ocean, Meg begins with a pre-historic scene were one of the giant sharks fucks up a T-Rex. There’s not really much more to say about this. It’s just baffling that the movie didn’t have a shark eat a dinosaur when it had the chance.
The Meg Destroys a Nuclear Submarine
To be fair, this kind of happens in the movie, because the opening rescue scene takes place on a submarine, and a Meg destroys the damaged craft. But in the book, once the Meg’s existence has been known to the public, one of Jonas’ old enemies from the Navy recomissions the USS Nautilus — the world’s actual first Nuclear sub — to fight the Meg. This does not go well, because the torpedoes can’t lock-on to a fish. The Meg destroys the sub, and almost everyone aboard dies. It’s tight.
The Ending Is Buck Wild
The movie ends with Jason Statham stabbing the Meg in the eye, holding on for dear life as it leaps dozens of feet into the air, and then watching as a swarm of normal-sized sharks descend on the now-bleeding Meg. Pretty cool, right?
Well, in the book, the Meg is just going to town on dozens and dozens of whaleboat tours in an utterly chaotic scene of death and gore. Jonas, inside of a submersible, is trying to lure it away, but nothing is working. Eventually, he tries to ram the shark and it swallows his entire sub. So, while inside of the shark’s belly, Jonas gets out of the sub, crawls around the Meg’s guts, brushing past severed body parts of people he knew who the shark ate, and cuts out the Meg’s heart from the inside using a fossilized Megalodon tooth he always carries with him.
The book is a trip, y’all.
The Meg is now in theaters. Meg is available to buy now.