Shark Faces Were A Real Problem When Making The Meg Movie

Jason Statham in The Meg

One expects a big scary monster movie like The Meg to have some interesting challenges. Just making big scary monsters in movies is usually a chellenge unto itself. That was certainly true in The Meg, though possibly not in the way you might think. Director Jon Turteltaub says that one of the biggest challenges facing the production was making the film's monster suitably scary, while most of us would think "giant shark" is pretty scary all by itself, the problem was that the shark wasn't helping matters, because "shark face" isn't actually all that scary. According to Turteltaub...

For me, what I found the most challenging with this kind of character is, sharks are notoriously uncute. They're fascinating and charmless. They don't even blink. They don't have shoulders. They don't have eyebrows, right? There's no expression. Shark happy and shark eating you is the same face. So, you're trying to get some drama into this and you've got one face to work with. Now if you have the shark go 'Grrr,' to be mean and scary -- 'OK, we got that it's scarier' -- but you just lost some truth and if shark does regular shark face it feels boring, so you're dealing with that kind of stuff. The more you get the science right, the more you draw them in with the truth, the more real things get, so therefore the more frightening it is.

It's actually a pretty funny problem to have. In most cases, in a movie, your performer is able to increase drama and tension simply by changing the look on their face, but you can't ask that of a shark. The massive sea creatures don't really have facial expressions, so you can't tell when they're being angry or vengeful. All the body language and expression that a human actor can give to convey emotion without having to speak, a shark is incapable of. As Jon Turteltaub says in one of the special features attached to the Blu-Ray release of The Meg, sharks have a single expression, and it's not worth much.

Since The Meg was created entirely within a computer, they could have manipulated the shark in various ways to make it appear scarier, by simply making it look angry, but, as fantastic of the premise of The Meg is, Jon Turteltaub still wanted the film to have as much reality as possible to it and sharks don't ever look angry. If the story had been entirely fantastic, if the shark hadn't acted "real," there would have been very little tension. The reality of the situation is what actually makes it all frightening for the audience.

Without the ability to make the film's megalodon "look" scary, The Meg had to make their massive creature feature work in other ways. Jon Turteltaub says this was done by making The Meg as realistic as possible. Of course, there was a problem there too. The fact of the matter is that science doesn't actually know a lot about the megalodon. While the movie strived to get the science right, there were limitations as far as how much science there actually was to get right.

However, this gave the production a lot of room to work. If you don't know what The Meg actually looked like, you can make The Meg look however you want. Of course, the production still wanted to work within some scientific realities, which meant taking into account the sort of creature this was, as well as the eniornment it spent its life in. According to the director...

The fact that science knows so little about megalodons, Meg, gave us opportunity to fill in the blanks the way we wanted. And we had two issues, one, what did this shark look like, but two, what would this giant shark look like if it lived 30,000 feet below the surface of the water? So, everything from coloration to fin size to mouth shape to snout shape to gills are all up for grabs.

One thing that The Meg wanted to avoid was simply making the giant shark look like a bigger version of the classic great white. This is the image of a terrifying shark that most people are familiar with, but if that's all you do, you're not bringing anything new to the table. However, in the case of The Meg, the movie shark has been spending its existence for millions of years deep in the oceans. This has the potential to mean that the megalodon of this film doesn't even look the same as the creature would have looked when it was swimming the oceans millions of years ago. The Meg was built for the movie based on the best approximation of what the megalodon would have looked like if it were real. What science does know was combined with an educated understanding of the creatures of the sea, and The Meg was the result.

The Meg was a solid hit and so, like the book that came before it, it appears that a host of sequels could follow in the wake of the original. There are apparently early talks being had about a Meg 2. While the film version of The Meg took some significant departures from the original book, a second film could still take inspiration from the second book in the franchise. The book sequel, The Trench, dealt mostly with an offspring of the original Meg that never appears in the film. Still, we don't know what Meg was up to before the events of the movie, and certainly, we could find all sorts of new and interesting monsters back in unknown depths of the ocean.

If and when the sequel does come along, we can rest assured that The Meg 2 will try to combine the more fantastic elements of the creature feature once again with the scientific realities of the largest shark that ever lived. Perhaps by the time the sequel comes out, we'll know more about the massive megalodon that can be incorporated into the new film.

The Meg is now available on Digital and Blu-Ray.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.