The ending of The Meg explained
The Meg has swum up from the depths to chomp on theater screens everywhere after a long voyage out of prehistory. Based on Steve Alten’s 1997 bookMeg: A Novel of Deep Terror, the movie has been 20 years in the making, splashing fruitlessly in development hell at multiple studios. At various stages, Guillermo del Toro, Jan de Bont, and Eli Roth were attached to direct before National Treasure‘s Jon Turteltaub took the helm and steered the Megalodon thriller to fruition as an American-Chinese co-production. Even then, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, as shifting ratings concerns kept the vision for the project in flux.
So, now that The Meg is finally here, what does the future hold for this finned terror and the humans who defend the beaches? The movie’s reviews have been as tepid as a shallow kiddie pool and the opening weekend box office may not quite chum the waters as much as Warner Bros. would have hoped. Still, any blockbuster that proves the least bit profitable can become a franchise. And although the movie makes some drastic changes from the source material, Alten’s novel has spawned several sequels and prequels that could provide further foundations for future films.
At the heart of the story is rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who’s drawn into the deadly conflict between man and prehistoric beast when he pays a visit to an underwater research facility where a harrowing shark attack reveals that a seemingly extinct prehistoric Megalodon — 75 feet long and ready to chow — is on the loose.
Naturally, The Meg concludes its nearly two-hour runtime with an escalating series of confrontations against the titular prehistoric beast, including one in which the audience is briefly led to believe the shark has been felled with poison. Alas, the wrong ocean carnivore was killed; after a grenade attack launched from a helicopter also fails, it falls to our hero Jonas to save a crowded Chinese beach by busting out of his damaged submersible, grabbing hold of the Meg, slicing it open to make it bleed and attract predators, and jabbing it in the eye with a poison spear. As one does.
Though the titular gargantuan shark is defeated, almost poetically, with help from a swarm of its own modern descendants, there is hope for a franchise in the movie’s human characters. The Meg‘s secret weapon just might be the chemistry between its leads. Jason Statham and Li Bingbing prove to be endearingly likable as Jonas Taylor and oceanographer Suyin Zhang, whose romance blossoms in the face of shark terror with the encouragement of Taylor’s ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) and Zhang’s daughter (Shuya Sophia Cai). Seeing this new little family continue to bloom while staring down the maw of another deep-sea terror could make for a perfectly charming follow-up.
Another survivor of the Carcharocles carnage is marine scientist Jaxx Herd, played by up-and-coming actress Ruby Rose. The Meg is one of Rose’s biggest screen roles yet, after a streak that includes appearances in Orange Is the New Black, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, and John Wick Chapter 2. Just before the release of The Meg, Rose was announced to be playing Batwoman in the CW’s DC Universe, with the potential for a show of her very own on the horizon. With a star rising as rapidly as Ruby Rose’s, the idea of Jaxx returning in a Meg sequel would likely be very appealing.
Of course, no shark movie can ever be truly free from the shadow of Jaws, an undisputed masterpiece that changed the face of summer blockbusters forever. The Meg even features many shots that seem to be direct references to the 1975 classic, as fans noted immediately upon the release of the trailer. It’s hard not to remember the death of Alex Kintner during The Meg‘s climactic beach frenzy. Even Pippin the dog seems likely named after Jaws‘ Pippet (though unlike his predecessor, Pippin survives in a crowd-pleasing surprise reveal).
When it comes to the question of franchising, however, even Spielberg’s great white could never pull off a satisfying sequel. Taken together, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge provide one of cinema history’s most striking examples of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Then again, we’re about to get a sixth Sharknado, so perhaps a new era is upon us after all. A series could keep sprouting new entries against all odds, just as a shark grows row after row of new teeth for its entire life.
The Meg‘s end credits may not have promised that “Jonas Taylor will return in The Trench,” but only time (and box office receipts) will tell if another journey to the bottom of the sea is in Jason Statham’s future.