Premise: The Megalodon is a giant prehistoric shark thought to be extinct for millions of years. It isn’t. It’s still around. And it’s hungry.
About: “Meg” is coming. It’s coming with Jason Statham. Normally, that’s all you would need to know. But this particular project has been in the works for over a decade, and today’s script is not only a previous take on the concept, but a first draft. Tom Wheeler, the writer here, wrote Puss in Boots for Dreamworks. He also created the 2011 TV series, The Cape. The movie you’ll be seeing in theaters, however, was written (adapted) by Dean Georgaris (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) with a rewrite by mega-writer James Vanderbilt (White House Down). Jon Turtletaub will direct.
Writer: Tom Wheeler (adapted from the novel by Steve Alten).
Details: 117 pages – first draft – undated
“No Commander, she isn’t a shark, she’s a Goddamn war machine.”
“Sounds like Godzilla’s coming.”
“Godzilla was on our side. The Meg isn’t.”
Jesus, this script was designed for trailer lines. Why it’s taken Meg so long to become a movie, I have no idea. I mean, it’s a fucking dinosaur shark in modern day. Does a movie sell itself any better than that?
“We have five sensory organs. She has eight. She can feel the electric charge of her prey’s beating heart from hundreds of miles away.”
Come on. Seriously? Can we start counting the money already?
It’s even got humor!
“One more thing. It’s pregnant.”
“How in God’s name do you know that? Are you the father?”
So why hasn’t Meg been made yet despite the movie-friendly premise? One thing I’m realizing is that, with a producer’s desire to make a movie, there is the A-project, the B-project, and the C-project version of said movie. When producers have a script, they want the A-project. They want David Fincher or Ridley Scott, and they want Leonardo DiCaprio or Ryan Gosling. Unfortunately, everybody wants those people.
So after trying to lure those stars in unsuccessfully, you go to the B-project, which is much easier to set up. A recent example is Steve Jobs. Originally, that movie was David Fincher and Christian Bale. A-project. But those guys bailed, and they decided to go with the B-project – Danny Boyle and Michael Fassbender. Granted, that’s as good as a B-project as you’re going to get, but it’s still a B-project.
When both the As and the Bs ignore you, you eventually have to settle for the C-project. As much as I love myself some Jason Statham, he’s C-project all the way.
The thing that takes so long is you always seem to be teased into thinking you’re going to get the A or the B project going. This A-level director is reading the script. That could be a yes! This B-level actor is reading the script. That could be a yes! But then 4 months down the line, they get back to you and tell you they’re not interested, and there goes 4 months.
Some producers will finally say, “Fuck it,” and go to the C-project in order to get the movie made. Others may want that A-project, however. So they go back and and get a rewrite done by an A-list screenwriter or two, which will take another year. And now they go back into the cycle of people trying to secure the A-project elements. Once again they’re waiting months for this director or that actor to read it. And you can now see why movies take so long to get made.
Whether this has anything to do with what took so long with Meg, I don’t know. But Meg is rare in that it’s the kind of movie that could do well in a C-project package. It’s goofy, it’s fun, it’s 80s disaster-movie-esque. It doesn’t need A-list talent.
Meg follows 40-something Jonas Taylor. Jonas was once a hotshot navy sub pilot, until he saw something underneath the water that scared him to shit – a giant shark that ended up eating his co-pilots. Unfortunately, no one believed him, and Jonas ended up at the nut house for six months.
Jonas swore he’d never get near an ocean again, until some old buddies inform him that their son is at the bottom of the ocean after a sub-accident. Jonas reluctantly pilots his way down there to save the man, but encounters, you guessed it, THE SAME GIANT SHARK THAT KILLED HIS BUDDIES YEARS AGO!
Somehow, Jonas survives, gets to the surface, and this time, people believe him. This shark, which Jonas believes is a Megalodon, an enormous shark that died out during the dinosaur age, has discovered that there are lot more things to eat near the surface of the water than in the ocean deep. So he’s going to hang out up here for awhile.
When Meg starts chomping down on surfers and boaters, Jonas and his crew realize that if they don’t kill this motherfucker fast, some really bad shit is going to happen. But can Jonas overcome his Meg PTSD long enough to take this thing down? Only time, and a lot of dead surfers, will tell.
Let’s start off with the annoying stuff. Writers, PLEASE STOP USING COINCIDENCES IN YOUR WRITING!!!
Coincidences in screenwriting are the embodiment of laziness and amateurism. I’ve been seeing so many of these in consult scripts recently. And now I’m seeing them in professional scripts!
This script starts with a sub being attacked by a Meg. That sub crashes to the ocean floor. There’s only one pilot who can get to that floor and save the person in that sub. Jonas. So they go to Jonas, bring him to the site, and we find out that the whole reason Jonas gave this up 10 years ago is because he saw a Meg!!!
What are the chances of this happening? I mean how many times do people see prehistoric never-before-seen dinosaur sharks in their life? And it just so happens that the guy you randomly get to save your friend who got attacked by a Meg also has a history with Megs??
The reason this annoys me is because those types of things have nothing to do with talent. You don’t have to be a talented writer to keep coincidences out of your script. And when you’re going up against the top screenwriters in the world? Guys who DO have a ton of talent? Every little bit helps. So put in that extra effort and avoid coincidences.
Moving to the good stuff, what I always say with these flashy concepts is you need to come up with scenes and moments that are specific to your concept – that can only work with your particular idea. So what I loved here was the scene where Meg attacked a cruise ship. There’s no other movie out there that could’ve done this. Only this one. That’s good writing. Mine the specific scenes that can only work for your script.
Also, with shark movies, it’s really hard to come up with fresh scenes. There are only so many ways to put a boat on the water or surfers in the water and have a shark attack them. So you have to push yourself to come up with something fresh.
I loved the scene where they needed to tag the Meg (with a rifle) so they could track it. The scene takes place on a helicopter, and they move down to the Meg, which is attacking some whales, and Jonas is trying to get a good shot. But the helicopter is shaking and Meg is moving around a lot. So he keeps telling his pilot to get closer. And closer. And closer. All of this knowing that the Meg is capable of leaping 30 feet out of the water. I’ll let your imaginations take it from there.
The point is, when you have common subject matter, take that extra time and find scenes that haven’t been in that type of movie before. These guys were smart. They realized that everything in these movies takes place on the water, so why not move a scene to the air?
And there were other clever writing tricks here. For example, whoever your villain is, you want at least one scene to show how dangerous they are. That shows the audience how much they need to fear that villain. So what’s the opening scene of Meg? A T-Rex goes after a dinosaur, taking it into the water, where a Meg EASILY grabs the T-Rex, thrashes it down, and devours it. What better way to show how dangerous this thing is than showing it take down the most feared predator in the history of our planet?
So what about the plot? Eh, do we really watch these movies for the plot? I mean, look, the plot could’ve been better, lol. It’s pretty standard stuff. Recruit the retired pilot to take down the evil bad thing. You were pretty much 30 pages ahead of the writer all the way through this. But Meg made up for that in pure funosity. This is a fun movie. It’s a turn your brain off blast. If Turtletaub captures that fun, this could do well.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I think there’s something to say for taking classic novels and updating them into something modern audiences would like. Meg is obviously inspired by Moby Dick. So I’ll throw the challenge over to you guys. Give me your modern takes on classic novels that could be turned into cool 2016-appropriate movies.