Warner Brothers has announced that they had tapped horror master Eli Roth to direct Meg, a film that has languished between studios and some big-name directors over the last 20 years. Disney bailed on financing the film when its own Deep Blue Sea sank at the box office, and at different points over the last two decades, Jan de Bont and Guillermo del Toro were said to have been interested in developing the project. After Universal knocked competitors out cold with the killer Jurassic World, Warner Brothers renewed interest, and Roth is now slated to helm the big-budget thriller.
Meg is based on the New York Times bestseller about a gigantic Megalodon shark – a species believed to have been extinct for over two million years – who reappears and begins wreaking havoc and causing terror upon her reintroduction to the world. It’s a classic kind of ‘what if’ tale in the tradition of The Thing, Jurassic Park, and Jaws – connecting with the fear of unknown, unfathomable behemoths who have it out for the humans.
Steven Alten wrote Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror in 1997, following protagonist Jonas Taylor – a diver working for the US Navy on a top-secret project in the Marianas Tranch. While on a dive in this remote, deep space of ocean, he is stunned to see the impossible – the 60-foot, 65 ton Megalodon shark, which has evidently survived extinction due to the ‘cold water barrier’ of the massive Trench. Their adapted habitat is heated by geothermal currents, and they have been unable to traverse the barrier of the super-cold waters above it, thus keeping them sequestered from the rest of the ocean ecosystem. Through a series of unfortunate events, a female Megalodon manages to break through this barrier – and is unleashed on the rest of the ocean’s creatures as well as the rest of the world.
Carcharodon megalodon, or ‘big tooth’, first appeared on Planet Earth in the Middle-Miocene to Pliocene eras – about 15 million years ago. Enormous beyond conventional bigness of the modern age, it could grow up to 18 meters and most closely resembled the Great White – although the White is longer and leaner, while Megalodon had a stockier build – and Megalodon was about three times larger.
With teeth that could grow up to 7 inches long, it was a formidable predator that ate – well, just about anything and everything, including whales. A global traveler, it swam and hunted the warm oceans of the earth with no natural enemies of its own, and flourished for another twelve million years. People have been finding its teeth for millennia; early civilizations attached mythical qualities to the strange fossils. The Native Americans used them in necklaces and as tools, while in Europe, they were believed to be the petrified remains of dragons’ tongues and often used in medicinal cures. Pliny the Elder thought they were dropped from the heavens during celestial events such as eclipses. The Megalodon has been with humans for longer than humans have been with the Earth.
Why the Megalodon became extinct is not certain, but is probably due to several reasons; being an apex predator, it was vulnerable when environmental shifts occurred such as when the Isthmus of Panama closed and the whales – a primary food source for Megalodon – began migrating to waters where the giant shark could not follow. Other food sources began to dissipate; less variety and diversity of available prey meant less to sustain the Megalodon population. These, among other factors, are what paleontologists believe contributed to the shark’s extinction.
Despite the ‘what if’ of the upcoming film, the overwhelming evidence is that the behemoth is indeed extinct; fossil records indicate that the last Megalodon died over two million years ago. But the legendary animal left an indelible mark not only on the planet and our ecosystem, but also in the human imagination through the ages. It is truly one of our lost giants, with even more impressive tales to tell through science and history.