The Walt Disney Studios originally purchased the film rights to the book in the 1990s, but after several years in development hell, the rights landed at Warner Bros. The film was eventually greenlit in 2015. Turteltaub and much of the cast joined by September 2016, and filming began the following month in New Zealand and ended in Sanya City of China in January 2017.
A Chinese-American co-production, The Meg was released in both countries on August 10, 2018, in RealD 3D. It has grossed over $465 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, with some describing it as an entertaining B-movie and others calling it "neither good enough nor bad enough" to be fun.
Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver, attempts to save a group of scientists trapped inside a nuclear submarine. As Taylor and Jordan Martin-Mackay are rescuing the last survivor, he sees the hull of the submarine being rammed in by an unknown creature. When he returns to the rescue vessel, two scientists are stuck in the damaged submarine. Taylor decides to leave, realizing that finishing the rescue would result in everyone perishing. The damaged sub then explodes. Taylor's account of the story stating that a giant sea creature caused the disaster was dismissed by Dr. Heller, believing that Taylor was affected with pressure-induced psychosis.
Five years later, billionaire Jack Morris meets Dr. Minway Zhang at the underwater research facility "Mana One", which Morris finances. Zhang and his daughter, Suyin, an oceanographer, are supervising a mission to explore what may be a deeper section of the Marianas trench, concealed by a thermocline cloud of hydrogen sulfide. The mission is being conducted by Lori (Taylor’s ex-wife), Toshi, and The Wall in a submersible. The mission appears to be going well until a very large creature hits the submersible, causing it to lose contact with Mana One.
Back at Mana One, the crew discovers that the shark is a Megalodon, the largest shark ever known, believed to be extinct for millions of years. Meanwhile Suyin's daughter goes to the large glass leading to a beautiful underwater view of the ocean, and sees the Megalodon through the glass, and is petrified. When Suyin comes down with Jonas, they see a whale being eaten alive by the massive shark. The crew then realize that it has escaped from the depths of the trench by swimming through a hole in the thermocline created by the thermal vent explosion, briefly raising the temperature enough for it to safely pass. The group decides to track and poison the Megalodon, which they succeed in doing. While injecting the Megalodon with etorphine, Suyin's oxygen mask gets compromised, but Taylor revives her with CPR. Despite initial success, Taylor comments that the teeth don’t match up with the previous attack. Shortly after, a colossal Megalodon emerges from the water and kills The Wall, Heller, and Dr. Zhang, capsizing the boat and devours the smaller Megalodon. The surviving crew returns to Mana One in two dinghies. Morris announces that he has informed local governments and naval forces, but it is out of their hands.
The Megalodon kills several beachgoers before the Mana One crew plays audio of a whale call to divert the shark's attention towards them. Taylor and Suyin attempt to destroy the Megalodon with rigged torpedoes, to no avail, and in the process, Taylor's submersible is severely damaged. Taylor manages to cut the Megalodon with parts of his sub and stab it in the eye with a harpoon. Due to the presence of blood, multiple sharks in the area notice the blood and devour the Megalodon, killing it. During the fight, Suyin was able to evacuate everyone to a boat where a Chinese couple is getting married. Taylor gets on the boat, and he and Suyin consider taking a vacation.
- Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor
- Li Bingbing as Suyin Zhang
- Rainn Wilson as Jack Morris
- Ruby Rose as Jaxx Herd
- Winston Chao as Dr. Minway Zhang
- Cliff Curtis as James "Mac" Mackreides
- Shuya Sophia Cai as Meiying
- Page Kennedy as DJ
- Robert Taylor as Dr. Heller
- Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as The Wall
- Jessica McNamee as Lori
- Masi Oka as Toshi
The rights to the novel were initially acquired by Disney's Hollywood Pictures in 1996. Around that time, Tom Wheeler was hired to adapt the book into a screenplay, but, having decided that his script wasn't good enough, the studio hired Jeffrey Boam to write a new draft. Boam's script was later rejected for the same reason. By 1999 the project had stalled and the rights reverted back to Steve Alten, the book's author.
In 2005, reports surfaced that the project was being developed by New Line Cinema, with an estimated budget of $75 million, and a slated release of summer 2006. Names attached to the production included Jan de Bont as director, Guillermo Del Toro as producer and Shane Salerno as screenwriter. However, New Line later cancelled the project due to budgetary concerns. The rights reverted to Alten again, but the film remained in development hell.
In 2015, it was announced that the film was now moving forward at Warner Bros., with a new script written by Dean Georgaris. By June of that year, Eli Roth was reported to be in talks to direct, but, due to creative differences, Roth was replaced by Jon Turteltaub in early 2016. Jason Statham and much of the cast joined in August and September 2016.
Principal photography on the film began on October 13, 2016 in West Auckland, New Zealand. Filming ended on January 4, 2017 in Sanya City of Hainan, China.
Released by Gravity Pictures in China and by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States, The Meg was originally scheduled to open March 2, 2018. Warner and Gravity then said that the film would be released during the 2018 Chinese New Year period in China, a week-long annual holiday that kicked off on February 16, 2018. The film was later pushed back to its eventual date of August 10, 2018, in 3D and IMAX.
The first official trailer was released on April 9, 2018. The studio spent $140 million on global prints and advertisement for the film.
As of September 23, 2018, The Meg has grossed $140.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $377.3 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $517.7 million. With a production budget between $130–178 million, and another $140 million spent on advertisement, the film needed to gross at least $400 million in order to break-even.
In the United States and Canada, The Meg was released alongside Slender Man and BlacKkKlansman, and was originally projected to gross $20–22 million from 4,118 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $4 million from Thursday night previews, leading analysts to predict it would outperform its low-$20 million projections. After making $16.5 million on its first day, weekend estimates were raised to $40 million. It went on to debut to $45.4 million, topping the box office and marking the best solo opening of Statham's career, as well as Turteltaub. It made $21.5 million in its second weekend and $13 million in its third, finishing second behind Crazy Rich Asians both times.
In other territories, the film debuted to $101.5 million from 96 countries, for a worldwide opening of $146.9 million. In China, a co-producer of the film, it grossed $50.3 million from 12,650 screens, ranked 3 in the opening weekend. Other top openings were Mexico ($6.2 million), Russia ($5 million), the United Kingdom ($4.4 million), Spain ($2.4 million) and the Philippines ($2 million).
- In the book, the megalodons are pure white, almost luminescent, from living in an environment with virtually no light. This coloring proved too difficult to render in CGI while still looking realistic, so the megalodons were colored like great white sharks.
- Just before the Meg attacks Suyin in the plastic shark cage, you can hear a fast paced version of the cello theme music from Jaws (1975).
- In real life, Jason Statham is an expert swimmer. In the 1990 Commonwealth Games, he represented England in diving. Footage of him competing can be found online. Most of the shots of him in the water are real. A stunt double was used for more hazardous shots.
- Eli Roth was attached as director before being replaced by Jon Turteltaub. Roth left due to creative differences with the studio, namely that he wanted the film to maintain both its R-rating and a $150 million budget. It was also rumored that Roth, on top of writing and directing, also wanted to play the lead role of Jonas, but the studio believed he did not have the star power.
- In the book, the Meg only attacked at night since living in the deep water made its eye sensitive to light. It only attacked in daylight when it had been blinded during the course of the book. The movie, however, had the Meg in daylight with no consequence.
- At one point, Jason Statham's character, Jonas, jumps into the water and starts singing to himself, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." This is an homage to the character Dory in Finding Nemo (2003), which the song comes from.
- In 1997, when the book was first published, Disney bought the film rights for almost $1 million. The project went into turnaround after Disney caught cold feet about competing with Deep Blue Sea (1999). Alten, frustrated at the lack of movement, wrote his own draft, which he showed to Nick Nunziata, who then delivered to Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro took the project to Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, who brought on Jan De Bont.
- The name of the boat at the end of the film is "Charlotte." This is also the name of the ship that the character Benjamin Franklin Gates searches for in National Treasure (2004), which was also directed by Jon Turteltaub.
- The Gliders used in the climax are named "Robert Byrd" and "Ernest Shackleford."
- One of the humpbacked whales is named "Gracie". This is the same name as the female humpback in Star Trek IV : the Voyage Home.
- The name of the Yorkie in this movie is Pippin. The lab in Jaws (1975) was named Pippit.
- The film pays homage to multiple films in various scenes and shots. The most notable is JAWS (1975) but other films referenced include Jaws 3 (1983) and The Abyss (1989).