Thursday, July 19, 2018

Remember Meg?

No, probably not.

But I do. I remember it because back in the '90s the terms of the publication of Steve Alten's Meg was the kind of media sensation the rags-to-riches story loving press likes to blow way out of proportion at every opportunity--a first novel by an unknown getting them a seven figure advance (impressive numbers today, even more impressive back in those comparatively uninflated, pre-J.K. Rowling, pre-E.L. James days). The big money was tied up with plans for a big movie, and why not, when Meg, short for the Megalodon that was at the center of the story, looked like it could combine the underwater terror of Jaws with the scale and sci-fi exoticism of Jurassic Park.

But the book's sales did not live up to the blockbuster expectations, while the movie plans went down quick into development hell.

For twenty years.

During which, as Jan de Bont and Guillermo del Toro and lots of other people whose names you know better than Alten's were attached and detached from the project, the summer blockbuster of the monster/disaster type went from being a seasonal treat to a week-to-week, year-round thing, not just on the big screen but the small, where Syfy supplied us with an endless string of deliberately bad movies about the theme (mostly because it's an easier thing to do than deliberately make good movies).

Hearing "This time they're serious" I'd think "I'll believe it when I see it," but last year I heard a report that the film actually was shooting, with a $150 million budget and Jason Statham in the lead (I don't think he's been that before in a megabudget movie like this one) as a Sino-American coproduction.

It seemed real enough this time.

I also heard that it would be coming out in March, which it didn't, instead bumped to August 10, as the commercial I caught on TV last week indicated.

Of course, getting one's release date bumped by five months is not a good sign. Still less is it a good sign when the new date is in August--traditionally a "dump month" where the competition is less intense and not too much expected from the receipts.

But then one might imagine that this Chinese coproduction (due to come out in China the same weekend as in the U.S.) is being timed to take advantage of China's notorious late summer blacking out of its film market, giving its domestic productions a chance to clean up, and that it will help the numbers in that country--by itself, quite enough to make or break many a big production. (And as even the quickest review of the numbers over at Boxofficemojo.com shows, monster movies certainly play well in the Chinese market. The Monster Hunt franchise, The Great Wall--while Hollywood's own Rampage did much better business in China than at home.1) And here in the States August sometimes produces a winner. (Guardians of the Galaxy proved a surprise hit in that period a few years back.)

What's your guess on how the movie will do?

1. Rampage pulled in $99 million in America (yes, just shy of the $100 million mark), but took in $156 million in China.

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