Why We'll Never See An R-Rated Cut Of The Meg

Bigger isn't always better, and gorier isn't always scarier. That's a discovery that director Jon Turteltaub ("National Treasure") made in the midst of directing the giant killer shark movie "The Meg" starring Jason Statham. Originally intending "The Meg" to teeter the line between a hard PG-13 and a soft R-rated blood feast, there were a lot of chunks of flesh that sadly ended up on the cutting room floor. From the jump, "The Meg" was always going to be refreshingly self-aware and not afraid to make fun of itself. Why else would you cast Statham, an action superstar who has never shied away from a knowing nod or wink to the camera?

The inherent absurdity of a team of researchers discovering a 75-foot-long Carcharocles Megalodon shark in the deep recesses of the Mariana Trench is already baked into the story, so why not go all the way and make a bigger, bloodier, cartoon version of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws?" Isn't that ultimately the point? Unleashing Meg on an unsuspecting populace of sun worshipping beach bums and drunken teens on summer vacay seems tailor-made for astonishing levels of death, debauchery, destruction, and general chaos.

To the dismay of horror fans looking for a hefty dose of bloodshed to go along with their large popcorn, "The Meg" left much to be desired as far as graphic violence was concerned when it hit theaters in August of 2018. The real reason why "The Meg" didn't have the certain quota of monster mayhem many expected came down to dollars and cents, a stark financial reality that kept Turteltaub and crew from turning the film into a full-on gore fest.

Why The Meg didn't go all the way

In defense of the filmmaker, Jon Turteltaub wanted to show as much of the red stuff as possible in "The Meg." There's a certain amount of shark chum that's expected, but it was also a big-budget studio movie that was taking a pretty sizable risk that moviegoers wouldn't dismiss the late summer tentpole as being too ridiculous to take a chance on. Turteltaub lamented the fact that they had to pull back on some of the flesh-chomping they had initially planned, telling Bloody Disgusting:

"We shot or even did a lot of visual effects for [gory scenes]. We just realized there's no way we're keeping this PG-13 if we show this. It's too fun a movie to not let people who don't like blood and people who are under, say, 14 years old into the theater. I was very hesitant to cut out a lot of blood and gore. I wouldn't have if I thought it was wrecking the story but it wasn't. It still looked okay."

One scene in particular that sounds like it would have been an instant crowdpleaser ended up raising too many eyebrows for being a little overly ghastly for mainstream audiences looking for some AC and a harmless, wholesome killer shark movie. "There was a death in the movie of one of the leading characters where you thought he was still alive and you realized it was only his head," said Turteltaub. "Then the reveal that that was all that was left was awesome, but needless to say quite a few people told us it was creepy and I had to cut it." Bummer of the summer!

Does The Meg or Meg 2 need to be R-rated?

With "Meg 2: The Trench" set to premiere later this summer, the PG-13 formula that the original took advantage of is obviously paying off. The trailer shows Jason Statham fighting three more giant sharks, in addition to the visual of a gargantuan Megalodon eating a T-Rex. "Meg 2" is clearly going more in the direction of "Jurassic Park" than "Jaws," opting for spectacle over straight-up terror. The move to more mammal-on-dinosaur violence begs the question of whether or not "The Meg" or "The Meg 2" ever needed an R rating in the first place.

There's a common misconception that a film like "The Meg" is beholden to the ratings system dictated by the MPA, but that's not really the case. "The Meg" and its sequel were already intended to be PG-13 from the start, with little wiggle room to work with. That, coupled with the fact that the effects work needed to render more graphic kill scenes is just too pricy to justify, means that an R-rated cut of either film will never see the light of day.

The age of physical media is coming to an end, and there's simply no reason to for a studio to invest more money to make an already successful PG-13 blockbuster into an R-rated feature just to please a few gore hounds out there. "The problem nowadays with those unrated DVDs is you used to have a bunch of scenes that were easy to either shoot or leave on the cutting room floor," said Jon Turteltaub, speaking back in 2018 just before the release of "The Meg." "Now to finish a scene costs millions in VFX. No one's going to be spending millions of dollars just to have a little extra bonus footage."

Luckily, there should still be plenty of carnage when "Meg 2: The Trench" opens in theaters on August 4, 2023.