Ben Wheatley on taking ‘Meg’ franchise forward

New Delhi: Filmmaker Ben Wheatley says he wasn’t too worried about taking up the mantle for “Meg 2: The Trench” but felt a sense of responsibility towards the franchise that brings back lead star Jason Statham fighting the titular shark.

The 2018 original was directed by Jon Turteltaub. Wheatley is glad that he got a “head start” owing to Turteltaub’s work in the first film.

“In some ways, it is a bit scary because you are taking a successful film and trying to make another chapter in it. And you have a lot of fans to make sure you get that right with them.

“Jon Turteltaub are big shoes to fill, there is a kind of anxiety there. But on the other hand, the good side of it is that it’s an amazing world to work with. And a lot of decisions have already been made and they work, and so you’ve got kind of a head start. So it didn’t worry me overtly, I feel like I have just been given a gift and I had to make sure that I didn’t smash it up,” Wheatley told PTI in a virtual interview.

“The Trench”, which released in India on Friday, sees Jonas Taylor (Statham) and his team once again thrown into mortal peril as they try to outrun the ace predator they are trying to study.

It is the first shark film that Wheatley, known for movies like “High-Rise”, “Free Fire” and “Rebecca”, has tried in his career. And he said the prior experience came in handy for “The Trench”.

“I’ve made a lot of movies in a lot of different genres. I’ve made horror, comedy and action movies. So I kind of had all the different skills I had to bring to this film.

“There are elements of scares and thrills, and there are moments of calm and family moments and then there are moments of humour. So all of it really came to the form in this project,” the 51-year-old filmmaker said.

Shark films and the creature genre as a whole has a long cinematic history, with many fans calling Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” their favourite of all time. And there are many others around dinosaurs, like “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World”.

According to Wheatley, the creature genre serves audiences deepest and darkest fears on the big screen through a metaphorical monstrous figure.

“It allows us to deal with our own fears without being literal. So you are watching something that is a metaphor for your own terror. But it is removed enough that you don’t feel depressed about your own life.

“On a very basic sense, it’s like a story of people at work who have a really big problem they got to work out. That is what these films are,” he said.

People also have a vicarious thrill seeing monsters “smashing stuff up”, Wheatley added.

“But you don’t want it to be something terrible that would happen in the world because it’s too horrible. It’s this balance of you wanting to see this stuff but you don’t want it to bite home, you really don’t want it to be too real.

“The closer you get to real disaster movies, which are the cousin of the giant monster movie. But when you get to disaster movies, you go ‘Oh God, that could be real people in that, I am not so entertained, as I would be about some giant creature’,” Wheatley said.

“Meg 2: The Trench” also features Wu Jing, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels and Cliff Curtis. The movie has been released in India by Warner Bros India in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

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