From Sharknado to Statham: how sharksploitation cinema went mainstream

Could Jason Statham be this generation’s Captain Ahab? That’s one way to describe the British action star’s role in The Meg, which swam into British cinemas yesterday. In Warner Brothers’ late-summer blockbuster, Statham plays a grizzled naval captain in the Moby Dick tradition, bent on slaughtering a 75ft prehistoric shark that once sank his sub.

Preposterous though the film’s premise may sound, the Meg itself – carcharocles megalodon to you – is not. Between 23 and 2.6 million years ago, there really were sharks as long as cricket pitches patrolling our seas; their fossilised remains have been found as close to home as Walton-on-the-Naze on the Essex coast.

However, at a time of year when cinema…


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