The difference between age ratings can be incredibly subtle. The Hunger Games is also a PG-13 movie, but the original cut shown to the BBFC was deemed inappropriate for a similar rating in the U.K. Seven seconds were removed to hit the studio's desired 12A rating, including splashes of blood, to "reduce an emphasis on blood and injury," which seems shockingly minor when compared to the flash of whale guts The Meg viewers are treated to. The MPAA warning emphasizes "intense violent thematic material and disturbing images -- all involving teens."
From that we can infer The Meg was able to get away with more blood-soaked action because it's not a dystopian hellscape in which children are forced to kill each other on live television; it's an aquatic romp that ends with the word "fin" splashed across the screen. It's the difference between between being scared to go on a roller coaster and being scared to go into a haunted house. Monster movies also play with our sympathies: One moment we're willing a human hero to finally nail the beast, and the next we're rooting for the creature to butcher the slimy businessman who doomed mankind. On a technical level, The Meg is also careful not to linger on the gross stuff for too long. "Oddly enough, the ratings people don't mind chunks of whale as much as they mind chunks from a neck," Turteltaub added. "[...] Anyone who knows anything about movies knows that you can kill 10,000 people and the audience doesn't care, but you harm one dog and everyone writes a letter. While shooting, we went through about 15 dogs. That's just a joke."
Considering The Meg's production budget is estimated to be about $150 million -- that's monstrously large compared to Deep Blue Sea's $82 million -- and it's been stuck in the dreaded development hell since 1999, it's clear why the six studios involved in its production wanted the film to be accessible to the widest audience possible. As it has surpassed expectations for its opening-weekend box office, they may have succeeded, while gore fans will still leave cinemas reasonably satisfied. Marine-life conservationists? Not so much.
In theaters nationwide, director Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Masi Oka, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao and Rainn Wilson.