Monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Godzilla have had dozens of movies made about them, some good and some bad, but why is it that Jaws, a monster all too real, who chased folks out of the water for years, and made his debut in a near-perfect film, can’t get a decent sequel made? We’ll try to find out after the jump, when I look at the spawn of Jaws…
Four years after the original movie, Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary returned as the Brodys, as well as Mayor Murray Hamilton, with Jeannot Szwarc (Somewhere in Time, Supergirl, not the best track record) directing. We open, as the credits roll, on scuba divers who come upon what’s left of the Orca at the bottom of the ocean. The boat dramatically has the end of it bitten off. Just as they’re about take pictures and celebrate, that familiar John Williams theme comes up and they are attacked by what else, a shark.
Szwarc gives the production a very TV feel, nowhere near the almost underground film vibe of the original. The director tries to do the small town with a secret that Hitchcock did so well, but it never escapes the small screen box it’s in. This could very easily be a movie of the week as opposed to the sequel to not only the first major blockbuster but a near-perfect film. Add to that the fact that Scheider is only here because of contractual obligation, and not because he wants to be.
The gist is that there’s another shark menacing Amity Island, just like the trailer taglines said, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” The film did surprisingly well, the biggest sequel ever until The Empire Strikes Back came along. Events follow pretty much the roadmap of, and taking its cues from, the first film, only without the passion and talent.
No one believes there’s a shark, except paranoid Brody, who folks think has gone a bit shark nutty. I rolled my eyes at most of the reruns and attempts at the quality of the original. I didn’t care about the numerous young actors populating this sequel, and when the shark starts doing ridiculous stunts like killing killer whales and attacking helicopters, I was out of there. Jaws 2 was more cartoony than Jabberjaw, and at 116 minutes, about an hour too long. Is it shocking they had to electrocute this one to kill it? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it only gets worse from here…
Jaws 2 was a lot of things, but what it wasn’t was scary. How do you make things scarier? One answer is to make them more real. What’s more real than 3-D, right? So Jaws 3 was made in 3-D. The problem is that back in the day, 3-D wasn’t as cool as it is now, it was actually kind of lame and hokey – that’s the 3-D of Jaws 3-D, yeah, bordering on embarrassing. Want to make it worse? Watch it in 2-D on Netflix.
Despite all the objects that appear to be comin’ at ya throughout the movie, this one still tries for a plot. Starring Dennis Quaid, Lou Gossett Jr., and a young Lea Thompson among others, this is the tale of a baby great white shark in a SeaWorld show, whose big bad mama comes to get him. And oh yeah, wouldn’t you know it? Those annoying Brody kids are there too. Is this family wearing anti-shark repellent Bat-spray or what?
If the story sounds familiar, it should – it’s Gorgo, only with sharks, which might not have been so bad, had this Richard Matheson script not been rewritten to death. He had to add 3-D effects, add in the Brody boys, and then write a part for Mickey Rooney who in the end wasn’t even available. But then again, it isn’t a Jaws movie without production problems.
Even though the movie is from 1983, the movie touches on some present day sensitivities by occurring at and being filmed at SeaWorld in Florida. The idea of a captive shark display is horrific these days when SeaWorld is under attack from organizations like PETA and currently converting their attractions to the non-living type. Did I mention the studio at first wanted to make this a comedy? Let’s face it, not much can save this one.
If you like to see, or hear, how bad Jaws 3-D really is, on the latest episode of the Nerdfect Strangers podcast, the other co-hosts and I watch and riff Mystery Science Theater 3000 style on the movie. You can hear that here.
Jaws: The Revenge
Had enough? Well, Hollywood hadn’t yet. In 1987, Lorraine Gary returned as Ellen Brody for Jaws: The Revenge. To quote the over-quoted catchphrase of the film, “This time, it’s personal.” No Roy Scheider, no 3-D, just one feisty great white shark who, I kid you not, follows Mrs. Brody from Amity Island in New England to the Bahamas. About the only thing this one has going for it is it ignores the third movie completely as if it never happened. Scheider’s Brody has wisely died offscreen of a heart attack.
Ellen Brody thinks her husband died from fear of sharks, and then her son is eaten by a shark, then cracking up a bit, she goes to live with her other son in the islands. Then it gets weird, she starts to have a psychic link with this super-shark that followed her – sort of like Miki Saegusa in the Heisei Godzilla films. Yeah, it gets really weird. There’s a reason this is considered to be the worst of the Jaws series. Even Michael Caine and Mario Van Peebles (one with a real accent, the other fake) can’t save this one.
It may be more luck than curse, but it seems that the near-perfect film Jaws may just be a one-hit wonder. At least until the next sequel or reboot… until then, there’s always Sharknado…