Thursday, October 14, 2010

Animals Run Amok!: Jaws Marathon

In light of my last post, I realized that it been a while  since I had actually watched Jaws in its entirety - and I honestly don't think I've ever seen any of the sequels. I had a day off work and treated myself to a little fun on Amity Island.

Jaws (1975)
I am still in awe at how good and how effective this movie is. Mostly my amazement comes from the fact that Steven Spielberg was still a relatively new director, a young guy, and just about nothing on the set worked right. I recently saw a great in-depth documentary on Biography called Jaws: The Inside Story (they also did one for The Silence of the Lambs - equally entertaining, you should try to catch those if they air again) and while I'd heard the horror stories of set mishaps before, watching this made me wonder how they could have produced something this awesome from all the crap that was going on.

Though the films runs two hours (most of these movies do 90 minutes, tops) the action never falters. We love the characters of Brody, Quint, and Hooper - Hooper is my favorite - and the main star, Jaws himself. I'd say my two favorite scenes are when Richard Dreyfuss is attacked while in the shark cage and when Quint is eaten. I jumped when the shark first rams the cage while Dreyfuss has us focused on what he's doing. Great filmmaking technique that always works.

To me, even after all these years, the shark looks damn good. I love my Deep Blue Sea obviously, but I have to admit that I don't really like watching a movie and saying, "Hey, that's really good CGI!" In rewatching Jaws, it was refreshing to go back to the beginning and see some real shark footage with a real big mechanical shark. No, it doesn't look completely real - the scenes where he pops out of the water and is chomping his teeth looks kind of hokey - but it's certainly effective enough.

And the fact that the movie was actually all shot on the ocean, not in a big tank, really helps with the look and feel of the story. Three guys trapped on this tiny boat determined to kill a vicious great white, who is equally determined to kill them as well. Although from a filmmaking standpoint, it was kind of a stupid idea to try to shoot the movie on the ocean. You can't control the water or the weather. But obviously it all worked out, and now Jaws is one of the most classic horror films in history.

Jaws 2 (1978)
Of course there was going to be a sequel! The first summer blockbuster EVER that also scared out the shit out of an entire nation from going into the water comes back for more with this sequel. Sadly, Richard Dreyfuss does not return with it. But oh well.

Jaws 2 is a solid sequel, and one of the best things about it is that they don't hide the shark from us as long as they did in the first one. After the initial attack on the divers at the Orca wreck, there is a spectacular attack on a water skier  and their boat, with fire and explosion. This must have mightily pissed off Jaws, Jr. because after that, he goes on a kind of rampage. In fact, the shark attacks about three times as many boats and people in this movie, with the climax on a group of teens (including Brody's two children) stranded in the waters on their sailboats.

I looked this one up and it seems that at the time this was the highest grossing sequel until The Empire Strikes Back, and I can see why. It truly feels like an extension of the first one, with a different group of potential victims in a much more precarious situation. It takes a little while to get to the awesome conclusion of Brody killing the shark with an underwater power line, though. The film runs just as long as the original, and yet it feels a little longer.

People have criticized the annoying teenagers presented in Jaws 2 but I don't particularly agree. They were smart, knew what they were doing, and were genuinely concerned with the others' safety, leaving nobody behind. The mayor and other town selectmen are still douches and haven't learned their lesson. But no one actually saw the shark attack anybody in this film, so they at least had reason to doubt Brody. The bitches didn't have to fire him, though. Kind of harsh.

The shark effects are about the same from the first one, although at times this one seemed a little too smooth and rubbery. He has a lot more screen time and gives a wonderfully menacing performance, with a great death scene. Although does anybody really believe that Brody could have made it through that unscathed? The shark is being electrocuted and on fire and Brody is on his little raft RIGHT THERE. Yet nothing seems to touch him. I call shenanigans. Anyway, good sequel! On to number 3...

Jaws 3 (1983)
Mike and Sean Brody are all growed up now, and Mike is in charge of the construction of Sea World's new Undersea Kingdom in Florida. Apparently time moves much quicker in the Jaws world because it's only been five years since the second movie and both Mike and Sean seem to have aged at least 10 years.

A baby great white sneakily infiltrates the lagoon of the park and wreaks a little havoc. It is Bess Armstrong's brilliant idea to capture the shark and make it the park's biggest attraction (I love the sign leading to the shark pen - "Come see the great white sh sh Shark!"). However, the baby soon dies and the discovery of the body of one of the park's workers leads them to figure out that big mamma shark is also trapped in the park.

There's a pretty good cast in this film - Bess Armstrong, Dennis Quaid as Mike Brody, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Lea Thompson. And they do a fine job; too bad they didn't have a good story to back them up. Jaws 3 starts out okay with a new location and everything, but soon steeps into ridiculousness when reaching the climax.

Perhaps the effects might have been good in true 3D, but in boring ol' 2D they are simply laughable. I especially like the part where Mike and Katherine are in the yellow sub and you can see where the green screen effect fizzles out on the bottom part of the sub. The mamma shark is relatively well done, but she doesn't do a whole heck of a lot in this film. She swims reallllllly slowly and is not nearly scary enough, although she is pretty big. The other 3D effects are way too obvious and only succeed in making the film more humorous, which I'm sure was not the filmmakers' intentions.

In the climax, the plan is to capture mamma in the filtration pipe where she was first hiding (you know, the place Mike said they didn't need to look in the first place - the Way to Go Award goes to you, Brody!) by using that annoying FitzRoyce guy as bait. Bait he is, indeed, for mamma DOES follow him into the pipe and then proceeds to heartily munch on him. Good job. But I kind of liked this scene because they show FitzRoyce still alive inside her mouth as she's chomping away at him. Anyway, for some reason Louis Gossett, Jr. tells one of the operators to turn the filtration pump off - while Dennis Quaid is in the water - which allows the shark to escape by swimming backwards out of the pipe.

Did you catch that? THE SHARK SWIMS BACKWARDS OUT OF THE PIPE. Sharks cannot swim backwards. Big IMDb mistake right there, people, big one. Then after she attacks the observation window (which looks like it was made out of really thin glass by how easily it breaks), Brody sees that somebody's arm is inside her mouth, holding a grenade. He gets a pipe and manages to hook the ring to set off the grenade. Really? I throw my hands up. I'm done. Sucky sequel.

Thank gosh the dolphins survived, though. Then I'd really have some mean things to say about the movie :).

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Just when you thought you were safe from another crappy sequel ...
... here comes Jaws: The Revenge.

Wow. You want to talk about bad script-writing, I've got the winner right here. The youngest Brody, Sean, is now a deputy with the Amity Police. One night, he is killed by a shark. Mike comes home and convinces his mother, Ellen, to return with him to the Caribbean where he now lives and works. It seems like all the great whites in the world have some kind of grudge against the Brodys, because the one that killed Sean has followed Ellen and Mike to the Bahamas (???????????????) and seeks to kill just about every member of the Brody family, including Mike's daughter, Thea.

I really don't know what to say about this movie. After Sean is killed, Ellen starts raving about how the shark came after him on purpose, for revenge, as I guess the title suggests. Huh? For what? The shark that Martin killed in the first movie? Or the other movies? Is this a baby shark that saw its mommy killed? Just what the hell are they trying to say???? But it appears that Ellen might be right. The shark continually appears out of freaking nowhere with no provocation wherever one of the Brodys happens to be. Sean is trying to free a log from a buoy, and the shark attacks. Mike and his partner Jake are tracking snails underwater, and the shark attacks. Thea takes a ride on a banana boat, and the shark attacks. It's all completely ridiculous. The writers were sure smoking some good stuff helming this movie.

There were some, um, interesting sepia-toned flashbacks to the first film. How Ellen could have flashbacks of things she never saw happen is anybody's guess. I did like the cute scene of Mike and his daughter imitating each other like he did with his own father in the original film, but that's about the only thing I found endearing in this piece of poop. Michael Caine's infatuation with Ellen was kind of creepy and out of place, and for some reason Mike doesn't trust the guy and thinks he has some sort of secret life because of how he keeps going away. I don't know where this development came from. We also have a hilariously bad performance by the stereotypical island dude with dreds, Jake. "Is alright, mon, we in da Bahamas! No big fish gonna eat us here!" Oh, help me. Help me, PLEASE!

I gotta say that the shark looks better than he/she ever has in any of the Jaws films. Good effects work, bad carry-through. He gets the stupidest death scene ever when Ellen pokes him with the broken piece of the boat. Hm. That's it, the end. Did I mention how they ended up on Mike and Jake's boat in the first place? It's really a scene of cinematic marvel. After a girl is eaten off of the banana boat Thea was on, Ellen decides she's going to go after the shark in a boat. Mike comes home, finds out what happened and he, Jake, and Hoagie (Michael Caine) take Hoagie's plane to find Ellen. They find her, just when the shark has figured out what boat Ellen is on (he's after her, you know) and they land the plane in the water. The shark then attacks and sinks the plane. Yup, that's what happens. Now, what exactly was Ellen's plan in the first place? She just takes the boat out to find the shark. Yeah... and then what, sweetheart? Planning on killing it? How? When the shark is coming at her boat from behind, she says something stupid like, "Come and get me, you bastard." Did she even have a gun or anything that she was planning to kill the shark with? No. She stands aside and is all surprised when the shark attacks.

I'm shaking my head over this movie. I don't know who read this script and thought, hell yeah! That is some goshdarn good writing! How come no one thought of this before?? BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING RETARDED.

So that's the Jaws Marathon! Two thumbs up for Jaws and Jaws 2, two big fat raspberries for Jaws 3 and Jaws: The Revenge!


  1. I had an argument the other day with some movie buffs about Jaws....
    They maintained that it was the greatest horror movie of all-time, and I made the mistake of saying that it's not really "horror." Woops.

    In the end, I had to conceded the argument to them. Jaws rules.

  2. Another great write up. I heart Jaws! And your blog!

  3. I pretty much agree with all of your Jaws-reviews. 1 & 2 great, 3 lame and 4... no comment.

  4. I still love Jaws too. And I agree that one of the reasons it's so timeless is the awesome cast. They truly are one of the great threesomes in movie history. It was fun to see Matt Hooper turn up again in the beginning of PIRANHA (which ended up being pretty good after I was so dubious about it).

    It sounds like you love shark movies as much as me. Have you heard of the upcoming Aussie shark thriller THE REEF? Looks like it could be a good one.

  5. @Andrew - I used to not really think that Jaws was horror, too, but it definitely has all the elements of a horror film.

    @Michael - Thanks so much! Do you have a blog, too? I'd love to read it.

    @Maynard - No doubt... I still can't figure out where the hell the fourth one came from. From hell, probably.

    @Aylmer - Oh my gosh, I seriously spazzed out when I saw Dreyfuss at the beginning of Piranha 3D. Awwwwwwesome. And it turned out to be a terrific movie; I really didn't have any doubts about that one. How could a movie about man-eating piranha NOT be great??
    Mmm, I do love shark movies. The Reef looks okay, maybe a little less boring than Open Water.

  6. hehe, definitely :-)

    btw: if you love shark flicks, then you immediately have to watch the kinda-Italo-sequel "THE LAST JAWS", one helluva enjoyable trashfest!

  7. Loved Jaws 1&2, hated Jaws 3, and Jaws 4, well there is certainly a reason why that film went down as one of the worst sequels of all time (although have to say, some of the attack/death scenes in 4 were pretty decent). I think the idea of a Shark following the Brody family wore thin after the second. Amity having a huge Shark problem and it just going for anyone would have been better in all the sequels. Really enjoyed your blog, was laughing at a lot you wrote, very entertaining read and a good post