(Netflix Streaming, April 2017) If the original Jaws was at the top of good movies and Jaws 2 is at the bottom of good movies, then Jaws 3-D is at the top of bad movies (and I’m told that Jaws: The Revenge lies at the bottom of bad movies.) It dull, gimmicky, familiar, forgettable and not terribly interesting. Whatever interest the basic theme-park premise might have held in 1983 (and I suspect that even then, people made comparison to Westworld) is completely gone now that other movies (Piranha 3D and 3DD, cough-cough) have more or less recycled the premise. We know what’s in store: big shark, multiple deaths and a plucky hero saving the day (this time with a grenade). The addition of 3D elements (since Jaws 3-D came out in the middle of the early-1980s 3D revival) is often ridiculous seen on a flat screen, clearly showing the technical and artistic limits of the approach at the time. It’s sort of fun to see a young Dennis Quaid thrown in the mess, but that doesn’t really make the film any better. Se it if you must, but you may not remember it the day after—there’s not much of interest here.
(Netflix Streaming, April 2017) It would be easy to be too hard on Jaws 2 for not being as good as its predecessor. But given that the predecessor was one of the most famous movies of its era, helmed by a young and hungry Steven Spileberg, it’s not a dishonor to say that Jaws 2 is merely a competent blockbuster film. It doesn’t mess with the formula set by the first movie, what with its sadistic shark steadily cranking up the death count, and a third act largely set on water. There’s a nearly-interesting bit about Roy Scheider’s character being driven mad by the same situation happening all over again, but that’s largely avoided in the last third of the film. Less interesting is the film’s insistence on featuring teenage characters as protagonists and shark chum—part of the first film’s appeal was its adult nature, and targeting it to teenagers does smack of commercialism. Even as a step down, though, Jaws 2 holds up decently today. Cut away some of the dumbest, most overdone sequences (including the final shark fry, but also the shark-versus-helicopter moment) and it’s still a reasonably good blockbuster film. Ultimately, though, it avoid greatness, and that’s part of the game in coming up with a sequel.
(Second viewing, Netflix Streaming, April 2017) When people point to Jaws reprovingly as the one movie that changed cinema (for the worse) ever after by introducing the concept of the blockbuster, I usually have to smile. I was born almost exactly three months after Jaws’ release date, and for a cinephile such as myself it feels amusing to think that my year of birth was the year that cinema changed. Après moi le deluge, or something like it. Still: Jaws is Jaws, the very definition of an iconic film, from its musical theme to the poster image to a handful of classic quotes and shots. As an action movie, Jaws shows its age, but as a suspense film, Steven Spielberg still knocks it out of the park—and that’s still true even after four decades of shark movies inevitably compared to granddaddy Jaws. Rob Scheider is the likable everyday man, while Richard Dreyfuss turns in a likable performance as a dedicated scientist. Jaws has the added particularity of having very distinct halves—the last act dispenses with nearly everything coastal to focus on three men in a boat and a shark around them. It still works. It really still works: the terror of the shark is still visceral, and the joy in which the final explosion is greeted rivals the Death Star’s explosion in Star Wars. It’s a compulsively entertaining crowd pleaser, but it’s also crafted with care, and reflects the mid-seventies in a way that seems almost quirky today. As a kid, I remember being half-terrified by the film’s occasional showings on TV—I don’t remember much of the rest of the film, although I do note that its original PG rating is ridiculous—it’s at least a PG-13 now, bordering on R due to gore. But no matter how you see it, Jaws remains a great movie.