THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
written by Dominick Cappello
Stephen Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975) is an undisputed masterpiece based on the acclaimed novel by Peter Benchley – a classic film and one which the sequel couldn’t disappoint. Anyone who tells you that they weren’t unnerved by “Jaws” has to be unconscious above the neck. Heck, some people are still afraid to go in the water after all these years. “Jaws 2” had a lot to live up to but can now be seen to be an underrated film.
John Williams’ contributions truly lived up to his timeless score for the original film and is one of the highlights of the sequel, enriching the experience and adding a great amount of depth to the oceanic adventure sequel.
The opening scene features two scuba divers coming upon the shipwrecked Orca, the fishing boat from the first film captained by Robert Shaw’s salty character, Quint. A fantastic way of tying the two films together. The scuba divers are attacked and their shrieks of terror were recycled from when Matt Hooper was attacked in the anti-shark cage.
Roy Scheider reprised his role as Chief Martin Brody and gave a great performance. Roy Scheider’s portrayal of a man who has been traumatized is for me the highlight of the film, among it’s strongest merits. It is an authentic performance and I have found even the film’s naysayers are powerless to disagree with me as to Scheider’s impeccable work..
It’s business as usual for Chief Brody until the great white shark attacks a jet-skier. The filmmakers display oft-unregarded details in their universe: a flare-gun blast to the face during the attack – images which provide the coverart for the VHS – scar the face of the shark in question for the duration of the film and make a distinguishable villain.
While the audience awaits a shark jump-scare, the burnt remains of a woman shock the audience while Chief Brody searches through driftwood; one of the film’s most effective jump scares. Agonizing over the thought of another ferrocius facetious villain terrorizing Amity Island, Chief Brody dips his bullets in cyanide, which was a tickling notion for us shark-detesting audience members. You go, Chief Brody! Survive another film!
Jaws is a classic film starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss as they battle a 25 foot long, man-eating, great white shark. Just like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), the shark from “Jaws” is a summertime monster, so you don’t have to wait until Halloween season to have some fun being scared. Sure, we’ve all seen “Jaws” countless times and probably don’t find it too scary anymore because we know all of the dialogue and exactly when the shark will appear, but who wasn’t terrified upon their first viewing?
The film led to a franchise, but the three sequels are unanimously considered to be inferior to the original. Jeannot Szwarc helmed the film after Stephen Spielberg declined to return. John Williams again provided the score. Roy Scheider returned, being contractually obligated to do so.
A few quick shots of the new great white shark let the audience know that this film won’t be quite as subtle as the original since the shark wasn’t seen at all during the opening skinny-dipping scene from the first film.
Our main character loses his job after discharging his weapon on a public beach. Then, while suffering from a hangover, he must save his two sons and a group of teenagers who are left disabled and adrift after being attacked by the shark. This was before the slasher movie craze of the 1980s, so teenagers in peril was novel at the time. The most recognizable teenager is Keith Gordon, who went on to star in John Carpenter’s “Christine” (1983) and direct several episodes of “Dexter” (2006 – 2013). The shark attacks a coast guard helicopter attempting a rescue. There was more footage of the helicopter pilot after being capsized, but it was cut from the film and I’m not sure why. It looked pretty cool based on the DVD special features.
The film ends with Chief Brody electrocuting the shark with an underwater cable. It was nowhere near as memorable as him shooting the oxygen tank in the original film’s climax, but it was still decent and way better than what occurred in the next two sequels. So, overall, I rank “Jaws 2” with “Ghostbusters 2” (1989) and “Predator 2” (1990) as sequels that are obviously not as epic as their predecessors, but deserve more respect than they usually garner.
Research indicates “Jaws” was and is a pop culture phenomenon. It influenced many other films, so as with most sequels to blockbusters, there was a struggle to keep the material fresh after the imitators had already gone to the well once too often.
At one point in “Jaws 2,” a killer whale is found dead on a beach. Perhaps as an answer to “Orca” (1977), a film which starred Richard Harris and was a blatant retread of “Jaws,” that even depicted a killer whale decimating a great white shark. I’ve always fixated on this particular scene and my own unique conspiracy theory. After the mega-success of “Jaws,” there were a whole bunch knockoffs, including “Piranha” (1978), directed by Joe Dante, and “Grizzly” (1976). Perhaps human filmmakers thought it impossible for a movie about a bear to be a copy of a movie about a shark, but “Grizzly” somehow managed to be one. “Orca” and “Piranha” are the much more obvious knockoffs because of their aquatic settings. Orca was of course the name of the fishing boat in “Jaws.” I suppose that Quint saw himself as the shark’s only true natural predator. It was like the filmmakers responsible for “Orca” were challenging “Jaws” to a showdown. Now, the “Jaws” franchise needed to put “Orca” in its place by including the dead whale scene. Looking back, the inclusion of the killer whale is also a weird precursor to “Jaws 3-D” (1983), when a 35 foot great white invades Sea World, but more on that at another time.
Jump scares are considered to a cheap ploy on the part of filmmakers, but as long as the whole movie isn’t built around jump scares, I find them to be acceptable. Now one would ever accuse “Halloween” (1978) of being cheap for having jump scares. There is one jump scare in “Jaws 2” that I would actually fast forward past on the VHS when I was younger. It was the scene where the lobster fisherman swims into the path of the great white. Sure, it has no real affect on me now, but jolted me back then. However, I wasn’t too invested when the shark attacked Tina’s Joy. I really don’t care if the hot blonde’s boyfriend gets eaten. Also, when the boyfriend is pulled down into the water, he breaks off a piece of the boat that seemed to have been pre-broken. Has anyone else besides me watched this movie enough times to have noticed that?
Jeffrey Kramer, who played the deputy in the first two “Jaws” film, had a bit role as a coroner in “Halloween II” (1981), which co-starred Lance Guest as a paramedic. Lance Guest later starred in “Jaws: The Revenge” as Michael Brody. Stuntman Dick Warlock doubled for Richard Dreyfuss in “Jaws” and played Michael Myers in “Halloween II.” So, there is a bit of an odd connection between Michael Myers and the great white shark. Director Jeannot Szwarc went on to make “Somewhere In Time” (1980), which starred Christopher Reeve. But, when Jeannot Szwarc made “Supergirl” (1984), Christopher Reeve refused to make a cameo as the Man of Steel, so sadly there’s less of a connection between Jaws and Superman.
My determination is that the film might appeal most to those who enjoy describing films as “guilty pleasures”. The “Jaws” franchise had its own E! True Hollywood Story. Richard Dreyfuss compared “Jaws 2” to falling down a flight of stairs. He is an amusing and self-aware human.
What fool responsible – screenwriter or producer or otherwise – chose to base this despicable cash-in enterprise on the single most boring character while removing the more nuanced and interesting survivor of Jaws 1 is beyond me.
What really destroys “Jaws 2” the most was the absence of Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper. Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, and Jeffrey Kramer were atrocious and boring. The film lacks a bounciness, there wasn’t anyone for Roy Scheider to play off of when he went searching for his missing sons. No one for him to exchange banter with, no grit. One of the main reasons for the success of the first film was the chemistry between the three protagonists. It took their trinity to match wits with the cunning great white shark. In the sequel, however, Chief Brody went out on a small boat, yelled into a radio, and muttered to himself. Oh, how riveting.
A studio executive wanted Ellen Brody to accompany her husband when he battled the shark because actress Lorraine Gary was his wife and he wanted her to have more screen time. Thankfully someone with half a brain prevented that garbage from being filmed until “Jaws: The Revenge” (1987) when they ran out of ideas or just lost the ability to plug up the crud. The teenage characters were so lacking in personalitya as to basically be less interesting than undisturbed water. There was no development beyond who was crushing on who. So, it was like a slasher flick, but the worst type of slasher flick. You didn’t care if the teenagers got eaten by the shark and since only two of them did get eaten, you couldn’t even enjoy watching some gruesome death scenes as a conciliation. Everyone knowns the film is bound to be quality when the screenplay goes through many drafts and was not even finished when production started.
Richard Dreyfuss wasn’t much but at least he provided a sense of unfamiliarity and blissful gloom to the first Jaws – and the filmmakers here tried to replicate that and failed miserably because Roy Schieder couldn’t operate alone. There was a female marine biologist in one scene, but there should have been another marine biologist who stuck around and supported Chief Brody when the town elders shunned him. This hypothetical thirty-something male character, perhaps a protégé of Matt Hooper, could’ve bridged the gap between the teenagers and middle aged actors, and given Chief Brody someone to interact with in act three. Heck, I would’ve settled for Chief Brody bringing some of his hapless deputies with him. Stephen Spielberg struck the right cord in the original film by having the first half build suspense and develop the characters, then the second half was all about the thrilling shark hunt. In the sequel, it took about and hour and twenty minutes for Chief Brody to finally hop on a boat and go after the shark. This film dragged its feet.
My real gripe with the direction of Jeannot Szwarc was that the shark appeared too many times. I wanted there to be more shark action, but for the filmmakers to be creative and not showcase the mechanical shark. What you don’t see is scarier than what you do see. Jeannot Szwarc reasoned that it was pointless to hide the shark since everyone knew from the original film what it looked like. That is why they gave the shark a scar, so to give it some character. Tthe shark looked phony; less would have been more. There is one scene in particular, when Michael Brody is unconscious and bobbing in the water, where the shark’s upper jaw collapses inwards. So, all of a sudden, it looked like the shark was hair-lipped. Also, all of the underwater live shark footage by Ron and Valerie Taylor seemed to have been lazily recycled from the original film.
This was unnecessary sequel from a creative standpoint, but a cash grab on the part of the studio. I highly recommend the film be put in a shark tank in shark-infested waters, with popcorn and shark-seats – enabling shark-kind to share in the poor quality before evicerating every last trace of the movie.