Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3, Jaws The Revenge (1974, 1978, 1983, 1986)
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc, Joe Alves, Joseph Sargent, Steven Spielberg
Starring: Bes Armstrong, Dennis Quaid, Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine, Murrray Hamilton, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider
With Jaws back in cinemas today, Doc takes a look back at the whole franchise. You won’t want to go swimming in the water for a long long time…….
A young woman named Chrissie Watkins leaves an evening beach party on New England’s Amity Island to go skinny dipping in the sea, only to be killed by something that may be a shark. Amity’s police chief Martin Brody, who is scared of the water anyway, wants to close the beaches but is overruled by Mayor Larry Vaughan, who fears that reports of a shark attack will ruin the summer tourist season, the town’s primary source of income. The medical examiner consequently attributes the death to a boating accident and Brody reluctantly goes along with the explanation. A short time later, a boy is killed by a shark at the beach. The boy’s mother places a bounty on the shark, sparking an amateur shark-hunting frenzy and attracting the attention of local professional shark hunter Quint. Marine biologist Matt Hooper examines Chrissie’s remains and determines that she was unquestionably killed by a shark………
I will never forget the first time I saw Jaws . It was late 1978, and my mother and stepfather had just seen Jaws 2. As Jaws 2 was deemed not too scary, they decided to take me to a re-release of the first movie. It was only the second film I had seen at the cinema and I was on edge throughout, except for the moment I jumped out of my seat and screamed out loud at the shock cut to the head of the dead man underwater. You have to remember that I hadn’t seen many films of any kind up to then, and certainly none of an even slight horror element. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most memorable times in my cinema-going history and I can remember bits of it like yesterday. Jaws is one of those films that seems to be remembered with almost total fondness. Even though there had been many ‘mega-hits’ before, Jaws is regarded as the first modern-style blockbuster, with mass marketing supporting an easily digestable ‘high concept’. It’s also regarded as still one of the best, and for once I just about agree with the majority view. I say ‘just about’, because for me Steven Spielberg’s best work is Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, his ultimate masterpiece. Nonetheless, I don’t think he never quite matched neither that movie nor Jaws, and there is no doubt that Jaws is one of those films that is hard to find flaws in. It has that elusive magic that every now and again will touch a film and make it more than the sum of its parts. And it’s certainly the best possible picture you could make from the concept of ‘shark eats people and men hunt it’.
Jaws originated as a novel by Peter Benchley, who wrote three drafts, each one removing more ‘fat’ from the book, most notably Hooper having an affair with Brody’s wife. It was Carl Gottlieb who became the primary screenwriter though various contributions came from others all throughout production. In fact Richard Dreyfuss, who played Hooper, stated; “we started the film without a script, without a cast, and without a shark”, summing up the haphazard way in which the film was made. The shoot went way over budget, way over time [planned shooting period was 55 days, actual shooting period was 159 days], and problems of every conceivable kind occurred, from sinking boats to Dreyfuss being trapped in the underwater cage to Robert Shaw getting blind drunk at every opportunity. Most notably, the mechanical sharks kept malfunctioning, forcing Spielberg to show the creature far less than he intended. This probably helped the film. Still, on average, only four hours out of a twelve hour day were normally spent actually filming.
Rumours persist that the initial cut was a boring mess and the film was rescued by Verna Fields in the editing room, though the deleted scenes that survive are mostly pointless and uninteresting extentions of existing scenes [though Shaw has a nice little scene in a fisherman’s shop]. A version which was six minutes longer was shown on US TV with these scenes put back in. Spielberg was happy he had one huge ‘scream’ moment at the eighty minute mark when the shark jumps out of the water, but wanted another, so he added that head in the water which made me jump those many years ago. Interestingly, test results showed that the shark moment was less effective second time round, because people had already had one ‘scream’ , and were more ready for another one. An interesting example of both the attitudes and often the results of modern ‘blockbuster’ filmmaking which continues to this day. Still, Jaws was a phenomena, though its success wasn’t entirely beneficial. Sharks, especially great whites, began to be hunted and killed off in far greater numbers than before.
Viewing Jaws again, it seems odd that so few films before it, or at least few films of much quality, had exploited the sheer terrifying aspects of a shark, because it seems so obvious. The fin in the water, the fact they make virtually no noise, the simply evil face which looks like it was designed to kill, those soulless eyes; they are incredibly scary. The first half of Jaws alternates shark attack scenes, often shot from the shark’s point of view, with slower, more talky sequences. Of course the opening scene, which is [probably deliberately] reminiscent of The Creature From The Black Lagoon in the slightly sexual way the victim’s swim is shot, is superb, but for me it’s beaten by the scene a bit later on the beach where, for what seems like an eternity, we see the people playing, and we see Brody looking out to the sea for any signs of the shark. The camera often keeps a cool distance, and yet the almost casual suspense is incredible, comparable I think to Gary Grant on the highway in North By Northwest. There’s a superb little bit of business where people pass Brody and each time his face is closer to the camera, visualizing his emotions. You actually want something horrid to happen, to see a glimmer of a fin, to hear a scream, but of course don’t want it at the same time. When it finally occurs, Brody’s feeling is shown by the camera zooming on Brody while the background zooms out at the same time, a trick borrowed from Vertigo [well, Hitchcock is evoked throughout the film].
The whole thing about trying to stop people going into the water by closing the beach, though commenting on the arrogance, greed and insensitivity of political figures in the shape of Mayor Larry Vaughn, is actually a bit silly and pointless; surely it would be easier just to tell them there is a shark out there? You could also maybe say that Jaws is a little too heavy on the chit-chat compared to what it would be today. I could maybe have done with a little less footage of people massing about on the harbour, but I like the way the camera often stays far away, like an observer. Watching one scene of some people crossing the harbour on a boat, I kept thinking how differently said scene would be shot now, with lots of cross-cutting and close-ups, and how it wouldn’t have made it any better. The way the dialogue is messy and often barely audible, with people trying to say things at the same time, helps give proceedings a kind of realism, and ‘character’ scenes which would probably be cut if the film was made today, constantly remind us that Jaws is for adults. Yes, kids, if they’re brave enough, get enough shark thrills to take them through the ‘boring’ bits, but first and foremost it is an adult film. It doesn’t talk down to its audience, it never feels it has to ‘dumb down’, yet neither does it give in to sentimentality. The silent scene where Brody’s son copies what he does at the table is one of the most touching scenes between a father and a child in cinema, and yet it’s low-key, almost casual.
That was actually improvised, as were some other great moments like the “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” line and the aftermath of the famous ‘Indianapolis’ speech, Jaws’s most famous dialogue scene, on the boat where he, Hooper and Brody are hunting the shark. Quint describes how he was on a ship which was sunk and most of the crew were eaten by sharks [actually a true event, and something that would make a great film in its own right]. The writing of the scene is a source of controversy, with it usually being attributed to John Milius, but with several others taking claim for it, including Robert Shaw himself. Whatever, it’s brilliantly delivered by Shaw who shows what a fine and underused actor he was, though there are other parts of that whole sequence I love more, like Quint and Hooper comparing injuries [how many times has this been copied and parodied?], and Hooper crushing his Styrofoam cup in response to Quint crushing his beer can. I almost wish there had been even more time spent with these three guys, alone on the boat.
However, there is a shark to catch, and the second half, though set mostly on the boat, still delivers all the thrills and spills you want. Hooper in the underwater cage is still a hair-raising sequence and all the more so for being mainly shot with a stuntman and a real shark. I will admit that, towards the end, where ‘Bruce’ [as they called him, though others were used too], the mechanical shark, is shown, the result is not too convincing, but, you know what, I doubt it would look much better if done with CGI, which, as I’ve said in previous reviews, often looks very fake indeed to me. The brief gore effects such as Quint’s leg being bitten into as he is eaten and an arm floating in the water still look fine, which brings me to the question of how the hell this film got a ‘PG’? It would soon become a normal thing for Spielberg to get material into a ‘PG’ which other directors wouldn’t have a hope in hell of doing. Interestingly it is now a ‘12A’ for its re-release, a rare occasion where I agree with the BBFC!
The three main stars play their parts brilliantly; Roy Scheider as a quintessential, Hitchcockian everyman caught up in terror, Dreyfuss as a scientist who is not at all nerdy or self-righteous, and Shaw as a modern day Captain Ahab in a film that could almost be called Moby Dick meets An Enemy Of The People, though that of course is doing it an injustice! Of course I cannot finish this review without mentioning John Williams’s iconic music, with its menacing two note theme that Spielberg initially rejected, but the whole score is a masterpiece, ranging from low-range, menacing atonality to jaunty sea shanty-type music which, far from being out of place, enhances the optimistic feel of the film. This film is already full of the Spielberg trademarks but has a maturity about it that actually makes it seem like a film he would make in his later years, not his earlier ones. My personal view about Jaws is that it is just a notch or two below being one of the greatest films, and yet, as I said above, I cannot really think how it could have been better.
ORDER OF SERIES IN TERMS OF QUALITY
1/ Jaws Rating:
Four years after the events of Jaws, Saif Adris Khan is opening a new resort in Amity to attract people. Two divers are photographing the wreck of the Orca, Quint’s boat, when they are suddenly killed by another large great white shark, though not before one of them has photographed its eye. After another death and a dead killer whale is found beached with wounds all over its body, Police Chief Martin Brody is convinced another shark is on the loose, but Mayor Vaughn refuses to believe him. Brody stops Mike from sailing and, when he mistakes a school of bluefish for a shark, causes a panic on the beach. Despite now having the photograph of the shark’s eye as proof, none of the members of the town council believe him and he is fired from his position, just when Mike and some other teenagers decide to go sailing……
They were really brave by making Jaws 2 , to be honest. Though it was a production that was bound to make money, its predecessor was so good that in terms of sheer quality they were asking for trouble. There was no way they could really match it. Taken on its own Jaws 2 is a solid, entertaining movie, and I think the fact that it’s such a drop from Jaws has caused it to be underrated somewhat. It doesn’t seem they were trying to match the first film. All they were trying to do was make a similar but simpler, lighter, more kid-friendly [I suppose one could use the term “dumbed down”, but that does the movie a disservice] variation on it. In that, they certainly succeeded. Jaws 2 is a mostly well acted, technically proficient, well paced and often exciting movie, and actually for younger viewers and those out for some mindless shark thrills, it might be more appealing, as in this one you certainly see the mechanical fake animal throughout!
Jaws 2 was an even more troubled production than Jaws, and it’s a wonder that it turned out as well as it did. Originally it was to be a prequel about the sinking of the Indianapolis and Spielberg actually wrote a script, but he couldn’t shoot for another year due to making Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. John D.Hancock began shooting with a script by Howard Sackler, with alterations by Hancock’s wife Dorothy Tristan. With Amity as a rundown, virtual ghost town, the Mafia, and lots of gore, this looked to be as intelligent as, and darker than, Jaws, but the studio wanted a lighter, brighter film, so Hancock was replaced by Jeannot Szwarc and Carl Gottlieb asked to return to rewrite the script. Roy Scheider returned as Brody but hated doing the film and rowed with Szwarc constantly, while, again, the mechanical sharks were a nightmare. Eventually costing three times the amount of Jaws, Jaws 2 came out amidst a wave of publicity and merchandise and quickly became the highest grossing sequel to that date. As with Jaws, a slightly longer version was shown on US TV with some deleted scenes restored, most notably the shark attacking the helicopter pilot and two extra bits involving the town council. It’s also worth mentioning that a version of Jaws 2 was once shown on Irish TV with a shot that has never been officially shown elsewhere, where you see one of the girls, Marge, inside the shark’s mouth.
So what we basically have is a film which is partly a semi-remake of Jaws but which is also partly more of a teen horror movie, closer to something like a slasher film at sea. The opening scene is actually very clever in the way it plays on audiences memory of the original picture’s beginning. Two divers are swimming underwater and John William’s atmospheric music, with nice use of a harp, emphasises both the beauty and the mystery of underwater, but not menace and horror for a few minutes, until suddenly the famous two-note theme kicks in, though faster and somewhat lighter, and the divers are killed. This time there is no blood though, in fact Jaws 2 has hardly any of the red stuff at all and just one good shock, a bit where Brody ventures out from the beach to a wreck and is greeted by a burnt corpse. I sometimes think if Jaws 2 would have benefitted from exploiting its slasher film aspects such as going for the gore and having the teens do more with each other than chat each other up, and I reckon the studio would have done this if it had been made a couple of years later when Halloween and Friday The 13th had both been smash hits.
Never mind, Jaws 2 trudges along in its pleasant way and never really makes any major mistakes, though it annoyingly introduces its teenagers near the beginning and then all but forgets about them until half way through when they set out on their foolish boat adventure. It’s also ridiculous how no one believes Brody second time round, even the Mayor, who was around when the first shark was eating his people. Roy Scheider though is excellent in these scenes; in fact, he’s terrific in the whole movie, with the absence of Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss not leaving too much of a hole because it allows Scheider to shine and boy he certainly does. It’s a mark of his professionalism that his unhappiness during the shoot doesn’t affect his performance. He is wonderfully warm in the scenes with his wife, which may slow the film down for some but pleasingly show a marriage in a film of this type that is love-filled and not beset with problems.
As before, the first half has a few shark attack scenes before revving it up for the second half, though the intensity of the previous film is only occasionally reached. Szwarc refuses to copy Spielberg very much and manages to use to his advantage the decision to show the shark throughout by filming some scenes behind or even on the animal. It’s quite exhilarating being, or being right behind, the shark at times, though it does mean one is less scared. There are also some great aerial shots which show the sheer size of the beast. An early attack where the boat explodes is very well edited and one scene where a girl is in a boat and her boyfriend is in the water desperately trying to swim to her, replete with the girl screaming at him, has a real edge to it. You still see the shark from the front an awful lot, though him having a burned face helps things a little, and I do think it looks slightly better than before. We do, though, finally arrive at the point where the series officially gets silly when the shark capsizes a helicopter. Still, they did well keeping things believable up to now. The climax is well worked out and even clever in the way the shark is dispatched, but just isn’t quite as thrilling as it should be.
Besides Scheider, the performances are mostly fine, with Murray Hamilton and Joseph Mascolo appropriately sneaky as the Mayor and the real estate developer Len Peterson [has there ever been a nice real estate developer in a film?], though it would not be till the fourth film that Lorraine Gary’s character Ellen Brody would get some real development [and we all know how that turned……damn, I’m getting ahead of myself!]. The teen actors fare okay but are not characterised enough for us to care about them. A highlight of Jaws 2 is the fabulous score by John Williams. He brings back his main theme from Jaws but uses it less and gives it differing variations, while overall following the tone of the film by giving the score a sunnier feel, with some great jaunty pieces for the teenagers sailing and some beautiful underwater music. While Jaws 2 is a pale shadow of Jaws if you watch one movie after the other as I have just done, its score is in my opinion a better musical work and superbly played too [now where’s the complete soundtrack release somebody?]. Overall I do like Jaws 2 quite a bit, it’s a relaxing, pleasant watch and it has enough good qualities to justify its existence…though I think I would like it even more if it wasn’t related to Jaws at all!
ORDER OF SERIES IN TERMS OF QUALITY
1/ Jaws Rating:
2/ Jaws 2 Rating:
A great white shark follows some water skiers into Florida’s SeaWorld and throws the gate off its rails while it is closing. Meanwhile the opening of SeaWorld’s new underwater tunnels is announced. Katherine “Kay” Morgan, the senior marine biologist, and her assistants wonder why the dolphins, Cindy and Sandy, are so afraid of leaving their dolphin pen. A mechanic trying to repair the gate and two coral stealers are killed, whereupon Kay and her boyfriend Michael Brody go underwater to investigate. They are attacked by the shark but then saved by the dolphins. The news of the shark is not believed by Calvin Bouchard, the SeaWorld park manager, although it’s exciting to his hunter friend, Phillip FitzRoyce, who states his intention to kill the shark on network television. Kay protests, arguing that while killing the shark would be good for one headline, capturing and keeping a great white shark alive in captivity would guarantee TV crews and money constantly rolling into SeaWorld……..
The general opinion about Jaws 3 is that it is a very poor outing indeed, but I don’t really agree with that. As entertainment I enjoy it almost as Jaws 2 and it certainly wins points for being a bit different to the first two films. The location has changed and the story rings some changes on the premise, though of course upon watching it monster movie fans will immediately recognise that the plot is really a combination of The Creature Walks Among Us, where The Creature From The Black Lagoon is captured and taken to a Florida theme park, and Gorgo, where a Godzilla – type creature is captured and taken to London, only for its mother to come along to save it [Gorgo itself was copied by the Japanese movie Gappa The Triphibian Monster]. There are also similarities [especially the climax] to The Last Shark, an 1981 Italian picture which Universal won a lawsuit against for stealing from Jaws and Jaws 2. So not really much originality then, and Jaws 3 lacks even the occasional, mild fear of Jaws 2, but as a fun monster movie, albeit one with the feel of an Irwin Allen disaster film more than anything else, it just about does the job.
The original plan after Jaws 2 was to make a spoof to be called Jaws 3, People 0, but this idea was actually nixed by Steven Spielberg who threatened to leave Universal. As with Jaws and Jaws 2 the script went through many changes and there is debate on who wrote what, with Richard Matheson supposedly writing the story even though it is credited to Guerdon Trueblood, and Matheson’s script heavily altered by script doctors, in the process severely weakening it according to Matheson. His original premise had a shark swim upstream and become trapped in a lake where it eats people, without the SeaWorld setting. At least Universal’s initial idea of the shark from Jaws 2 featuring in the film, even more burnt, wasn’t used, and Carl Gottlieb returned again to do some work on what was becoming a serious mess of a script, though many other people wrote bits and pieces too. Production designer Joe Alves was promoted to director for Jaws 3, and the film, which was actually originally called Jaws 3D, became part of a minor revival in 3D with other films such as Amityville 3D and Friday The 13th Part 3. Jaws 3 was the most commercially successful of these films though for some reason Universal pulled it from theatres when it was still making money. As usual , US TV showed a version with a few minor deleted scenes.
The first thing one really needs to emphasise about Jaws 3 is that most of the bits that were in 3D look awful in 2D. The 3D shots, with things like a severed arm and head looming at you and liquid being squirted at the audience, stick out like a sore thumb and usually look they were superimposed onto the film. I would imagine that two scenes; the shark crashing through glass which would fly all over the audience, and its explosive demise, would have been quite spectacular in 3D, but they just look very cartoony in 2D. This is a major flaw with Jaws 3 as it stands now. Every few minutes or so an incredibly fake-looking shot comes along to take you out of the film, but the overall picture resolution is poorer than a normal 35mm print too because of how it was shot.
Matheson hated the idea of having Chief Brody’s two sons appear in Jaws 3 though it does provide a bit of continuity. The first half hour is a bit of a slog with little mounting suspense, the dialogue quite poor, and the acting mostly indifferent except for Louis Gossett Jnr and Simon MacCorkindale who are both very hammy but at least look they are having some fun. Gossett Jnr has a terrific moment as he addresses the park guests in the underwater tunnels over the p.a. system. He turns on the fake executive public relations charm and asks them all to calmly exit the park just as the giant shark is bearing down on them. The younger brother Sean’s fear of the water does lead to a nice scene where a girl he has just met, Kelly Ann Bukowski (an early role for Lea Thompson] tries to get him to conquer his fear by stripping in the water, but much of this stuff is closer to the types of scenes you would find in a slasher movie and one misses the intelligence of many of the ‘non-shark’ sequences in the first and even second films. Some things are not capitulised on either, such as Philip, the arrogant hunter, being ‘after’ Kay despite her being with Michael; it only plays a part in one scene, so why did they bother introducing it? Even though the odd cast member does a good job the film just lacks a strong human centre. Michael Brody[ Dennis Quiad], who just runs around all over the place, doesn’t really have a character except that he’s really fearless.
So it all hinges on the shark stuff then, which does mostly succeed, though, as I said earlier, the film is hardly scary at all and even unintentionally funny at times with the two dolphins being rather heroic. There is a bit of sadness though when the young shark dies and you almost want the mother to come along as soon as possible and take her revenge. Most of the action is underwater, and these scenes are very well choreographed and shot so you can almost see always see what is going on. This means that there is far less employment of model sharks this time round, though of course that works both ways; when a model is used it jars somewhat. Still, the final two thirds of the film keep the action coming and there’s a bit more gore this time around, with much shark chomping [the film opens with the decapitation of a fish!] and a bit where one poor guy is stuck in the shark’s throat. The UK cinema version was cut by 7 seconds to get a ‘PG’, removing a gruesome shot of a mutilated body and a sea worm emerging from a mouth. The cuts were restored for home viewing and the certificate upped to a ‘15’, though the DVD got a ‘12’.
Except for the underwater scenes, Joe Alves does a pretty weak job of director, with awkward transitions and uneven pacing, and it isn’t surprising that he didn’t direct another film. John Williams turned down the job of scoring Jaws 3 so Alan Parker [not the film director] was hired to compose a score that would incorporate Williams’s famous shark theme. He does a reasonable job and provides an especially exciting action cue for the climax, but at times the music seems too upbeat for the material and rather ‘TV movie-ish’. Despite falling short in some areas, I think that Jaws 3 is different enough to the first two films to stand on its own two feet and is certainly a lot of fun.
ORDER OF SERIES IN TERMS OF QUALITY
1/ Jaws Rating:
2/ Jaws 2 Rating:
3/ Jaws 3 Rating:
On the island of Amity, Sheriff Martin Brody, the hero of previous shark attacks, has died from a heart attack. His wife Ellen thinks it was from fear of the shark. She now lives with their son Sean and his fiancee Tiffany. Sean works as a police deputy and is sent to clear a log from a buoy a few days before Christmas. As he does so, a massive great white shark bursts out of the water and kills him. Ellen is convinced that the shark targeted Sean on purpose and goes to the Bahamas to spend time with her older son Michael, who works there as a marine biologist, his wife Carla, and their five-year-old daughter Thea. There, Ellen has nightmares about the shark but begins a friendship with carefree airplane pilot Hoagie. However, it seems the shark has made its way to the Bahamas……
Jaws: The Revenge 1986], which is the shortest of the Jaws films but feels the longest, has a reputation as one of the worst sequels of all time and it’s a reputation which is pretty much justified. This is an awful film, terribly conceived, barely coherent, and extremely dumb, but is also, for much of its length, dull and tedious, so that it’s not even fun the way many bad movies can be. Basically it’s a failure on virtually every level. Idiotic story, poor acting, lacklustre action; you name it. It’s probably the worst film Michael Caine ever appeared in. When he was asked about this movie in an interview, he answered, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” Fair enough I suppose.
They decided to pretend the events of Jaws 3 never happened. Michael De Guzman was entrusted with writing the script, but took so long with his final draft that production started before he had finished. Overall it was an easier film to make than the other three…..until it came to the first test screenings, where the original ending, in which one character Jake is killed by the shark and Ellen rams the shark with Michael’s boat, causing it to bloodily die. This was considered unsatisfactory, so they hurriedly shot another ending where Jake manages to put an explosive in the shark’s mouth and Mchael stabs it with a broken bowsprit, causing it to explode….though the explosion was actually very badly pasted from the shark explosion at the end of Jaws. Also, Jake now survived with just an injured arm even though he was seen gorily mauled a few minutes before. Some versions of the film, including one shown on UK TV, retain the original ending and it is slightly better than the re-shot one, though frankly no ending would have been good enough to save this piece of crap. As before, some US TV versions contain minor footage that was cut out though. Jaws: The Revenge flopped, thankfully.
The film actually seems like it’s going to be pretty good at first, with the shark attack on Sean beginning in a quite nerve-wracking fashion as it suddenly looms out of the water to bloodily bite off his arm, though after that much of the scene is shot the way it probably would be now, with loads of tiny edits so you can’t see what is going on. This scene, along with a later attack scene, was cut down drastically for the ‘PG’ rated UK cinema release. Still, it’s a dramatic beginning, but that’s it folks for practically the first half of the film, which then forgets it’s supposed to be a Jaws film to concentrate on Ellen, her moving to the Bahamas, and her friendship with Hoagie the pilot. The film takes forever establishing all this and is just plain dull when the characters aren’t spouting out atrocious lines like:
Michael [to torch-wielding welder wife Carla]: I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder. I’ve dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy.
And this goodie from Michael Caine:
Hoagie: I’ve got a bone in my foot that hasn’t thawed out yet.
The Hoagie/Ellen friend ship may have been quite sweet if it wasn’t for this stuff, though of course it doesn’t help that the acting is often quite poor. Caine is okay but Gary alternates between over-the-top ham and showing no emotion at all. When she breaks down crying, she sounds like she has a really bad cough. Lance Guest as Michael is so wooden you can almost smell the bark. Mario Van Peebles’s Jamaican accent is so weird half the time you cannot understand what he is saying.
Unlike before, there is hardly anything in the way of shark stuff intermingled with all this so we’re stuck with these people for what seems like an eternity. Eventually though, the shark turns up again…in the Bahamas, with Ellen having some psychic link to it. Yes, we are supposed to believe that a shark can track a human all the way from Maine to the Bahamas even though that person got there by airplane. Not only that but it can roar, scream [impressive considering sharks have no vocal chords, doubly impressive when it’s underwater] and balance on its tail fin. The thing about all this is that, if Jaws: The Revenge had employed a light, tongue-in-cheek approach, in the manner of Deep Blue Sea, then it may have got away with it. Because it thinks it’s being serious, it doesn’t. Nor does it bother to explain why the shark is after the Brody family. I think we are supposed to assume, given the title of the film, it is in revenge for the death of another shark, but then this film is full of random bits and pieces, with scenes often looking like they are unfinished, like when Ellen and Michael are talking on the beach and he suddenly goes for a run.
Of course we do eventually get an action climax, and this one has no bones about showing the model sharks throughout; in fact, I wonder if they used actual shark footage at all in this one. It looks like there are two model sharks; one fat one with a mouth that moves quite well, and a sleeker, better looking one that does hardly anything. Unfortunately, there are some shots in which the support structure of the first shark is visible under the outer layer and even what appears to be a seam in the back of the shark’s main fin. The final scenes are so incompetently staged, especially in the re-shot ending, that it’s hard to tell what is going on, but then the filmmaking is shoddy throughout. An underwater chase goes past the same few rocks about four times. Caine emerges from the water and his shirt is suddenly dry. A boat has part of it chewed off but is intact the next scene. A girl is killed by the shark, an incident which is seen by many and obviously heard of by many others but only Ellen goes out to hunt it. All these continuity errors and script holes may have bearable if the film was entertaining. Sadly, it isn’t.
Director Joseph Sargent and cinematographer John McPherson have a knack for framing characters interestingly, and as a whole the film looks better than Jaws 3. Michael Small’s score approximates the John Williams sound reasonably well when he uses his main Jaws theme and writes some other strong action cues, occasionally of a knowing, almost tongue-in-cheek nature. It’s a much better score than the film deserves, though it didn’t get a soundtrack release till 2000. For the most part, Jaws: The Revenge is utter rubbish, a painful viewing experience, especially when one considers how well the Jaws franchise began. Steven Spielberg should have sued.
FINAL ORDER OF SERIES IN TERMS OF QUALITY
1/ Jaws Rating:
2/ Jaws 2 Rating:
3/ Jaws 3 Rating:
4/ Jaws: The Revenge Rating: