Jaws. The movie that is often given the notion of starting the summer blockbuster season. It was a magnificent achievement that Steven Spielberg’s film became a critical and monetary success. It was a tense thriller that relied upon hiding the shark until the end and its three main leads in Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw. So naturally a sequel would have to be made. Understandably so, I scratch my head at the thought of a sequel. But it doesn’t matter because Jaws 2 does exist. I’ll say this. It’s the best sequel you could hope to make……but that is not saying much. The movie is sometimes enjoyable, but there are several critical mistakes in the movie.
But let’s start with the positives. The shark has returned, and it came back bigger and stronger than ever. The shark even has an evil-looking scar to it. I really liked the look of the shark. The performances weren’t too bad, either. Out of the original cast, only Scheider, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton returned. Scheider had problems on set, but he tried his best to give a convincing performance as Chief Martin Brody. Once again, he succeeds. After all, he is now the human heart of the franchise. Next, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the film. The buildup and tension to the reappearance of the shark is as good as ever. You really know that the shark is there to kill. John Williams returned with another amazing score. He used the original themes to great extent, and he added darker, more complex music to enhance those themes. I don’t think this movie would work half as well without his powerful score.
Now, the negatives. I mentioned that I liked the look of the shark. I do not like how and when the shark fully emerged, which was practically right away. The whole point of the first Jaws was to keep the shark in the shadows, to build tension. Now tension was effective here, but it could have been way better if they followed the formula of the first film. So the first film was mainly a psychological thriller. While that is retained for the first half, the second half becomes a dumbed down slasher film. Essentially, the second half was the kids (including Brody’s son) versus the shark, and it played out like a worn-out teen horror flick. That is something I did not want to see. Finally, I missed the direction of Spielberg. He decided not to return, and Universal decided to attain the services of Jeannot Szwarc. He did an okay job, but he is no Steven Spielberg. You can tell there is a big difference in the directing style, and I’m not sure if I liked that change. I do miss what Shaw and Dreyfuss brought to the table, but Scheider managed to deliver a strong performance.
Now let’s talk some plot. This sequel takes place four years after the original horrors of Amity. One day, the town suddenly receives mysterious disappearances and boating accidents. Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) knows better than to call them accidents. He believes another killer shark has come to town. Just like before, he is ignored by the townsfolk and Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton). But once a group of teenagers, including Brody’s son, sets out to sea, Brody goes after them. Will he reach them before its too late?
So I had apprehensions for a long time watching this film because I fear it would not live up to the original classic. While it certainly does not, I won’t deny it’s a fun ride at times and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Let’s put it this way. Jaws 2 is a decidedly inferior sequel to the original, but can be called a masterpiece compared to the two pile of dung sequels that followed (and I refuse to see). There are elements of the film I dislike, but this is good escapist cinema…..if you don’t compare it to Jaws.
My Grade: C+/B-