Jaws is one of cinema’s most influential movies of all time. This film did wonders for the movie industry. It brought about the advent of the summer movie season, it paved the future for blockbusters, it skyrocketed the career of a genius director in the form of Steven Spielberg, and of course this happens to be a damn good thriller. It is one of my favorite all-time movies and despite seeing this film multiple times, I always find watching the movie to be a wondrous experience.
Steven Spielberg is considered by many to be one of best movie directors of all-time, and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Time after time, he creates movies that exhibit joy, happiness, and the most of all-magic. Even his lesser films have a hint of magic to them. Each and every single thing the guy makes is pure art. 1975’s Jaws is just the beginning of his storied career. Now the production of the movie was often troubled, but the result was incredible. Spielberg often recalls that he thought he would never make a movie again because of his not-so-secret production issues. The film was over-budget, the screenplay was being written simultaneously with filming, the cast and crew were becoming tired and worn out, the mechanical shark they were using kept on breaking, and Spielberg was just a director whose lack of experience and his heavy ego made things even more complicated. But luckily, Spielberg persevered in creating a very fun, terror-inducing movie.
So obviously we know the film is about sharks. But lets take a closer look at the plot. After a fatal attack by a shark off the coast of popular summer resort Amity Island, police chief Marcus Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close down the resort. But the mayor of the town, Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) doesn’t want to close down the resort because it will hurt business. But after another attack, Vaughn decides to rethink things. With the help of a scientist from the Oceanographic institute Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a seasoned World War Two sailor Quint (Robert Shaw), Brody goes after the huge great white shark that has been terrorizing the denizens of Amity Island.
The film has a wonderful cast-typical of a Spielberg film. They all bring their A games in the movie especially the three leads. Roy Scheider does a good job as Police Chief Brody who unsuccessfully alerts everyone of the danger lurking in the water. I liked Richard Dreyfuss’s portrayal of Hooper. Hooper has intense knowledge about sharks and I liked that performance very much. I also have to give it to Robert Shaw for his wonderful performance. He created his own monologue about how he and his crew was stranded in shark-infested waters during the war and he was one of the few survivors. That monologue was very well-done because it gave me a good case of the creeps. Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn was solid, but it’s essentially Hamilton playing a role he always does.
I liked the transformation this movie witnessed. Based off the wildly popular novel by Peter Benchley, this film was originally conceived as a straight-up horror picture reminiscent of a Ray Harryhausen picture. But as luck would have it with the mechanical shark not working well, this movie turned into something Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of. They would show very little of the shark-maybe a dorsal fin here or there. By keeping the shark under the table for most of the film, the audience is shocked when the big reveal occurs. The final half hour when the crew is out in the waters hunting and fighting the shark, that was a very fun and intense time. But I loved the set-up. We see these attacks but we don’t see the shark. We know the shark is there thanks to the fantastic underwater cinematography by Bill Butler and of course the insanely popular score by John Williams. One of the best scores of all time. That opening sequence for the first attack is a scene that was well-done and it immediately set the tone of the movie. This movie is terrifying at times and it might make you not go into the water for months. Beware if you want to show this to any young children. Don’t let the PG rating fool you because there is lots of carnage and scary moments.
As I mentioned in the opening, this movie changed the movie business. Upon becoming the biggest movie of all-time in 1975, it set standards for the future. Good movies were primarily released in the winter time and bad movies in the summer. That trend began to change with this film being released in June. Also, it changed how movies were released. Usually films did not get wide openings unless they were crap. However, this film earned a wide release and it became a factor in future wide releases. Jaws is often accredited to the fact why our current summer blockbuster season is the way it is. Good job, Jaws!
Overall, Jaws is an influential movie that spawned three sequels and a special place in everyone’s heart. I found it to be a very entertaining and fun shark thriller that never gets old. The shark itself may be questionable at times, but considering what happened during shooting, I’m very happy the way the shark turned out to be. I thought the screenplay would be a weak spot, but it was actually well-written and rather straightforward. The acting was fantastic, and the direction was fluid despite the production issues. Spielberg began his esteemed career here with the record-breaking box office and the popularity that still persists today. I loved the terror and the tension the film inspires mainly due to the Hitchcock inspiration and the menacing, terror-provoking score by John Williams. As soon as you hear the first notes from the tuba, you will immediately connect it with Jaws. This movie is a straightforward, old-fashioned thriller and if you are one of those rare souls who haven’t seen this picture, please do.
“We are going to need a bigger boat.” –Marcus Brody
My Grade: A