Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on June 16, 1978
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Written by Howard Sackler and Carl Gottlieb
Cast: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Jeffrey Kramer, Collin Wilcox, Ann Dusenberry, Mark Gruner, Barry Coe, Marc Gilpin, Donna Wilkes, Keith Gordon, Cindy Grover, Alfred Wilde, Fritzi Jane Courtney
Maybe it was because I’d watched the original Jaws for the millionth time just three weeks earlier. Or maybe it was because there was no Steven Spielberg or Richard Dreyfuss in evidence. Or perhaps it was because of the screen story, which concentrated on a bunch of nondescript high school kids instead of three compelling adults you really cared about. Or maybe, just maybe, it was all of these things—and so much more—that conspired to make Jaws 2 such a complete and utter wreck, and a pointless and unfortunate sequel to a classic summertime adventure thriller.
Roy Scheider is back as Chief of Police Martin Brody, still living on Amity Island with his wife and kids and once again having to contend with an out-of-control killer shark. This time around, a great white takes out two scuba divers and a water skier before setting its sights on a flotilla of teenagers out for a fun day of sailing; soon the kids are trapped on their shark-damaged boats in the middle of open water, fighting for their lives as the rubbery beast begins to wreak havoc. Now it’s up to Brody to save the day, and he does so by coaxing the shark into biting an underwater power cable, where it’s electrocuted and swiftly sinks to the briny deep.
Wait, did I just spoil the ending for you? Yes I did, and if you’re a fan of Jaws, or of good movies in general, then you’ll thank me in the long run. Everything that worked for Jaws, that made it such an awesome and memorable experience, was missing from Jaws 2…it just wasn’t there. Gone were Spielberg’s pinpoint direction and storytelling skills, the sharp interactions between characters, the suspense and thrills, the small moments that added such ambience, and the overall sense of…well, of something special. To me, this was nothing more than a slapped-together sequel meant to capitalize on the glory of its predecessor. And sadly, it showed.
Just minutes into the film, you could tell that Spielberg was nowhere near the director’s chair; instead, we had Jeannot Szwarc behind the camera, who had replaced a fired John D. Hancock eighteen months after production on the film began, and whose direction lacked anything resembling imagination and artistry. Equally at fault were screenwriters Howard Sackler and Carl Gottlieb, both of whom had taken part in writing the original Jaws screenplay, but who now had run out of creativity for both story and dialogue, and left Szwarc with nothing at all to work with. And no, I don’t think having a shark eat a helicopter should be considered ‘creative’.
Okay then, was there anything positive about the film that’s worthy of mention? Well…hmm. I guess you could say it was nice having Scheider back in the fold, along with Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, and a few other recognizable faces from the previous film. And I thought it was cool that there was a quick glimpse of the Orca and a phone call from Matt Hooper—told secondhand—to connect us to the previous story, and I was grateful that the teens were fairly straight-laced, and not as obnoxious or tiresome as you would expect. Beyond that, and a nice shot by Szwarc of Brody’s truck traveling along the beach, there was nothing else to get excited about.
So how about this: what if there never was a Jaws for me to make comparisons to, and Jaws 2 existed as a stand-alone movie with a different title? And what if I placed it alongside such low-end junk as Mako: The Jaws of Death, Sharks’ Treasure, and 2-Headed Shark Attack…would I feel differently about Jaws 2 then, and cut it a little slack? Perhaps, but the fact of the matter is, there is a Jaws, and this is an inferior follow-up to that far-superior film. And if this is considered the best of the Jaws sequels, what does that say about Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge? Well, it says enough to keep me as far away from those two films as humanly possible. (3/10)