Jaws 2

This time it’s impersonal
Jeannot Szwarc
Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo
The Setup: 
Remember that shark last time? Well, there’s another one just like it.

I was one of those scarred by Jaws as a result of my parents taking me to see it in a theater when I was eight. Even to this day, if I am in a natural body of water, even a lake, I know there IS a shark in there waiting to munch me. So of course me and my sisters and everyone all packed of to see Jaws 2 when it came out, I think I saw it several times, and upon review now as an adult, the jugement is pretty much the same: it’s no classic, but it could be worse.

We begin with these divers—still as boring as they were 30 years ago—nosing around the wreckage of the Orca, the ship from the first movie. Then they are menaced by a plastic shark nose that causes one of the divers to spin in place. He drops his camera, which is apparently set to auto-photo, as it keeps going off every few seconds, locking in place a crucial piece of evidence that, after a ton of build-up, will be considered, discarded, and never brought up again later in the movie.

Then we have the opening credits, where we learn that a lot of people are back from the original: Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottleib as the writer, composer John Williams, etc. No Spielberg or Dreyfuss, obviously, they knew better. We also note to our delighted astonishment that this film is directed by Jennot Swarc, director of Bug, Somewhere in Time, and SUPERGIRL.

So then we see Scheider as Martin Brody rushing somewhere in his SUV. Already I have written in my notes “It’s so boring!” and it really does make you consider how a gifted director like Spielberg can make something as mundane as driving a car watchable, if not exciting, by finding some kind of visual or thematic interest to hold us over. Anyway, so he arrives at this opening of this new hotel and condominium, where his wife, now a real estate broker working for Murray Hamilton, awaits. The concept is that Amity has received a boost of economic development in the intervening… well, we can never really tell how long it’s been since the last movie. Clearly you can see that this is all being set up so we can have a repeat of the whole “Town fathers put economic development ahead of the danger of children being slashed to ribbons by the angry jaws of death” scenario. After the big speech Lorraine indicates that she wants it [i.e. the Brody’s have a good marriage with open lines of communication and hot sex], and soon we see a shark fin in the water nearby. The director, on the little “making of” included on the disc, says that we saw the shark in the first one and there’s no reason to hide him this time.

One also quickly begins to notice that the focus has been shifted to horny teens. We meet Larry, Murray’s son, at the party, and soon shift to two nerds, one of whom is a dead ringer for Napoleon Dynamite and the other some sort of teen Elvis impersonator, and they’re all talking about who’s cute and who’s looking at who. Same thing goes for the girls, who we meet the next morning as they all go out sailing—apparently there is a vibrant teen sailing community in Amity [I guess if you can’t go roller-skating…]—and one realizes seveal things: this sequel is really more a response to the PHENOMENON of Jaws rather than the movie itself, and as such has shifted the focus away from three crusty old men [since they couldn’t get two of them anyway] and onto a bunch of hot, randy teens, who will comprise a large portion of this film’s audience. But in a way it works, because it allows Brody to be all oncerned about his kids, who are out there sailing into the mouth of danger! This theme is carried through when Brody arrives in his police office to find an irate parent complaining that “Grace King’s bedroom faces my oldest boy’s… and she’s teasing him! Dancing around in a towel!” Soon a teen is doing some sort of thing where a parasail is lifting and bouncing him in the water, where we have underwater shots of his legs, which as we know, MEANS shark. He barely makes it, but I was thinking how totally awesome it would have been if either a) the shark bit him and then had a tug-of-war with the parasail to the horror of the petrified onlookers or b) the shark munched him and his severed torso rose up into the air on the parasail, raining blood and intenstines down on the petrified onlookers. Sadly, neither of these scenarios is actually realized. By the way, another aspect of this film being tailored to its audience is that now the focus is very much on recreational watersports, that is, it’s trying to get a rise out of ts audience by alluding to the kinds of things THEY might do while on vacation.

Next the shark sets its eyes on a waterskiier. He sneaks up from underneath, accompanied by more shark-fin footage [everyone knows we love the shark fin], but we don’t really see her get it. Then he decides to menace the woman in the boat, helpfully sticking his snout out of the water so we can get a look at the l'il fella. The woman decides that the best way out of this situation might be to douse herself with gasoline [I know I am always tempted to self-immolate during moments of stress] and shoots a flare gun at the shark. He burns his face [Scarface: the shark] and the boat explodes. I don’t think there was a single explosion in the whole of Jaws, and obviously the producers here saw fit to rectify that mistake. [DUH--My friend at work reminded me that there is, in fact, one rather prominent explosion in Jaws. Oops.]

Then we have a bit of crucial information about how police bottom-dragging apparatuses often have to contend with massive power lines, a dead killer whale that was eaten by the shark [take THAT, Orca!]. Brody asks the killer whale expert who shows up if a shark could come back to the same area where another shark was killed [cuz when you’re a shark you’re shark all the way], and she says “Sharks don’t take things personally, Mr. Brody.” Guess who hasn’t seen Jaws 4, bitch!

Brody only gets edgier when the charred body of the self-immolation woman leaps at him from out of the water. He forbids his oldest son Mike from going in the water for the rest of the summer, but we’re too busy noticing that the kids are playing Pong. The next day Ellen Brody and Murray are out showing investors the beach, when they see Brody up on the shark observation tower, leading someone to remark that “Brody’s riding his tower.” Then he sees a shadow and causes a panic on the beach, during which he shoots at the sea in the general direction of a kid, and the investors all get scared away. That night he appears before the board with the photo from the diver’s camera at the beginning, which shows a shark eye—only no one else on the board can see it. They fire Brody. Nowhere up until now, or until the end of the movie, does anyone ask Brody to address the most sensible question, which is: “What are the chances of another huge shark showing up here, outside of their territory, a year [or so] after the other one, which itself was a total aberration?” I suspect that this question is not uttered because the filmmakers are trying to keep us, the audience, from asking the same thing.

So then Mike is out at the teen gathering place, where everyone agrees that they’re all going out sailing the next day. Except Mike, who cannot go out to sea for the rest of the summer, leading the cute blonde cousin [didn’t catch her name] to say “Do you always do what your parents tell you to?” which leads Mike to decide to defy his father and go out anyway, in the hopes of scoring some tang. While he’s there Brody and wife are having a heart-to-heart about how he was fired and he’s drunk and she’s all supportive. Her part is bumped up from the first movie, but all they can think to have her do is be supportive. The whole angle of her now being in real estate with Murray, meaning that her husband’s shark-paranoid antics are damaging her career, is never explored. They just want to make sure we know that they have a supportive marriage and that Lorraine still likes sex. This is all making me want to watch Jaws 4, in which Lorraine is the main character.

Anyway so the whole last hour is the kids out sailing and getting attacked. There’s more teen romancing going on until they get out to where they’re going. Then one couple separates themselves so they can make out and end up getting attacked. There’s one good moment here in which the boy is in the water, then there’s the sailboat, and the shark is on the other side. For some reason it’s satisfying that the shark comes toward her, goes directly under the boat, and onward to him. I know I shouldn’t laugh at people in the midst of traumatic psychosis, but there’s something a little pathetically funny in the stupidness of squeaking “Go away!” in the general direction of a Great White Shark. Who knows, maybe he’ll listen.

Alas, he does not. He goes over and attacks the kids. During one shot, when the shark comes up out of the water and skims by the boat, almost chomping the boy’s legs, you can see how the fake shark mouth squeezes together at an angle that, well, looks like a big fake shark. Then we have some shark-vs.-helicopter action, and you know, any time you have shark-vs.-helicopter action, you’re doing alright.

Oh! But before the shark munches the helicopter [helicopters are sharks’ natural enemy, btw], we have the collosally stupid idea that the helicopter is going to tie a line to the sailboats and tow them in to shore. I might have bought it if the pilot had asked the kids to lower their sails first, but no. I guess he thinks that the wind created by the blades will just rip the sails off or something? I don’t know. The kids are also forced to face the splintered helicopter blades of death. Meanwhile, Brody is out trying to find the kids.

SPOILERS > > > So attack, attack, scream, scream, then Brody finds the kids, and tries to get them to “cable junction,” this big ‘ol pile of rocks. In the meantime the visiting cousin has lost her marbles, and starts to pray “Jesus! Holy Mary, mother of Christ!” while another girl [or the same girl, I can’t keep them straight] tries the “Go away!” approach again. It is similarly effective. Maybe the shark just can’t hear her underwater.

So Brody is going to use the winch to draw the kids to him, where he has crashed his boat on the island, but as everyone knows, if you drag anything along the bottom of the ocean, you WILL pick up a high-voltage cable line. Then Brody gets A PLAN. He starts banging on the power line with his wooden oar. Everyone knows that sharks are attracted to the vibrations of wounded fish in the water, and it’s equally obvious that thwacking a power line with an oar UNCANNILY simulates the sound of a wounded fish. So the shark makes a beeline for Brody [while the poor teens shout “Get away!”—it seriously makes up like 1/3rd of all improvised lines], munches the cord and that’s that.

Ultimately, kind of what you’d expect from a sequel, and it could have been a lot worse. The shark attacks are a lot more extravagant than the first one, with the exploding boat and the helicopter attack, and we get almost a full hour of pure shark attack as he menaces the kids while they slowly lose their minds. And teens losing their grip on sanity is obviously SO fun.

But you know, there’s no way you could replicate what the original was, so at least you kind of respect them for not trying. And they did a reasonably good job of finding another focus, the teens, while building on Brody’s overprotective nature from the first one.

One thing you’ll notice about all the Jaws films is that in each successive one, the shark comes more and more out of the water. Hello, how can you have star if she’s going to be covered up most of the time? This reaches its nadir—as does the whole series, obviously, in Jaws 4: The Revenge, in which the shark comes out of the water much further than I think it reasonably could, and dies in the most ludicrous way imaginable. That is the movie that gave us the reknowned tagline: “This time it’s personal.”

This movie also featured a well-known tagline in “Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water…” and “The all-new Jaws 2.” The trailer also includes language such as “In all the vast and unknown depths of the ocean, how could there have been only one?” which is the only place where they address the question of how there could possibly be another huge monster shark with a taste for human flesh in the exact same town. The trailer assembles footage from across the entire movie into one long, new shark attack, and concludes with the narrator darkly intoning “None of man’s fantasies of evil can compare with Jaws,” which is immediately undercut by the title: “One good bite deserves another!” We also learn that this is “Now a Bantam book,” which can bring back memories to those of a certain age.

There are extensive background materials on the disc, including a “making of” that can be mildly diverting if you’re doing something else, and a few deleted scenes, mostly with Martin and Lorraine [snore] but a little bit of the shark attacking the helicopter underwater. That’s obviously what we need: a whole movie about sharks attacking large-scale power equipment. I would SO be there.

Should you watch it: 

There’s no real reason to, but if you do you’ll be mildly entertained.

JAWS is the original, and if you haven’t seen it yet you must do so immediately, or kill yourself. I'm afraid that those are the options, folks.
JAWS 3-D: was 3-D in the theater, but on video is just a bunch of once 3-D shots of things coming at you that are stupid now. It leaves Amity altogether and takes up at a Sea World-type park with new and boring characters.
JAWS 4: THE REVENGE is the last, the worst [but possibly amusing, I need to see it again] and features Michael Caine in what may be the the nadir of his career.