JAWS THE FRANCHISE!
Well I'll be damned! Can you believe this June marks the 40th anniversary of not just one of the best movies ever made, but the inaugural Hollywood blockbuster? That's correct y'all, June 20th means JAWS turns 40! Crazy. But you know what's even harder to comprehend than that, at least in our opinions? It's that, due to the woefully atrocious but undeniably hilarious JAWS THE REVENGE all but rendered Bruce endangered and the franchise extinct. Honestly, it's been 28 years without a prequel, reboot, remake, or sequel of any kind. Ok, so there was a 2009 flick called JAWS IN JAPAN, but that's a tangential relative at best. Not that we're complaining, mind you. JAWS is an undisputed masterpiece on multiple levels - artistically, commercially - and never, repeat, NEVER...needs to be redone. Ever. But a massive 40 year old birthday bash? That's another story altogether!
So, in honor of big bad Bruce's 40th birthday, we're casting out a giant lure, hooking that great white sumbitch on our line, reeling that sucker in and giving him the nastiest flay-job this side of January Jones. You down? You bet your toasted asses you are! Ladies, gents...it's high time we stab the long-blade in the belly of Bruce and Dissect JAWS once and for all. Let's work!
Stop it. We all know well and good that the original JAWS is not just the best flick in the franchise, the progenitor, the OG, it still holds rank as one of the all time best films - in or out of genre - ever assembled. Of course, we also know of the sheer irony of how the infamously doomed production - way over schedule, over budget, featuring a mechanical shark named Bruce that didn't fucking work a lick - went on to, despite itself, become the first $100 million hit movie Hollywood ever saw . Incredible. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and goddamn it, Spielberg NEEDED to find a way to shoot around the malfunctioning fake shark to make his picture work. So what did he opt to do? Yup, in perhaps the wisest move anyone could have dreamt up, Steven chose to shoot most of the film at water level from the POV of Bruce, only ever showing the mammoth sea-beast sparingly, partially, suggestively. The result is pure. The ingenuity is terrifying. Between those frightening underwater POV shots and John Williams' stingingly unavoidable score...JAWS could play dialogue-free and still be just as viscerally unnerving as it is now. So good!
Beyond that though, let's have a little fun and reminisce a bit over Bruce's most impressive individual work. And by work, yes, we mean motherf*cking feeding time! Now, Quint obviously wins the gold crown for best overall franchise kill, kicking and careening his little legs across Bruce's gorily widened maw, you know, until finally getting munched in half with a thick chord of blood bubbling from his mouth. It's the stuff of cinematic legend! But hey, Quint ain't the only body resting in ol' Bruce's belly. Oh hell no. Instantly leaping to mind are a two more from Spielberg's original; the franchise's inaugural fatality in Chrissie, who, after being framed in that gorgeous low-angle underwater shot, is viciously dragged under the surface and masticated into a frothy bloodbath of pulpy human remains. And hey, young Alex Kintner getting liquefied into a geyser of blood in broad daylight, in front of his mother no less, is one for the books as well.
Let's press on shall we, this is fun. On to JAWS 2 (which is joked to have the numerical 2 instead of Roman numerals to clear the way for and avoid any confusion with JAWS 11). Anyway, who can forget that gnarly water-skiing death scene with poor Terri getting snuffed from behind, dragged underwater and made mince of? Classic. Or what about the scuba-diver Philip in JAWS 3-D, entering the maw-agape hell-trap of Bruce's jaw-line before feebly failing an escape attempt? Or how about that bitch getting ripped, plucked and sucked off that banana boat in JAWS: THE REVENGE. Good stuff!
Trust, I'm fully aware of the colossal poop-heap that's been dumped atop the head of JAWS: THE REVENGE. And I don't care. To my heart and mind, the painfully outmoded JAWS 3-D is the definitive loser of the blockbuster franchise. Yup, I went there. Let me tell you why...
It's the execution. Longtime art director and assistant director Joe Alves, who had never directed so much as a short film prior to 3D, had been suggested by Oscar winning JAWS editor Verna Fields, and had the herculean task of living up to the unrealistic expectations of a record-setting franchise. Doomed from the jump. Then, as a total fad of the early 80s, Alves and crew decided to make a 3D mockery of a movie. The result is a movie that doesn't grow stronger over time, but the opposite, falls victim to archaic technological trends of the day that, now, currently, seem embarrassingly cheesy and far below the JAWS standard. A real shame, because the original premise of JAWS 3-D about a giant white shark swimming upstream and getting caught in a lake, scripted by genre great Richard Matheson, was greatly altered in favor of the sea world angle. And even that storyline, about old Brucey getting stuck in the ducts of a marine theme-park, is a really novel one. Too bad the poorly aged VFX are not. It's no wonder why this is the only ever flick Joe Alves directed.
We could beat a dead shark to death and say, accurately, that JAWS 3-D also features the lowest body count of any in the franchise. We could talk about how Universal sued the production of THE LAST SHARK, only to crib exact scenes from it and insert them into 3-D (35-foot shark and diver inside Bruce's mouth, reverse angle). Really, other than Lea Thompson's fine ass and the presence of pimping Lou Gossett, JAWS 3-D is a waste. I want REVENGE!
Bruce is a badass, how's that for a trademark. Over the course of 12 years and 4 flicks, this Great White Sea-Behemoth has totaled 21 kills. 21! Man, woman, child...21 people from Amity to the Bahamas have lost life and limb to Bruce al-f*cking-mighty! Dude's constantly hungry, that's for certain! No really, the one tried and true advent of the killer shark motif that has carried across each film is the fluid underwater POV shots. Petrifying. Introduced by Spielberg and DP Bill Butler and in 1975, done to suspenseful perfection, and carried on through 1987, done to franchise-killing ineptitude. But the constant remains!
With unfairly high expectations that could never possibly be met, JAWS 2 really only suffers when compared to the original. As it is though, as a standalone high-seas horror pic, it's quite solid in the way it ups the ante, expands the action and swells the set-pieces. Is it as good as Dick Dreyfuss and Bobby Shaw chopping shit up? Oh hell no. But at least it continues the story of Chief Brody (the great Roy Scheider) and has enough call backs to the original to feel like a germane continuation of the original. Granted, director Jeannot Szwarc is no goddamn Spielberg, but there's enough relation to the original material - screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, stars Scheider, Lorraine Gray, Murray Hamilton, etc. - that it feels like a legitimately earned sequel. JAWS: THE REVENGE, however, diametrically does not!
Full disclosure here, I'm an unabashed apologist for JAWS: THE REVENGE. I really am. First off, I wholeheartedly submit that JAWS 4 is better than JAWS 3-D, if for no other reason than the painfully antiquated FX of the latter. Now, in terms of story, yes, I concede that JAWS: THE REVENGE is indefensibly brainless. Just mind-numbingly dim. And in comparison to the storyline of JAWS 3-D, about a killer great white that terrorizes a marine theme park, THE REVENGE is even more asinine. But so what. JAWS 3D lacks the requisite thrills and dead bodies a JAWS flick demands, and you're about to hear an argument about why REVENGE is far superior to 3-D on that front.
Secondly, the nighttime Christmas-Eve sequence that opens JAWS: THE REVENGE is criminally underrated for its harrowing effectiveness. Adroitly directed by TV yeoman Joseph Sargent, I recall genuine terror felt when I watched this flick on repeat as a 10 year old. When poor Sean has his arm unsuspectingly chomped clean off the bone, left only to bleed and scream out in abject helplessness, as carolers peacefully croon on the mainland a 100 feet away or so...yeah, that shit is as competent a thrill-sequence as anything since JAWS 2. I mean it.
And hey, if you can retain your 10-year old sense of ignorance and completely overlook the fact that Bruce roars like a goddamn bear and flies soars like a goddamn bird, the scene where the shark leaps out of the water and snatches that poor unsuspecting mother off the banana boat is pretty damn grueling, if not graphic. Real shit. I'd contend that this death scene - replete with a close-up of the shark (again, flying!) and an ultra-gory low-angle underwater shot of the chick getting torn to shredded beef - is one of the most gnarly and sensationalized among all of Bruce's lunchtime feedings. Remember, of all the JAWS joints, THE REVENGE is the only one to ascend past the PG rating and earn a PG-13 codification. But we all know the real reason why JAWS 4 bests 3D...Michael Caine's burnt-diarrhea Members Only jacket and Mario Van Peebles' shameless Sebastian-Under-the-Sea Jamaican accent. Good grief!
As previously mentioned, it's nothing short of shocking that JAWS has swam unfettered for the last 28 years. No remakes, no sequels, no reboots, no prequels...nothing. That's really quite a feat unto itself in this current Hollywood climate of cynical no-risk re-appropriation of safe, bankable titles that have been proven viable in the past. And Spielberg isn't even immune. We just saw POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC PARK get rehashed and sequelized, INDIANA JONES a few years back, etc. Seems a no brainer then that JAWS would at some point receive similar treatment. Of course, as the bona fide masterwork it is, we all know what a monumental mistake that would be. Hell, even if Spielberg was so hard up he directed the remake himself, it would be utterly unthinkable. Legacy shattering. Gormless.
So what's the next best thing? Rereleasing the film in theaters of course, which AMC has done in the past, and plans to do this month in honor of the movies 40th born-day. That's right folks, JAWS will hit theaters on a special two-day event taking place on June 21st and June 24th of this year. Do wise and cop yourself some tickets now before them shites sell out. Because it will. This is the OG blockbuster we're talking about here. And now it's time for a whole new generation witness the tensile strength of JAWS on the big screen!
Altogether now, HAPPY 40TH BRUCE!!! It's crazy to think JAWS turns 40 this month, but hey, we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate all things JAWS than by cutting up, shining the light and reflecting back on all the memories this inaugural blockbuster franchise has given us over the past four decades. It's been a blast Bruce, we love you! Now don't go getting caught and remade any time soon!