Jaws 2 (1978)
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Roy Scheider/Chief Brody
Murray Hamilton/Mayor Vaughn
Another angry shark picks Amity Island as its munching ground and it's up to Chief Brody (Scheider) to take care of the psycho fish once more. Why won’t anybody ever believe this guy?? If he says a shark is on the loose...it's on the damn loose! Some people never learn.
This sequel to Spielberg’s smash hit "Jaws", had a tough act to follow. Of course, it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor but it still delivers on some fronts and even with its flaws, is still fun candy.
The film’s biggest asset is definitely the return of some of the more endearing cast members from the first. Chief Brody (Scheider) made it all happen for me. Seeing him grapple with the arrival of yet another shark, the town thinking that he’s crazy, him losing his job (drink that booze, Brody!) and his kids’ stubborn desire to go sailing (they just don’t listen), made the flick more entertaining. Scheider’s chemistry is still so "on" with Lorraine Gary (Ellen) and that made their scenes together feel genuine. Both of them (especially Scheider) kept me in the game.
This sequel has a somewhat different vibe than the first. The transparent teen “victims” and the shark’s cruel “creative” streak made this one feel like a slasher opus. Having the shark be so violent totally brought that vibe home. Our finned nightmare brutally rams in all kinds of sailboats, relentlessly chases a water skier (great scene), purposely drags this guy around to finally slam his head against a boat and he swallows one poor swimmer whole. Shit, at one point he even sinks a freaking helicopter! HE BE PISSED! This shark is far from “normal” and has more in common with Jason Voorhees than any real life Great White. Add to that, the shark having half his face burned up, giving him a Krueger-like look and you see what this baby is going for…straight up slasher-like horror.
A little side note here: Is it me or does this flick hint at the “personal” nature of the conflict between The Brody family and the shark that the fourth entry would eventually run with? CASE EVIDENCE 1: The shark’s first kill is at the remains of the sunken “Orca”, the boat in which Brody hunted the shark in the original. CASE EVIDENCE 2: The shark seems to be attacking the poor swimmers, NOT due to hunger, but to get Chief Brody to hit the water already! Now I don’t know if I was tripping here, but that’s how I saw things. The shark wanted a piece of Brody and he did what he had to do to get him in the ring. It worked! What a smart-ass shark! Fascinating, Mr. Spock!
Having said all that, the film’s biggest faults are on a screenplay level. At times, this sequel feels too close to the original (the chain of events are a tad too similar) and I personally got tired quickly of townsfolk’s NOT believing Brody about the shark. You would think after what happened in the original, they’d trust his instinct a bit more. On a character level, apart from Brody and his wife, I didn’t give a damn about anybody. In the first one, we get to know the three men and in consequence, we’re there with them in spirit when the shite hits the "shan". But here we get WAAAAAYY too many teen “fish food” characters and there’s not enough time spent on any of them individually for us to get attached or even figure out who’s who. All I saw was a bunch of 70s Afros and tight bikinis that constantly screamed until it got irritating (don’t they know that yelling or jumping up and down in a boat will ATTRACT the shark? Guess not…morons).
Suspense-wise, the film is not nearly as effective as the original. The build-ups during the attacks are shorter, we also see more of the beast and unfortunately, he looks somewhat “robotic” at times. That lessened the impact of a few scenes for me. Then you have the overall pace of the film, which seems to lag at times. The overlong montages of people chilling on the beach/sailing in the water could’ve been snipped down. We get it! They’re at the freaking beach! Let's move on! And of course the demise of the shark is of the farfetched school of endings and it’s kind of disappointing. Nobody ever heard of rocket launchers in Amity? I would’ve bought that…but this??? I don’t know.
Overall, I still got some potent screams out of Jaws 2. Most of the shark stalk sequences were tension-filled in a “monster” movie type of way and they’re a lot of fun to witness. Taking into account that I didn’t care about the teens being attacked, me feeling any kind of tension is quite a feat. The flick sports some nice photography, the "Jaws" theme is back with a vengeance and Brody is the man! Anybody up for sailing?
Lots of off-screen biting and blood in the water. We also get a mangled up body and chewed on Orcas (I mean the mammal not the boat).
Roy Scheider (Chief Brody) holds this one together on a character level. He gives yet another focused and engaging performance. Lorraine Gary (Ellen) gives able support to Scheider and their scenes together shined (loved the one where he’s drunk). Murray Hamilton (Mayor Vaughn) plays the same “money” oriented dude that he played in the first. It works here too. Keith Gordon (Doug) was in "Christine", and that’s the only reason his thin character stood out. Mark Gruner (Mike) does what he has to do.
T & A
We get chicks bobbling in bikinis and lots of Afro-wearing dudes in bathing suits. The shark is also in the buff for the duration of the film.
Szwarc is no Spielberg but he does good things with the shark sequences. I loved how we could see the shark through the water as he went for the kill, appreciated the “fin” POV shots and the shock sequences. The pace isn’t as tight as the first one but that’s due more to the screenplay than the directing. Overall, well done!
John Williams' score works its magic again and helps "up" the bite of the shark attack sequences.
Yes, this big fish is almost a weaker remake of the first one right down to Brody’s “coup de grace” one-liner before the shark gets his due. It’s not as satisfying on a narrative/character level but it still manages to entertain. Basically: when the flick is on land, it ain't all that (thank god for Brody, he makes it bearable). But when it hits the water, the groovy stuff begins. The last 35 minutes are all about thrilling teens/shark shenanigans and that coupled with Scheider’s classy presence it meant fun fucking times! Relish "Jaws 2" compadres, because it’s in the gutter we go after that…I'm talking about "Jaws 3" and "Jaws 4". Will Arrow survive those 2 stinky salmons? To be continued…
At first, director John D. Hancock was attached to the film and they were going to use a screenplay by Dorothy Tristan (his wife). When the producers weren’t happy with how production was progressing (Hancock and Tristan wanted a people film, they wanted more shark stuff) they fired Hancock and Tristan left with him. Jeannot Szwarc came in after that.
Both Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss were asked to return for "Jaws 2", they both showed interest but the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" shoot got in the way.