Sunday, 14 October 2012

Jaws 2

Title: Jaws 2
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Released: 1978
Staring: Roy Scheider, Mark Gruner, Marc Gilpin, Lorraine Gary
Plot: Four years after the events of "Jaws" Police chief Brody (Scheider) must protect the citizens of Amity once again when a second monstrous shark begins terrorizing the waters.

Review:  This week I found out something quite shocking while openly declaring my love for this sequel that I realised that there are some people out there who have actually never seen it! I know it’s hard to believe that a movie series which was so firmly part of most our childhood movie watching, let alone responsible for myself still not being overly keen on swimming in the sea all these years later. But as I looked at the glazed expression of my work colleague who clearly had no idea about this movie, I knew that it was time to revisit what is possibly one of the most overlooked and underrated sequels of all time.

True it was always going to be a hard act to follow a legendry movie such as “Jaws” which could easily be considered the definition of a perfect movie, not only in terms of storytelling and pacing, but also with how perfectly Spielberg tweaked each of the films shocks so that even a giant rubber shark could be turned into a creature of childhood scaring terror. Still with the studio having made so much money from the first film, which alongside “Star Wars” helped create the summer blockbuster phenomenon, it would only be a matter of time before they started demanding a sequel, despite the fact that the shark being clearly very much dead by the end of the first film, but such things are quickly glossed over for here is yet another giant shark to terrorise the residents of Amity Island, while the why, were and what the f**k of the situation are left to the audience to figure out themselves as Police Chief Martin Brody  finds himself once again having to deal with another oversized great white shark.

With Spielberg unable to be tempted back to direct the sequel due to a combination of the problems which plagued the production of the first film, which included amongst other things the fact that the shark keep sinking, aswell as the fact that he felt he had already made the “Definitive shark movie”. Spielberg’s decision would lead to a further 18 month period of pre-production, with the original idea for the film to be a prequel based around the sinking of the USS Indianapolis whose story had been so memorably relayed by Quint in the first film; however this would later be scrapped in favour of a more straightforward sequel with the inexperienced John D. Hancock being chosen to helm the film, but with his limited experience in the directors chair, having only helmed three film credits and small scale dramas, he soon found himself feeling the pressure of directing his first epic adventure film, while issues with the shark once again hampering production and with the producers unhappy with his material he was soon replaced by Jeannot Szwarc, who would later direct the equally cult “Supergirl” and “Santa Claus: The Movie”.

Set four years after the events of the first film with Brody having his suspicions that another shark has entered the waters of Amity Island once again dismissed, which is overwhelmingly bizarre seeing how much chaos the original shark caused, you would have expected the residents to be more open to the idea of a giant shark, but alas they’d rather dismiss his fears even major Vaughn who’d you think would have learned better after the events of the first film. Even Brody’s kids seem to have forgotten about the events previously, especially Mike who went into shock after seeing the shark in original, yet here they are more keen than ever to get back on the water, with Mike (Gruner) and Sean (Gilpin) heading out to sea with Mike’s friends and setting up the main meat of the story as they soon find themselves the target of the shark.
Realising that the audiences already knew what the shark looked like from the first film here director Szwarc instead doesn’t try like so many other directors to play on the element of surprise again and as such allows the audience to see a the shark a lot more than the previous film which only hinted at the size of the shark until around two thirds of the way through the film, when the shark was memorably fully revealed. Here he brings a much more brutal and thanks to an early attack sequence (which is also one of the most unintentionally funny scenes ever shot) a heavily scarred shark.

Cranking up the action from the first film, which kept it’s attacks sporadic as Spielberg played peek-a-boo with the shark in the build up to his climatic showdown, here Szwarc instead goes overboard with the shark attacks, while making anything potential game, as logic is pushed to the backseat especially when you consider that the film features the shark memorably attacking a helicopter. Such bizarre moments are rife throughout the film, as plausibility is largely nothing but a passing thought, while for some equally random reason Szwarc chooses to recreate scenes from the original film with a slight twist and hence why we get scenes like the discovery of an orca corpse almost mirroring the discovery of the girls corpse on the beach or the police boat being dragged backwards after it picks up a power cable being shot almost the same as the Quint’s boat being pulled by the shark at the climax of the original “Jaws”. What is most interesting about the scene were they find the body of the orca, that a year earlier the killer whale movie “Orca” was released which featured the orca head butting a shark in a subtle nod to “Jaws” that the orca was infact deadlier than a shark, with this dead orca clearly having been killed by a shark almost being like Szwarc’s fuck you right back! However despite a high body count, there is barely a drop of blood spilt here yet it makes zero difference as the tension is slowly cranked up by Szwarc who manages the near impossible of still managing to make the shark scary, even if the audience knows what to expect and even pulls out more than a few original shocks along the way.

One of the strengths here though is the amount of returning cast members we do get, especially with so many of the characters being so memorable it only makes it better that we get to see them again here, especially in terms of Lorraine Gary who once more returns as Ellen Brody and who shares such great onscreen chemistry with Roy Scheider, that it’s hard to not see them as a real couple and even though Scheider’s return here was only to get out of a contractual obligation he had with the studio, after he quit the role of Steven Pushkov in “The Deer Hunter” two weeks prior to the start of shooting. Still despite this he still brings back his grizzled charm to the role he made so memorable to begin with and despite his reasons for being involved in the film, he doesn’t let it show here, as his performance here is just as memorable as the first, even if it is more action orientated than before, with the scenes of him interacting with his family now nothing but an afterthought, for while the first film might have been as much about people as it was about the shark, this film instead prefers to keep the focus solely on the shark.

Despite having the imposing task of following up on Spielberg’s classic original, I would argue that blow for blow that this film is just as good as the original, while perhaps lacking some of Spielberg’s finesse it still holds its own when compared to the original and even with it’s more bonkers moments it still remains an overlooked classic, overshadowed by the god awful sequels which followed and as a result dragged this film down with them and leaving most people with the misconception that the original was the only film in the series of note and when compared to the shark films which followed in its wake this is a gold star standard shark movie.

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