The Jaws Saga is coming to Netflix on September 1st. After you settle down from the excitement, you’ll start to have questions. Most fans know about the first movie and they have a passing idea that Jaws 3-D took place at SeaWorld. But, what about the other films*? They seemed to be on cable for ages, but all but the first Jaws film has now faded from popular view. What happened to the Brodys, Amity Island or Bruce the Shark? Settle down, young ones. Answers are here.
Jaws follows the popular man vs. nature story that also works as an allegory for Watergate and its aftermath. Murray Hamilton even adopts Nixon’s diction and posturing in his role as the Amity Island Mayor. What follows is a dissection of the white middle class electing a leader to appease the scientific (Hooper) and spiritual (Quint) approach to this terror. It’s quite funny that as the film progresses, women, and eventually the town fade away until it’s just a lone elected representative acting as a maritime cowboy. The shark smiles and explodes with glee.
Jaws 2 began life being decried as a cheap carny trick by Spielberg. Cut to three years later and Spielberg would watch as Universal handed over control to veteran TV director Jeannot Szwarc. This decision came after Oscar-winning Jaws editor, Verna Fields, made a pitch to helm the film. While it would’ve been insanely progressive for a female director to handle a blockbuster in 1978, the Director’s Guild of America voted her down.
Everything about the film hinges on Sheriff Brody now. Much of the Amity Island action feels like a retread of the previous film but restaged as a Gary Cooper Western. After Brody is voted out of office, his kids are in danger from a new shark. Brody goes rogue and works with the Coast Guard. But, only Brody can electrocute the new shark to death and save the day. This is after a diver, a helicopter pilot, and a few teens die.
The Sheriff Brody Saga would end with Jaws 2, then give way to the Brody Family Saga. While the extreme focus on Sheriff Brody undermined a ton of possibilities for the Jaws movies, the two later films didn’t help. Michael, Sean, and Ellen Brody aren’t that fascinating. They exist in the world of Jaws because of their relation to Sheriff Brody. Now, onto the lesser sequels!
Jaws 3-D was helmed by Jaws production designer Joe Alves. Alves gets a bad rep for this movie, but movie fans tend to forget his impact on movies of the era. While serving as one of the designers of the original Bruce the Shark, Alves also worked extensively with John Carpenter around the same time. The downtown NYC prison of Escape from New York is probably Alves’ greatest design work.
This third film hinges on SeaWorld building underwater filtration tunnels to better serve the plot. This time, it’s a mother and child shark seeking revenge on the Brody boys for the mayhem that Sheriff Brody caused in Amity Island. 3-D effects abound, as well as a buxom young Lea Thompson.
The film served as a button on the 3-D revival of the early 1980s. When watching the film now, shots appear aggressively too dark. The 3-D effects seem produced by vaseline and cheap workarounds. Still, we get to see Lou Gossett, Jr and Manimal blow up in 3-D. If you get the chance, pick up the recent Blu-ray release that Universal put out in June. The 1080p transfer is quite possibly the cleanest the film has been since its theatrical run. How this film didn’t kill Dennis Quaid’s career is puzzling.
Jaws: The Revenge
Jaws: The Revenge happened, and the world let it happen. Lorraine Gary had been vying for an increased presence in the films since Jaws 2. Now, she would serve as the star of Jaws: The Revenge following the death of the youngest Brody son. Older Brody child tells dear old mother to come with his family back to the Bahamas. The widow Brody meets Michael Caine as he works with a crew studying snails. Meanwhile, older Brody son discovers that a shark has followed his mother all the way to the Bahamas.
Speaking of untimely deaths, Jaws: The Revenge also sports one of the few live-action roles for Judith Barsi. The most memorable thing about the fourth Jaws film was the controversy over the ending. If you saw the film in 1987 during its initial theatrical run, you got a realistic ending similar to the end of the first film. The shark dies, but its final death throes destroy the boat. Universal wasn’t happy, and the ending was reshot to have the shark explode. The recent Blu-ray restores the original ending because nobody wants an ending where Mario Van Peebles lives.
What actually killed the Jaws franchise? Many have debated this question, but the answer can be found throughout this piece. Jaws is a great one-time idea that was stretched beyond belief. If you buy that the film series is a family feud set on the High Seas, then it makes sense. But, a viewer would have to put a ton of human quirks onto sea animals. If you think that sharks can hold a grudge, then this series makes a ton of sense.
Oh well, ponder all of this while you revisit the Jaws films on Netflix in September.
*Editor’s note: To save any humiliation to Troy or his pun-free reputation, it would be remiss of me not to mention how the Jaws franchise jumped the shark. Nor that you’ll have a whale of a time re-watching these on Netflix. I’m so sorry. [Colette the Copy Ed]