Jaws 3 (1983), was deadlocked with Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) in the poll I held for a live tweet a few weeks ago. Losing out on the honour via a coin toss, I thought I would go back and revisit that film’s predecessor Jaws 2 (1978).
Jaws (1975) is I think my favourite Spielberg film, which is saying something because I think many of his films (though by no means all of them) are modern masterpieces. Before viewing this first of the sequels, I had not heard too much about it which led me to presume it was a rubbish film. However whilst it is quite a different beast to the first film, it is in its own right, pretty bloody fantastic if you ask me.
Where Spielberg’s original was creature feature made into ‘A movie’ thriller brilliance, Jaws 2 unashamedly embraces its status as a B movie. As such, it does not take long for the murderous shark’s spree to start. Actually it is only three minutes into the film before we see the killer at work. The film is also not afraid to be delightfully gimmicky. There is some gratuitous use of the fin and a shark chasing down water-skiers which is all B movie stuff at its best. The film also works on at least one level, because sharks are really fucking scary, and as such there is no shortage of the beast in action. As a result, the shark does not have the same ‘psychology’ if you will as the first film does. The killings are more random and arbitrary in this one. Whilst generally the film is done with a light touch, there are plenty of both intense and graphic moments. Like the best thrillers, the filmmakers here have excelled at building ‘moments’, where you know something big is about to happen, but you are still shocked when it does.
Whilst it perhaps lacks some of the Spielbergian sheen of the first film, Jaws 2 still looks great, the underwater photography being especially noteworthy. One thing that it does have in common with the first film though is John Williams weaving his usual magic with the score and he is masterfully pulling the strings of the audience with his work here. And of course, the music to herald the arrival of the shark ready to feed is once again masterfully done. The script is pretty solid, full of teen summer lovin and the like; and happily Roy Schneider returns in a pretty major role. Without overdoing it, the film also reflects and invokes plot points from the first film, the dodgy and greedy mayor for example. Overall you cannot really fault the technical aspects of the film. In that way it is reminiscent of the classic Universal Monsters films that I have been watching recently. They all show that a concept that seems utterly silly and possibly even daft on paper can be elevated by it being really well made.
Jaws 2 is a sharply made and shot B movie which is vast amounts of fun. Yeah it’s not as good as the original, but it is not even really trying. If you are into creature features done really well and effectively, without taking themselves too seriously, then this is well worth checking out.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny