The original Jaws is generally recognized as an amazing film that basically created the summer blockbuster movie model.
Summertime was not traditionally the time for audiences to stay indoors to watch movies, and Jaws changed that.
The Jaws sequels don’t have any positive reputation at all. Jaws 3 was in 3D, a fad that died a pretty horrible death in the 80s, and Jaws 4 was reviewed as one of the worst movies in memory. But that leaves Jaws 2 as kind of a middle child that got lost in a shuffle. Not fair.
Jaws 2 turned out to be a pretty effective and well-done film. It had no right to be. Its script was written and rewritten and rewritten to the point where the main protagonist changed with each rewrite. Lorraine Gary plays Mrs. Brody, who stayed ashore when hubby, played by Roy Scheider, went shark hunting in the first film. Gary’s husband was a studio bigwig who suggested she take on the shark this time.
Roy Scheider didn’t like being in Jaws 2 from the start. He only did it to end a contractual obligation. Richard Dreyfuss had to skip due to his work on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Steven Spielberg opted out, and his replacement, John D. Hancock, was fired fairly quickly. After trying to get Spielberg again, the studio settled for Jeannot Szwarc, and it apparently was a definite improvement. Hancock wanted a darker, more desolate Amity Island and wasn’t keen on expanding the role of Gary. Szwarc gave producers what they wanted – more shark, more attacks, more horror and more thrills.
Waterskiers, helicopter pilots, sailing kids – all targets for the shark, and no camera tricks with barrels subbing for the shark. We see a good deal of the shark in this movie, and audiences responded.
For a brief moment in history, Jaws 2 was the biggest moneymaking sequel of all time.
For all the unhappiness Scheider felt on set, and the many, many arguments with the director, Scheider’s performance is pretty spot on. He knows his big lines, and knows how to deliver them. He shows great vulnerability in his frustration to convince people he’s right about another shark.
That’s one thing that always bothered me, though. After what happened in the first movie, you think there’d be one person on the island besides Brody to be open to the thought that it might happen again. No one does. The Mayor, although loyal to Brody, doesn’t believe or want to believe that it’s happening again.
It makes Brody an island, but it really makes no sense at all.
The film sets up a horror trend that would be used for decades: Isolate teenagers in a place where adults can’t help them, and the menacing killer takes them one by one. It worked then and a thousand times since.
With all the script, direction and cast drama, Jaws 2 still turned out to be an enjoyable thriller.
It’s worth another take.
The Highlight Reel
When two sailing teenagers leave their friends for a little private immorality in their own boat, you just know the shark is going to interrupt the moment. Every slasher movie for the next ten years was born from this scene.
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