The JAWS saga

Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg) 94
[ Watching this again, more than forty years after it exploded as the first modern Hollywood blockbuster, one can appreciate more than ever the way Spielberg keeps the shark unseen for most of the film and how much time and care he puts in developing Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw’s characters and the way they play off each other. This may not have quite the visceral impact it must have had back then, but it’s still totally badass, with so much quotable dialogue, iconic shots, memorable scenes… The first half is a quasi horror movie, with a shark slasher stalking the waters around Amity Island. Then the second half is this awesome adventure film, with the central trio going out at sea on the Orca to kill that damn Bruce. “Jaws” is pretty much a perfect picture, with confident, gripping storytelling, masterful mise en scène, great performances and that classic John Williams score. One of Spielberg’s all-time best. ]

Jaws 2 (1978, Jeannot Szwarc) 42
[ In this first sequel, we’re back on Amity Island with Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), but he seems to be the only who remembers what happened in the previous film and to be worried when it seems like another shark is roaming around. John Williams is back scoring, but it’s clear that Steven Spielberg isn’t directing anymore as this is unevenly paced and the shark attacks aren’t particularly exciting or masterfully crafted. It’s still watchable enough, but it’s no classic. ]

Jaws III (1983, Joe Alves) 35
[ This is getting pretty ridiculous, for better or worse. We’re off Amity Island and at Sea World in Florida, which employs Chief Brody’s son Mike, now played by Dennis Quaid, and which is soon the target of shark attacks, of course. The special effects, including some pop-up 3-D shots, have aged badly and Joe Alves, directing his first and last feature, fails to deliver much thrills. I liked the dolphin sidekicks, though. ]

Jaws: The Revenge (1987, Joseph Sargent) 39
[ The third and final sequel to Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbuster is another case of diminishing returns, with a lot of dumb writing and weak acting. But it’s kinda hilarious that the Brody family keeps having to deal with damn sharks. First, there was Chief Brody of course, but even after his (off screen) death, his widow Elen (Lorraine Gary) and his sons Sean (now played by Mitchell Anderson) and Michael (now played by Lance Guest) must face killer fish, which is making them go a little mad… I also like that this is a Christmas movie, at first anyway, and that much of it is set in the Bahamas, which makes for a visually bright and colorful movie. The shark attacks are gruesome and/or ridiculous and for some reason, Michael Caine costars as Hoagie. ]