Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.
There are times when a great movie gets a great sequel. Spend five minutes thinking about it, and you can come up with more than half a dozen sequels that are better than or in the same league as the original film. Spider-Man 2, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Godfather Part 2, Evil Dead 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, and on it goes. Most of the time, though, sequels are something of a letdown. Jaws 2 is one of those. Admittedly, it would have to be one hell of a sequel to match the original summer blockbuster, but it’s still a little disappointing that it’s such a step down from the original.
That said, Jaws 2 is probably better than you remember despite being a clear rehash of the original film. A big part of that is that virtually the entire cast from the first film has returned. Sure, there are other characters here and some new players (and new victims), but it’s still Roy Scheider as Chief Brody, Lorraine Gary as his wife Ellen, Murray Hamilton as the town’s mayor, and even Jeffrey Kramer as Brody’s deputy. Even some of the townspeople are the same. The only surviving main character from the first film is Hooper, explained away by him finally getting on the research vessel he was planning to get on in the first movie.
There’s not a great deal of plot here. A few years after the initial shark attacks on Amity Island, another great white shark moves into the neighborhood and starts eating random swimmers and boaters. We’re going to get a few scuba divers picked off in the initial scene, and then a water skier. Brody is going to be accused (once again) of creating a panic until he is (once again) proven right about there being a big-ass shark off the Amity coast.
The main difference this time is that a lot of the money scenes are going to take place in a single day. Once it becomes clear that the shark is a real threat and once we have a bunch of people in the water because no one believed the threat, the shark is going to more or less swim around killing whomever it can until the film ends. This isn’t going to be the long and intense game of cat-and-mouse that occupied the third act of the first film. Instead, it’s much more of a siege.
The “intensity” of the film is heightened by the fact that Brody’s kids are in danger for the entire last part of the film. After all, they had to do something to ramp this up from the original, right?
Jaws 2 is a movie that I remember as considerably less than it turns out to be. It’s better than I remember it, and better paced. I remember the movie feeling like it was an endless slog of the shark swimming around a group of teens on boats, but that’s only the last quarter of the film at most. There’s a decent build up to this is a climactic ending. Truthfully, if there hadn’t been a Jaws and this was the first “giant shark terrorizes an island community” movie, it would be fondly remembered as a pretty good thriller, if one possessed of an improbable plot.
The main thing that Jaws 2 does wrong is not be Jaws. Seriously, it has some very large shoes to fill, and there’s no way it could have done so. It’s also surprisingly bloodless n a lot of respects. The first film wasn’t awash in gore, of course, but it certainly had its moments. In this case, the blood here happens only a couple of times, and a lot of the deaths are depicted in ways that show us pretty much nothing but reaction shots.
In all honesty, I popped this in the spinner as something to simply have on, figuring I’d eventually rewatch this at some point and wanting to get it done. I’d seen this in the past and I didn’t have an real expectations going in, so I was pleasantly surprised that, while it’s a bit dumb and completely unbelievable, it’s pretty entertaining in spite of itself.
It’s worth noting that Murray Hamilton, who plays Amity’s mayor, is still the mayor in this sequel. In the first movie, it’s Mayor Larry Vaughn who more or less serves up the entire town and their summer tourists, as it is said in the film, a smorgasbord. Three or four years later, Larry Vaughn is still the mayor and still unable to deal with the reality of a shark off their coast. Elections matter, folks.
Why to watch Jaws 2: Big shark, little boats.
Why not to watch: It’s a big step down from the original.