By Josh Krubner
JAWS 2 also features not one, but TWO of the best trailers in trailer history:
Original theatrical Trailer:
I’m gonna have to hold off on going indepth into JAWS, as let’s just say it’s my third favorite and arguably the third best movie of ALL TIME, and we have a special review section devoted to our favorite movies coming up in the near future.
What I will say, is that I realized a long time ago one of the things that absolutely makes a movie perfect in addition to an impeccable air-tight narrative, is turning said narrative into a nontraditional “out of water” Western.
That’s right, I said “Western”, and you might say “huh? What?” – yes, that was a JAWS joke-
I’ll go more into the concept of the “out of water western” in future writeups, so, to summarize for our purposes here, elements of a western:
1. Our hero blows into town often audibly telling us he’s on a short stay usually a period of 72 hours.
2. The townsfolk take a liking to him and want him to stay, but to do so, he’d have to deal with the outlaw.
3. “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
4. Pistols at dawn.
5. We ride off into the sunset.
and yes, JAWS absolutely has every single one of those elements. Not only does JAWS 2 revisit each [almost anyway] of those expertly, it is also a [near] PERFECT SEQUEL.
See kids, in the time before 2013-present (present being 2016, but in a trend I foresee continuing until the end of film) movies weren’t made to fast track another sequel, and a spinoff, and a reboot prequel, and spinoff of a minor character in a cross genre team-up picture. Sequels, mostly seen in literature- we used to have these things called “books” and most em didn’t even have any pictures!
1. Revisiting the hero or heroes from the original
2. If the protagonist is still alive he or she is likely dealing with PTSD, a lasting injury, or other life-changing adjustment as a result of the original work. If this person has not returned for the sequel, this role often falls to: a living relative, a spouse or significant other, their heir, etc. This related character is then saddled with the weight of whatever would be affecting the protagonist from the original.
3. A familiar but new adversary returns, either the same adversary restored and often stronger, or a like relative, similar station, see above. In the sequel, the adversary is much more personal and deliberate with his or her attacks. He is absolutely ruthless and uses deception tactics to discredit the hero often making it so the other characters will not believe him.
4. Both the protagonist and the adversary will move along a similar path as they did in the original, with the foreknowledge to course correct what they did not the first time around. If the hero is not present in a scene that follows the path of the original, the characters new to the sequel can and will fall victim to the same events as the first go-around, usually with the hero appearing to save the day mid-way through this scene or moment of conflict.
5. Despite walking a very similar path, there are key attributes to both the protagonist and the antagonist that are now entirely different. This knowledge often presents after the initial meetup with the hero and the the adversary, of the hero discovering the adversary has returned via a message or the aftermath of an event the hero himself was not present for. This newfound knowledge is then used by the hero and the adversary to best one another in the Third Act showdown.
JAWS 2 masterfully swims through each of these events as we will now discuss.
"How Could There Have Been Only One?"
What most people don’t realize, or if they do, they don’t admit, is that the Xenomorph was not fully grown until well over an hour into the movie. We had no cause to see it until the very end. Alien’s final confrontation works being Lt Ellen Ripley is NOT a solider. She’s a warrant officer, a non combat navigator and interpreter essentially. This is akin to Issac Clarke being an “engineer” in Dead Space, or Sarah Connor being a waitress in Terminator. Once we see Ellen Ripley overcome an extraordinary situation and best ONE Xenomorph, her character has gone through a crucible. The nightmare is over, and she’s allowed to rest and relax, until the inevitable sequel. In the sequel, another movie about ONE Xenomorph slowly killing people in the shadows in the exact same way would not have worked. Everyone would have immediately said “She knows how to kill this thing and can tell even just one other person, and then it’s over.” This is like when a child finds out that Santa is a myth and then never gets excited about the anticipation of opening Christmas presents so much as opening specific presents they know they will be getting because they directly asked for them, or the ending of Independence Day. Randy Quaid kamikazes himself into the alien ship, and there’s an ADR’d line about getting on the radio to England and telling them how to take out the ships.
James Cameron was smart enough to realize this in his two sequels- Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Aliens is a movie where Ripley immediately tells the Marines how to kill the aliens. They of course do not believe her, and then are faced with hundreds or thousands of the creatures. Ripley has passed on the knowledge of the situation and enters into combat equal with the other characters as well as the principle adversaries. She then gains the sequel knowledge of the queen, and spends the rest of the film dealing with said conflict. Had they spent the movie with Ripley and co facing off against just ONE alien, even if it was the queen, it would have been as terrible if they decided to redo the first movie entirely but putting Ripley in a prison to make her “weaponless” and having the xeno-baby come from a bull or a dog. Oh…
What people who criticize JAWS 2 for showing the shark don’t seem to realize is that once Schieder told us “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” there was never again a moment with the shark in JAWS where the audience would believe it without seeing it. Showing us the shark off the bat in the opening scene of JAWS 2 sets the bar higher and raises the stakes. This shark has nothing to hide from the viewing audience.
Spielberg who is definitely NOT the master of the sequel, takes this first (of MANY) mis-steps in the Lost World: Jurassic Park by pretty much doing the exact same thing over and just saying “it’s here now”. We don’t get the impact of things going wrong or the tension of the opening almost Lost Arkian scene with the Raptor by just hearing “This is Site B.”
Unlike Chief Brody who was hardened by his crucible and is now on edge, Jeff Goldbloom’s Ian Malcolm, an almost Han Solo rogue type character in the first movie, has written a book and become a docile and boring domesticated father. Brody always was one, and now he fights even harder to hold onto his home as the shark (literally) threatens to take it away from him.
The diver from the opening scene is reported missing and his camera is found. The original JAWS makes no effort to hide that Chrissy’s death was a shark attack- going so far as to show Brody typing those words on the incident report- until the Mayor arrives and tries to convince Schieder otherwise.
With the established knowledge that Amity likes to hide the instances of shark attacks, the audience and Brody suspect foul play but nothing can be proven without the pictures on the divers’ recovered camera, which in 1978 would take several days or at least several scenes of movie to have developed.
Knowing that they were going to have to show the shark, throughout pretty much the rest of the movie, they decided to kill three major birds with one stone:
a. Demonstrating the ruthlessness and stronger “sequely” nature of the new shark, he mercilessly attacks not one but two people in succession, something the original shark never did.
b. the woman driving the speedboat attempts to kill the shark right off the bat in a very similar manner to how the first one was destroyed likely having knowledge of Brody and Hooper’s tale of heroism. She attempts to pour gasoline onto the shark and shoot it with a flare gun. In her panic, and the shark attacking the boat, she loses her footing and douses herself. When she shoots at the shark, she ends up igniting herself and the boat which promptly explodes momentarily hiding evidence of it having been a shark attack. This also proves that the shark cannot and will not be killed in the same way, and that Brody or whoever is the one to best the beast, will need to find a fancy new way of doing so.
c. The shark is horribly burned to the point where I will now refer to it as the Burn Shark. This facial and body burn is so distinguishing and distinctive that it is the very first thing anyone will mention when discussing the various sharks in the JAWS movies to set them apart. The distinctive burns are a great addition to the film as they serve to personalize and personify the shark motivating and fueling his very personal seeming quest for revenge, specifically on Chief Brody. They also hide the fact that this is a much lower budget shark robot than Bruce, which you will be seeing a lot of.
The scene in which the Second Shark becomes the Burn Shark is on the level with classic villain creation scenes such as the Joker’s “The Mirror!” in Batman, Hannibal Lector’s escape reveal in Silence of the Lambs, and yes, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” in JAWS. Sadly, this, and my second favorite shot of the entire movie, the convalescing and visibly enraged Burn Shark’s stalking fin tracking shot in the very next scene are two of the key elements of greatness lost on most detractors of JAWS 2 who just aren’t paying attention to the details.
A terrible example of the sequel”ier” reveal would be the Twin T-rexes in Lost World. Sure the visual is great and even hits Spielbergian heights of greatness, but it’s ruined by the fact that the plot premise to accomplish this was stealing a baby T-rex to lure the parents… it’s about as believable as ACCIDENTALLY stealing a baby Great White Shark and putting it in Seaworld… Oh…
While I’m still deliberately trying to keep to the shallows and not swim too deep into JAWS territory, the timeless line from the JAWS trailer highlights the next point, until Quint provoked the shit out of it, the Shark was a “mindless eating machine”. In the case of the Burn Shark, it now takes on near human traits- a phenomenon not lost on Brody, or the audience- and targets him or others personally throughout the rest of the film.
Beginning to crack with the realization that he has convinced himself of, Brody is dead set on proving there is another shark, and he’s dead set on stopping it. In the original movie, we saw Brody immediately dive into researching the foe. This time around, instead of breaking out the books, he breaks out the bullets. We get a wonderful tension filled scene watched him coat bullets with cyanide, figuring “this is how he will kill the "Burn Shark" in Act 3.” He uses his “Sequel knowledge” to cut out the middle portion of discovery insisting when the local teens find a beached half eaten whale “check the bite radius”. When the Oceanographer (marine biologist?) that the Mayor has sent over asks “what bite radius?” Brody without missing a beat replies “For the shark”. She presses him “what shark?” and he says “The shark that did this, it’s a Great White.” – which is painfully obvious to anyone who has ever seen a whale that size with a bite taken out of it.
This is also the point where JAWS 2 takes the first of many missteps… it’s forgivable but with a tighter script, man this could have easily been the greatest sequel of all time. For reasons I’m not exactly sure of, there were MANY last minute changes to some key specific and GREAT moments in the original drafts and screenplay. I haven’t yet mentioned the Amity backdrop portion of the movie, because it’s really of no consequence, when in fact, it could have served as the Aliens level basis for the entire movie.
In the scene with the Oceanographer (Marine Biologist?)
The five ways “sequel knowledge” is presented to us:
1. The opening scene dealing with the adversary of conflict that restores the adversary shows it to us via VISUAL EXPOSITION
examples: In Child’s Play 2, the Play Pals company rebuilds Chucky; In Halloween II, Michael Myers returns seemingly unharmed while Laurie Strode is taken to the hospital to treat her wounds; In Aliens, LV-426 colonists are attacked while investigating something/ we find out LV-426 has fucking colonists on it (depending on which version we’re watching).
2. Or narration
example: Sarah Connor narrates the backstory of Terminator and ruins the plot reveal of T2 in the opening scene letting us know that Arnie is the good guy. I saw the second one first and loved it, but after seeing Terminator, my now second favorite movie of all time, I’m like “fuck you T2, and fuck you Linda Hamilton’s VO, you ruined something amazing that wouldn’t have been out in the open until the end of the mall scene!”
3. The inevitable scene where the above information is given to the protagonist survivor (or their successor) from the first film.
The “Sequel Knowledge” that Brody gains from the oceanographer (marine biologist)
Why was this a misstep going back to the beginning of the movie? Because it could have pulled a Halloween 2 and offered an explanation for the FIRST movie as well as this one besides “I dunno, one day he just wanted to kill his fucking sister”.
There is nothing really of consequence in the original JAWS to suggest the Shark is attracted to sound, unless you watched the movie knowing a fuckload about sharks, which as a little kid of course I did…as a general audience in 1975 who had likely never heard the term “Carchorodon Carcharias” (Co-Care-o-don Cark-air-ias) they didn’t. Sharks, and more importantly Great Whites, attack from the deep and can’t see very well. They are attracted to repetitive sound, and things that look like whales, fish, or large sea turtles- namely Alex Kinter on his raft kicking with his feet.
The land setting expo-backstory for JAWS 2 is that a giant fucking hotel is being built on Amity. Being as it’s on par with the fucking Wynn in the spec pictures we do see of it, they very likely could have STARTED construction on it…say five years ago?
I know, I know, some obscure beach town building a big ass hotel somehow attracting sharks makes about as much sense for a plot as colonizing LV-426 despite the crashed ship with all the eggs, or opening a killer shark movie with the shark in question eating…a really big fish… Oh….
And, you’d be right except, “it happened, I know it happened, and anyone not wearing sunblock had a really bad day!”
"Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water"
“Twelve (source) Days of Terror” ensued and sixty years before Spielberg put Bruce in the water, we learned the dangers of going in it. And this was lost to the sands of time never to be spoken of again, right? Wrong…even the Sci-fi original low low low budget D movie Jersey Shore Shark Attack is to its credit…based on this EXACT premise and even mentions everything I just told you.
It’s very easy to draw the inference that the construction of Mayor Larry’s supertower is what has been attracting the shark(s) and could have even proven and uncovered his knowledge of it having happened prior to JAWS which is alluded to… possibly… in that film. All they needed was ONE shot of a drill of the ocean floor making a banging noise or someone anyone to say “I’ll bet the hotel is what brought all the sharks!”
Oh yea, no hotel. Brody wants Michael out of the water, because we didn’t hear enough of that the first time, and to their detriment focusing so much of this film on the kids, which for a very strange reason does end up working, God damn do these characters and these actors SUCK! I can’t even tell you who played Mike Brody, because he might as well not have even been in the movie.
In the original draft, apparently the poor girl who gets eaten –oh right, spoilers- is his ex, but in this movie, he’s not even in that scene, and the girl who likes him is left to take care of Sean, the little brother- entirely by herself- which again, would have made for a fantastic fucking tension piece. Mike choosing between his love interests, the new love interest’s character and loyalty put to the test as she is entrusted with caring for the younger Brody.
Back to Roy Schieder,
There’s a really great moment that’s the mirror shot of Burn Shark stalking the shoreline, with Brody obsessively patrolling the beach as he comes upon the wreckage from the speedboat –and the blown up woman’s body, another nod to JAWS with the Ben Gardner jump scare-
we get our best scene of the movie, when an on guard and paranoid Brody takes his cyanide bullets and fires them blindly into the water in the very next scene after drawing attention to his shark tower- a Nolan level expository character fills the audience in on- and the Mayor of course denounces. Brody questions himself, adjusting his line of sight, wiping his binoculars and then finally ordering everyone out of the water. As he fires into a moving dark shape, we hear someone off camera say “It’s Bluefish! It’s just a school of bluefish!”
Brody knows that he’s been beaten by the trauma of the shark, and we get a masterful lowest point scene on the level with my absolute favorites, James Dean’s “I have the bullets!” in Rebel, or Jimmy Stewart’s snapping when the banister …knob? Breaks off his shitty staircase sending him off to commit suicide in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Brody looks at his gun and his horrified public with the most remorseful look, and he knows that he’s done. He’s promptly fired in the next scene, as he takes the developed pictures to the Hotel Cabal and they refuse to see anything in them.
There were some amazing back and forths with the Mayor in the first movie, and there are some great ones here as well… unfortunately, a few of them were deleted from the final draft along with the other greatness or just left out.
We find out that the Lady who checked over the whale (I’m done with that joke, I promise) was sent by the Mayor. In a later scene, he casually mentions a conversation we didn’t see where Brody had immediately yelled “shark” and the Mayor said “maybe, it’s just a barracuda” – yes, that’s the same JAWS joke from earlier but with the punchline at the front of it- we know from the first movie that Larry had been looking the other way on “boating accidents” and this would have been a great moment for the hotel reveal.
Let’s talk about the kids.
When I bought the special edition JAWS 2 dvd the day it came out -of course I did- I gleefully watched the commentary and making of documentary, which sadly glosses over a lot of the missing info and in depth info I’ve delved into. What it does focus on however, is how Jeannot Szwarc didn’t really have any interest in making a shark movie (which is funny because with what he did, he did a damn good job) but he loved the shit out of American Graffiti, and said “fuck it, i'm gonna do that, but on the water.”
The other thing most casual viewers of JAWS 2 don’t get or just don’t care for is the admittedly shallow tertiary plot of the movie; the Amity teens really love sailing. It’s pretty much all they do everyday. They sail and they fuck, and they fuck and they sail, and when you realize that it really IS American Graffiti of just aimlessly cruising around, holy shit does it work! Still could have gotten better actors – like Bess Armstrong- Oh…
We don’t really get the comeuppance scene with the Mayor or the Hotel that we deserve, but once Ellen Brody finds out that there is a shark, she tells off the Mayor, and Roy Schieder steals a boat- a great symmetry to “I’m the chief of police I can do anything” – and the most accurate thing on the other JAWS 2 poster from Polan.
Mike Brody gets bopped on the head and is rescued by the Mayor’s son, preventing the absolute biggest asshole from this movie, who is of course the son of the biggest asshole from the first movie and the cause of all the shark problems – except the one in Seaworld….. Oh….
from getting eaten!
And I can’t think of anything else to say except, “Fuck you, Sheriff Brackett, Annie is fucking dead!”
Cable Junction is of course the rock island the Burn Shark stalks the destroyed sailboats to. In the most terrifying and brutal scene in the film, which is directed with the precision nearing JAWS levels, the Burn Shark again resurfaces intent on eating young Sean Brody- VERY similar to the “Pond” scene where the Shark swims past Michael after it bites the other dude’s leg off and then eats him. The Burn Shark is headed for Sean Brody and eats Marge (who was supposed to be Mike’s ex, which again would have been a brilliant sacrifice and added crazy tension as well as transfer of cared guardianship for Sean to the new love interest…fuck that would have been GREAT) scarring him for life… but not keeping him out of the water! Oh…
After the Burn Shark eats a FUCKING HELICOPTER.
"I Don't Intend To Go Through That Hell Again!"
Brody begins slapping the oar on the power line, attracting the Burn Shark which has surfaced to go for break and kill everyone in the water. With the Burn Shark breaching and headed right for him, Brody drops another killer one liner, and fries the fucker killing any and all local sealife, and shorting out the power on the mainland….and then it just kinda ends with them awaiting eventual rescue. There’s no further resolution. Brody had found Mike and told him to wait for rescue at the lighthouse/send them on to Cable Junction. There’s no comeuppance scene for the Mayor, no “You moved the headstones, but you didn’t move the bodies!” it just kinda ends. With a tighter script it could easily be a 9 or even 10 out of 10 but it’s still one of the all-time greatest and absolutely the MOST underrated sequel on the market.
At least it doesn’t do anything stupid like have a little girl see the Shark and be like “look mommy, a fish.”
"The Legend... Continues."
JAWS 2: The Second One gets a well-deserved 8.5/10. It’s NOT “just Bluefish.”