Jaws 2 (1978)
The excitement was surely mounting when it was announced that Roy Scheider was returning to Martha’s Vineyard, “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” At least that’s the way I remember it though I wasn’t yet a teenager. Just an excitable kid who couldn’t wait for the next thrilling adventure from the shores of Amity. Looking back to the past can play tricks on us but if I recall correctly I saw this on opening night in downtown Kitchener, Ontario in a theater that no longer exists on June 16th, 1978. If I’m not mistaken it was with my older sister. She was probably told she had to take me along in order to go herself.
I generally watch Jaws once a year but as for this Steven Spielberg-less sequel? It’s been quite some time so I thought I was long overdue to open up the blu ray sitting on my shelf in the J section. I’ve featured the first film here a couple of times including my experiences seeing it at the theater as a tyke called The Thrill of Ben Gardner’s Boat and secondly on a recent revisit where I talk of still loving the film after all these years so feel free to check them out.
It’s easy to assume the majority of us have seen the classic 1975 exercise in on screen terror. But that’s not necessarily so with the follow up that Zanuck-Brown unleashed on theater goers from director Jeannot Szwarc. The film basically kicks off with a similar line of thrills and town hall shenanigans thanks to the return of Murray Hamilton as the “mayor of Shark City.” As opposed to a midnight swim the sequel has an effective opening of two scuba divers doing some diving and photographing the long lost Orca, Quint’s ill fated boat from the first film. The two divers become the first victims in a steady stream of suspicious disappearances along the shores of Amity which has Scheider’s Chief Brody worried he’s going to relive an earlier nightmare.
“I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again! “
I guess we could sit here and tear this sequel apart but rather let’s draw attention to the water skiing scene. I think it’s probably the film’s highlight as the shark surfaces at high speed in pursuit of an unknowing victim enjoying some water sports. The resulting deaths of two more people have Roy on edge and that doesn’t sit well with Mayor Murray. Also returning from the first film and destined to be in the atrocious fourth film of the series is Lorraine Gary as Roy’s wife. Even she’s going to doubt her hubby’s sanity when he goes Dirty Harry along the Amity beaches after mistakenly believing a shark was approaching swimmers from his vantage point in a shark tower.
Following alongside the Roy Scheider story is the tired and overused plot line of teenagers seeking the opposite sex and more if they get lucky enough. They also serve as the perfect victims and Jaws 2 seems to morph itself into a Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees blueprint. The shark serves as the slasher. If I didn’t know any better I’d think it was the other way around and that this was a copy cat of those series’ many plots of never ending teens getting slaughtered.
So while the latter half of the film is relentless in it’s execution of teens sailing into terror and a helicopter being served up as dinner, the steadily rising tempo of the original is nowhere to be seen but then neither are Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss or Spielberg and the claustrophobia that the first film put us through has been lost to all out scare tactics.
On the plus side is Roy Scheider and his nervy performance as a man still suffering nightmares after his first go around with a Great White Shark. He’s still scared of the water and the one real jolt the film delivers uses this fear perfectly as Roy attempts to retrieve a piece of siding from a lost boat floating towards to the shoreline.
Clearly aimed at young viewers of the late 70’s, Universal’s campaign at marketing pretty much admits the film was made clearly for capitalizing on the enormous success of the first film adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel. This one had a novel tie in from writer Hank Searls, a comic book adaptation that I’m positive I still might have here boxed up somewhere and even trading cards! Yeah, this one entered the area of Disney and how to make as much money as we can and we owe it all to an earlier film.
Hollywood hasn’t changed much over the years and when you love an original film it’s sometimes hard to accept all these attempts to grab money off of subsequent sequels in a storyline that really has no business in having one. This isn’t an ongoing saga after all like today’s space operas and comic book heroes. Will I watch it again? Yeah probably in another 10 years or so when and if I have some grandchildren and I want to ensure they’re raised right and see the 1975 classic which in turn will probably lead to this one once again.
Between you and me, I’d rather watch some of the Jaws rip-offs like Grizzly, a personal drive-in favorite.
How about you, what do think of Jaws 2? Were you like me and loved it as a kid but see it now for what I think it really is?