Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
Who can forget the movie that changed history, ushering in the era of the blockbuster summer movie? Jaws was a huge hit with critics and audiences, making its director a household name and its aquatic star the new face of terror. Steven Spielberg's little horror film went on to redefine the genre and kept public beaches out of business. In 1978, producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck decided that a sequel was in order, thus came the unsurprisingly inferior Jaws 2. Though not a half bad film, when stacked up against its predecessor…well, there's just no contest. No matter, as Jaws 2 still included original cast members Roy Scheider as police chief Brody, Lorraine Gary as his worrisome wife, and Murray Hamilton as the mayor who just won't listen when someone yells "shark!" Oh yeah, and a little fish we've all come to know and love named "Bruce." Universal serves up the catch of the day with a new anamorphic widescreen version of Jaws 2.
Facts of the Case
It's been four years since there was that "little" incident on the island of Amity involving a very large great white shark that liked to snack on human kibbles 'n' bits. Things are about to change though, as a new shark has found its way onto the public beaches.
Chief Brody (Scheider) is still the main man on the beat, keeping an eye out for trouble and those pesky razor-sharp fish. During a fun filled day at the beach, a local skier is lost among the waves, and the speedboat that was pulling her blows up. Also "fishy" are some local divers that have turned up missing, as well as a beached whale that's got a large chunk missing from its side. Chief Brody has a few ideas about what this could all mean…a new shark has entered Amity's shores.
Brody is convinced this is the work of a new "Bruce." He's even got developed film from the missing divers underwater excursion that proves it's a shark. Of course, when he takes all his evidence to the town board (headed by Jaws holdover Hamilton), they all look at him like he's insane in the membrane. It doesn't help that the day before Brody rang a false alarm at a packed public beach, shooting at a school of blue fish he thought was a shark. The town board convenes and the decision is made to fire Chief Brody.
The next morning, Brody gets a call about an accident, and while out finds that his son and a bunch of his friends have decided to go out for a morning sailboat ride (even when Brody specifically told them not to). Guess who decides to show up for a little mid-morning snack?
It's once again up to Chief Brody to face down the sleek, swimming demon of the deep and save the children of Amity from becoming fleshy fish bait.
Most purists, I suspect, hate Jaws 2. When ranked against Spielberg's original masterpiece, Jaws 2 looks as pale as the shark-eaten bodies that wash up on shore in the film. So, you can't really compare Jaws 2 to the original film. You have to take it on its own merits, of which it has many.
The film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, who was a replacement for original director John Hancock. Szwarc was given the horrible task of filling in for the missing Spielberg. It's obvious that he tried hard to imitate Spielberg, painstakingly trying to capture his style while keeping his own vision in place.
At the very least, Jaws 2 tries to be something original. Instead of just sending a few more people out on a boat to hunt a shark, Jaws 2 offers up a different premise, and what I think would be a logical continuation of the original story: another shark enters Amity, and Chief Brody's kid is trapped out on a sailboat with it. Okay, maybe not totally logical, but it works within the confines of this story. For those of you rolling your eyes in wonderment at the fact that yet another shark would roll into town and terrorize the exact same group of people…I feel your pain. However, the show must go on, so bring on the dorsal! The screenplay is not as tight as the original (scripted by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler), though there are enough moments of tension and horror that will keep viewers watching.
The returning cast looks as if they knew this sequel was coming, so they do the best they can with their parts. Scheider is still great at Chief Brody, the only person keen enough to realize that a man-eating monster the size of a Dodge Caravan is out to snack on beach goers. Brody always looks like he's close to losing the last brick in his wall of sanity, ready to crack out of frustration. No one listens to him when he warns about the possible danger of yet another shark, and even his kid scoffs at him, going out sailing when he was told to stay on shore. Murray Hamilton still runs around trying to make everything look good to the visitors, and Lorraine Gary slumps on the couch, letting her husband know that he's "too damn drunk." A thankless role if I ever saw one.
Jaws 2 is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is anamorphically enhanced. For a film from 1978, Jaws 2 looks very good. Though there were moments where grain and scratches appeared, the image is overall clean and clear. Edge enhancement was kept to a minimum, and only a small amount of compression was spotted. Colors are very solid, though some tones looked unnatural and overly bright. Blacks were very solid and dark, with only a few spots of grayness. A very good presentation from Universal.
Audio includes Dolby Digital Mono 2.0. The original Jaws was released on DVD in both remastered 5.1 track a well as a DTS version. No such luck with Jaws 2. Though the track is not disappointing, it's certainly not up to the quality that it could be. This was a film that begged to be remastered, and it's a shame that Universal didn't take the time to do a new mix. Even without the new track, Jaws 2 sounds good with dialogue being clear and music/effects mixed well.
Jaws 2 is swimming in extra features. First up is a 45-minute "Making of Jaws 2" documentary. This is a thoroughly in-depth look at the making of this sequel, including behind-the-scenes photos, stories about the film and production, as well as interviews with producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck, director Szwarc, and other members of the cast and crew. This is a very hearty production (written and directed by Laurent Bouzereau) and is a wonderful addition for Jaws 2 fans.
Next up is "Jaws 2: A Portrait by Actor Keith Gordon." This is a weird segment that's basically an interview with actor Gordon (who also starred in Dressed To Kill, Christine and Back To School) discussing his role behind-the-scenes of Jaws 2, as well as recounting stories and anecdotes. The feature runs about eight minutes in total. The same type of feature is displayed in "John Williams: The Music Of Jaws 2." This is a history of the music for Jaws 2 featuring interviews with composer Williams (who also scored Star Wars and the Indiana Jones trilogy). I'm a huge film music buff, so this was a lot of fun to watch, as film music documentaries are not something usually included on most DVD's extra features.
"The 'French' Joke" explains how the original title of the film (in French) just wouldn't have worked the way they wanted to word it. You'll have to watch the feature to catch the final punch line. Some deleted scenes are included which end up being a real treat. Four separate scenes are included—"Martin, Ellen, and Peterson," "At Home With The Brodies," "The Vote," and "Underwater: The Shark Attacks The Helicopter Pilot." The best of the four is the final scene, showing some nice footage of the shark making a snack out of a downed pilot.
Finally, there are some production photographs (including promotional artwork), two full frame theatrical trailers, some storyboards from three separate scenes, production notes, cast and crew bios, and my personal favorite, "Shark Facts." "Shark Facts" includes information regarding different types of sharks, and how to prevent an attack ("If you're bleeding," the screen reads, "stay out of the water." Well duh).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Like in the original Jaws, the shark often looks fake. There was a scene where the shark rams the side of a boat with his head and you can actually see the rubber indent in its mouth as it swims past the camera. I guess for a film made in 1978 I shouldn't be complaining. It seems that all through Jaws 2 (as well as the first movie) they seemed to have all kinds of troubles keeping the fake shark afloat. I often wonder what a Jaws movie would look like if it was done today (something like Deep Blue Sea, I suppose). [Editor's Note: Finally someone who acknowledges the greatness of Deep Blue Sea!]
The story arc of this film is not as interesting as the first film, mainly because the children are so plentiful that we aren't able to care as much for them as we did for the main three characters in the first film. In Jaws, we got to know Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw's characters fairly intimately. In Jaws 2, there is an overabundance of people running around, so aside of Brody, we have a hard time keeping tabs on who's who, much less putting much emotional stock into them.
With a very well done anamorphic transfer, as well as some excellent supplemental material, Jaws 2 is a bitingly good disc. If you're a fan of the original Jaws and don't take this one too seriously, this DVD edition is definitely worth the money (around $20-25). I think this is a nice bookend for the first Jaws disc, and maybe someday we'll see brand spankin' new editions of Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge.
Ah, maybe not.
Though not up to up the standards of the original, Jaws 2 is still a lot of fun…especially right before a nice dip at the beach.
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Scales of Justice
• The Making of Jaws 2
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