Some films should never, ever be sequelized. Masterpieces, which cannot be improved upon, expanded upon, or continued in any meaningful way. Sometimes, sequels to films like this defy expectations. Sometimes, you get a Godfather Part II, which equals or exceeds in the strengths of its predecessor, or something like the surprisingly deft Psycho II, which expands on minor elements of the original to create a new experience. The Jaws sequels are not one of these times. They range from bad to incompetent trash. The best of them doesn’t even pass for mildly diverting popcorn filmmaking, the worst of them counts among the worst films ever made. But let’s start with a good ‘un, eh? The original, and by a country mile, the best:
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, made when he was just 28, is a masterclass in tension and character building. It takes the framework of Peter Benchley’s highly successful novel and, stripping out unnecessary pap like Ellen Brody’s affair with Matt Hooper and the mayor’s connections to the mafia, creates a stripped-down, streamlined, quick-moving nail-biter of a film, with memorable characters and moments throughout.
Jaws has been praised by everyone and their dog, and I don’t have much to add. It’s really that good, from it’s edge-of-your-seat tension to its three brilliant lead performers. Brody, Hooper, and Quint are possibly the best screen trio of all time, up there with the Three Stooges and Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo Montoya. They’re each fascinating, each in their own way, all have different goals, and they play off their contrasting qualities superbly. Once the three are on the boat, the film goes from great to transcendent. Quint’s monologue is superb, the final action sequence is exciting, and the ending is great. One of the greatest accomplishments in American film history, and the most enduring blockbuster, Jaws is as exciting as it was in 1975, and can still make you afraid to go in the water. An easy A+.
Jaws 2 is, plain and simply, a bad sequel. A dull retread of its predecessor, Roy Scheider is the only saving grace of a film made without passion or care. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, best known for Supergirl and Santa Claus: The Movie, Jaws 2 tells the tale of the continuing shark-battling adventures of Chief Brody. It looks like there’s another shark. But oh no, nobody believes it! Then, the shark eats some people. Then, the shark eats some more people. Then, Chief Brody kills the shark with a power cable. The end.
Jaws 2 has none of the passion, energy, and originality that made the original a classic, and only one of the characters. Sure, Roy Scheider is great, but he can’t save a movie all on his own. Jaws 2 is not only dull, but derivative. Large portions of it play out like a B-grade slasher on the seas. You’ve got the teens disobeying the rules, then dying, it’s all there. But the slasher’s a shark.
A dull adventure film that disappoints its legacy, Jaws 2 earns a D.
Jaws 3-D was originally going to be a parody film entitled “National Lampoon’s Jaws 3, People 0.” That would’ve been preferable to this dreck.
Notable more so for starring a young Dennis Quaid and a pre-Back to the Future Lea Thompson, Jaws 3-D is a gimmicky piece of 80’s cheese. Unfortunately, it’s also dull. Really, really dull. Nothing memorable happens over the course of the whole film, there’s never any sense of tension whatsoever, the effects are unconvincing, the shark’s unscary, the actors are wooden, and the connections to the series are tenuous at best.
Made during the era of 3-D (Friday the 13th Part 3-D, Amityville 3-D, Comin’ at Ya!), Jaws 3-D rubs its gimmick in the audience’s faces, lingering on its horridly unconvincing effects for what feels like minutes. Sure, maybe the 3-D was entertaining in 1983. Who knows? But lingering shots of 3-D effects do not a movie make. Outside of its gimmick, Jaws 3-D has nothing to offer.
A boring film with dull characters and a lack of interest, Jaws 3-D earns a D-.
Jaws: The Revenge is considered by many to be among the worst films ever made. I don’t feel this to be hyperbolic.
However, The Revenge’s biggest error is not among the many that occurred during its scripting, casting, shooting, and editing, but that it was a bad film that chose to ignore a previous bad film in the series. Advertised as the third film in the Jaws “trilogy,” the film acted as though it were above Jaws 3-D, when it was in fact much below it.
Jaws: The Revenge begins with a flawed concept, one dismissed in Jaws 2. When Chief Brody asks an oceanographer if the shark attacking Amity Island could be revenging the previous shark’s death, she says, “Sharks don’t take things personally.” Apparently, she was wrong. The Shark Mafia has it out for the Brody clan after the deaths of 2-3 sharks (depending on if Jaws 3-D counts), and they start by laying an ambush for Sean Brody, unhooking a mooring, then killing him when he (now an Amity Island policeman) comes to investigate. Michael Brody (Lance Guest, that guy that dies by slipping on blood in Halloween II) comes up from Jamaica for the funeral, where Ellen Brody insists that the Shark Mafia is out for their family. Apparently, Chief Brody died from a heart attack by shark fear since Jaws 2. But Michael (foolishly) doesn’t believe in shark revenge.
And so the family goes on vacation to Jamaica, out of the waters of the Great White. But that doesn’t stop the Shark Mafia. And so on, and so forth. If you think that’s ridiculous, there’s more: Ellen now has a psychic connection with the shark, sensing when it’s about to kill. Why? Who knows. Apparently it’s a holdover from an older, even dumber script. She’s apparently psychic in general because, when she kills the shark (by impaling it with a boat so hard it explodes) she has flashbacks to scenes she didn’t witness, including the “Smile, you son of a bitch” line from the original Jaws. Odd, eh?
Furthermore, Jaws: The Revenge is incompetently made. Every scene is just wrong. “Dramatic” scenes are either pointless (the weird romance between Ellen and Michael Caine) or end randomly, with Michael running off for no reason. The shark effects are less convincing than ever, and the shark is not once scary. Jaws: The Revenge is completely lacking in scares, thrills, or anything but unintentional laughs.
A shockingly bad film, Jaws: The Revenge earns its reputation, earning an F.
The fake Jaws 19 trailer released for that Back to the Future 2015 thing is actually a better Jaws sequel than any of this garbage.