Franchise Friday has officially begun! First up: The Jaws Quadrilogy! Each week, we’ll pose a different question for each movie. One question. Short answer. Let’s get to it.
Be sure to listen to our podcast episode all about Sharks! (updated 4/22/16)
UP NEXT: June 19, 2015: Rocky (1976).
May 22, 2015: JAWS (1975)
Q: Everything’s been covered to death about Jaws, so let’s make it simple. What is your absolute favorite part about the classic movie?
Johnny: There’s not much to say about Jaws that hasn’t been said before. It’s the Quint-essential shark movie and the magic has never been replicated (though I do love, love many of the films that tried). Watching the movie for the bagillionth time, what stands out most is Amity Island. Despite the killer great white harshing on the good times, I still want to spend a summer in Amity. And I know it’s from the fourth installment and not in Amity, but I’ve always really wanted to get out on a banana boat.
Joanna: Upon rewatching (and rewatching) Jaws over the years, nothing gets old. Everything gets better. The thrills, the music, the setting. It’s perfect. And my favorite part of all: the cast. Now, Brody, Hooper and Quint are amazing—we all know this. But right now I’m talking about the townsfolk, the minor characters. Everyone from Brody’s elderly secretary and the offbeat fishermen to the lady that looks like Mike Teevee’s mom and, heck, even Mrs. Kintner. They add color and an element of believability to Jaws—just making it that much more absolute. And don’t get me started on the scene between Brody and his young son, Sean (you know the one). That right there is cinematic magic.
May 29, 2015: JAWS 2 (1978)
Q: Does Jaws 2 work as a standalone movie or is it just trying to recreate its predecessor?
Johnny: As a kid, I saw pieces of all the Jaws movies here and there on TV, with the fourth being the one I most recall watching in a sitting. So for several years, all of these bits and pieces I saw were put together in my mind as the first Jaws. When I finally watched Jaws as a proper video rental, it was clear that much of what I remembered was from the sequels, so I had to start sorting out what scenes went where. You might then be quick to say that, yes, Jaws 2 definitely set out to recreate the original and does not stand on its own as a movie. Re-watching the sequel, though, I’m inclined to think the opposite. Jaws 2 almost has the feel of a slasher movie to me, more so than the original. A reason for this is that Brody’s older son is now a teenager and a lot of the action, shark attacks and the ending revolve around he and his friends. Campers go into the woods…you know what happens. In this scenario, teenagers go into the water…same deal. It’s as though Jeannot Szwarc spent an equal amount of time watching Black Christmas as he did the first Jaws.
Joanna: As I stated before (on Facebook), as a kid, Jaws 2 was probably the one I watched most in the franchise—though it was a partial off-of-TV recording. But I loved it. And I still appreciate it. Does it stand alone? In a way. It’s a pretty good sequel to the masterpiece that was Jaws. We have most of the same cast back—albeit, Brody’s kids are a bit older and Hooper’s absent. Everyone appears to have moved on from the shark incident years before. But Brody’s still cautious. Too cautious? Maybe, but it’s well deserved. The guy knows what he’s doing, he’s been there before. So, what happens when he warns that there may be another shark in town? He gets fired. For the first half of the movie, everything plays to the same scares and pacing from its predecessor. It works well enough, but you’re constantly aware that this isn’t Jaws, but a slightly lesser Jaws. The second half? A fun separation from the original! A bunch of scared teenagers stuck on multiple boats, getting attacked by the shark. Teenagers + sharks is already a win for me — but make it feel like Jaws and I’m on board 100 percent. All in all, Jaws 2 works as its own movie—plus, it has a top 10 tagline.
June 5, 2015: JAWS 3-D (1983)
Q: Can you get past the shark(s)?
Johnny: Can I get past the sharks? The short answer is, yes, I can. We’re living in an Asylum-run, post-Sharknado world. And I will watch just about any shark movie. So I can see where in the early 80s, when Jaws and Jaws 2 were what you had to compare to, that people would smirk at the sharks in Jaws 3-D. But now? Compared to some of the stuff we’ve had and that I’ve enjoyed, the sharks in the threequel to the Godfather of shark movies could win Academy Awards. Certainly some of the rubber sharks are very low grade, and in one scene in particular it looks like one is just being used as a battering ram. And the attempts at 3-D sharks are no Shark Night 3-D (which rules). It’s a bummer though that Seaworld is not as awesome as the movie makes it look.
Joanna: Jaws and Jaws 2 certainly had the same feel, didn’t they? Jaws 3-D on the other hand, not so much. And a lot of it starts and ends with the sharks. In Jaws, you knew the shark, “Bruce,” was fake — but he was terrifying nonetheless. You saw glimpses of a fin, a few shadows, some underwater POV shots and then — BAM — there he is! By the time Jaws 3-D rolled around, it became about gimmicks (it is Jaws 3-D, after all). We get a bunch of real underwater shark shots, horrible motionless 3-D graphics, and one large, fairly useless shark prop. This sounds like I’m bashing it, doesn’t it? Really, I’m not. Jaws 3-D is buckets of fun — just not to the same terrifying level as its predecessors. You don’t watch this third installment for its franchise name, you watch it because it’s a cheesy, 80s shark movie — that also happens to star Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. Oh — and the dolphins live! Cue the final freeze frame shot!
June 12, 2015: JAWS: The Revenge (1987)
Q: Does Jaws: The Revenge really deserve its bad reputation?
Johnny: Jaws: The Revenge, as I’ve mentioned, was the Jaws film I had the most memory relating to from childhood. Not nostalgia, just memory of seeing it and recalling scenes. I was excited to revisit it now, as 1) a person who has now scene the first two Jaws films a bunch a times and 2) an adult. It’s unfortunate, but watching it in 2015, I do think the film merits its bad reputation. I was hoping for something at least fun. I mean, the fact that no one likes a later 80s sequel to one of the most classic movies ever…well, that doesn’t mean it’s actually bad. People hate a lot of good stuff. With a heavy heart I write that Jaws 4 was just boring as hell. The sharktronics were bad, but I could look past that, as I often do, if the rest of the material is at least goofy fun. Lance Guest, though, does look cool in this film, as he usually does. And a paycheck movie for Michael Caine? Sure, but I don’t think he really lets on. He does as good a job as anyone could playing the role he plays.
Joanna: In a word, absolutely. There is a major problem with Jaws: The Revenge. After it chooses to ignore Jaws 3-D (which is fine—it happens), the film horrifically attempts to recreate the vibe of the first two Jaws movies. And it’s a big, bad mistake. While the originals were simple and scary, The Revenge is flimsy and laughably impractical. If you’re going to be ridiculous, don’t try to play it straight. It just gets weird. Let’s (briefly) recap: Martin Brody is dead (boo) and little Sean Brody is killed (boo) in Amity by a shark. A distraught Mrs. Body goes to visit son Michael (and his family) in the Bahamas—where everyone is terrorized (again) by a great white shark. The theory is that the Brody family is cursed! Good grief. There are way too many homages—the scene with Michael and his daughter made me cringe—and Michael Caine’s ‘paycheck’ presence (though acted well enough) is perfectly useless. Do we even need to cover the roaring shark? Yes. Yes, we do…