With all the talk of the original Jaws buzzing around the internet due to the awesome new Blu-ray that’s just been released, I thought it might be an idea to take a look at the Jaws sequel, which despite not being as good as the original is still quite a solid attempt at recreating the tension, action and shark bites of the original classic.
Released in 1978, Jaws 2 was on the cards at Universal before the original Jaws even finished its theatrical run. Spielberg was out, but producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown were in. Back in the late seventies, sequels were pretty much frowned upon but after Jaws took the box office by storm it was a no brainer that Universal wanted to try and recreate the magic with another shark finding its way to Amity Island.
Set four years after the events of the original, Brody (Roy Scheider) is still the chief of police in Amity and he seems a whole lot more settled into island life. His wife, Ellen (Lorraine Gary) works with a local businessman trying to bring more vacationers and resorts into Amity and the Brody boys, Mike and Sean enjoy their summer holidays. Mayor Larry Vaughn is still doing his thing, obviously not learning from his previous mistakes and refusing to accept there might be a shark out there and even though Hooper does not return in the sequel, his whereabouts are at least mentioned.
The sequel begins underwater at the site of the sunken Orca (nice touch). Two rich divers wanting a picture next to the presumably famous wreck are attacked and from the get go we are shown it’s a shark and are kept a couple of steps ahead of Brody and his investigations into the escalating problems on the coast line. In an early attack, our new shark takes out a water skier and after a freak accident with a fire, our new shark is scarred, Two Face style, adding a villainous new-look to our killer fish.
Given the sequel is less personal and more flashy than the original, Jaws 2 still serves up its fair share of memorable visuals and a good bit of tension. Early in the film, the washed up carcass of an attacked orca whale is something that has stuck with me since seeing it as a kid. The shark taking out the young jet skier is also something that works very well for the film and as the film gets to its grand final act, some of the shark attacks on the group of ill fated teenagers as they head to the lighthouse are still what makes this sequel stand up 34 years on.
Sure, the shark looks more fake here and even though we get a handful of longer, more visual attacks from the very obviously rubber villain, there’s a surprising lack of shark for long periods in the film’s runtime. The sequel’s shark is nowhere near as cool as ol’ Bruce was in the original but there are still a fair few on the edge of your seat moments as the teenagers (including Brody’s kids) scramble to get on their little boats while he’s swimming about. Despite the overall lack of cool, there’s a fair collection of shots that improve on what was possible during the production of Spielberg’s original and our new shark’s bullyish ways are captured quite well, he even takes down a helicopter.
On a side note, one extra person returned to this sequel as well, John Williams. However you’d be surprised how little the Dur-Dum, Dur-Dum is used here. It certainly isn’t used to signify every time the shark is about like it is in the original and even plays when he isn’t sometimes. This John Williams score has a lot more in common with his work on E.T. (a mere four years away at the time) than it does the original Jaws and while it’s not as memorable as the pieces we all know and love from Mr. Williams it has its moments.
Jaws 2 is essentially the film that directors have been remaking over and over again when they try to recapture the magic of the original Jaws. It really is the granddaddy of stuff like Piranha, and Deep Blue Sea and all the killer fish movies that go for set pieces over substance. Yes, it misses the mark of the original Jaws but it still works as a thriller about a killer shark. The explosions are typically over the top, as was the case with many sequels of the time and the cast are largely idiots in their responses to the shark – why do the teenagers not constantly hold on to something after that first attack and how many times are they NOT going to see the giant fin behind them?
Overall, the story is what really lets this sequel down. It starts as another personal dilemma for Brody and leaves all that behind to simply be about stopping that shark again. Brody still has layers and I have to say Scheider does a bang up job reprising the role but really we are repeating his arc in the original Jaws with no real pay off. Director Jeannot Szwarc attempts to make it more about saving Brody’s kids towards the end of the film and this works to wrap up the events but when the shark get’s frazzled by the power lines it bites through (an element nodded at rather heavily early in the film) this sequel feels hollow and rather run of mill. Jaws 2 as a stand alone film about a killer shark is solid but the fact it’s a sequel to the definitive killer shark movie only goes to highlight its silliness.
Jaws 2 was made for a budget of around $30 million and wound up making over $208 million. It’s certainly not original Jaws money but that right there is still a hit and of course led on to two more sequels.
We are currently seeking Films contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Films contributor, click here.