As much as I love the original Jaws (1975) I think that it’s sequel, Jaws 2 gets a bad rap. Sure, we don’t really get any memorable characters like Hooper or Quint, but we do have returning characters/actors and a handful of the production team of the first film. It must count for something. But there are three main reasons why I love Jaws 2, and several minor reasons.
Part of the magic of the first film is that, due to production challenges, there was a choice not to show too much of the killer shark. It gave us a unique lesson in film in that sometimes less is more. It also suggested that it is not always wise to always show your monster right away, but tease the viewer with glimpses. Granted, this is not an absolute. There have been effective thrillers and horror pictures where the threat is in the open and in front of you. But that’s usually reserved for “individual” monsters and killers, be it Chucky from ‘Child’s Play’, Freddy from ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ or the demonic car of ‘Chistine’. The ‘Jaws’ formula of not showing the ‘monster’ too much is more like Greg McLean’s ‘Rogue’, about a killer crocodile.
The success of the ‘Jaws’ structure did not follow up in the sequel; the shark is seen early and often. But one of the added bonuses of the film is that when Brody (Roy Scheider) has reason to believe that a new shark is picking up where the previous one left off. While additional safety measures have been added in between both films – most notably a shark tower- Brody has become the new Quint in a matter of speaking. He is obsessed with finding his foe once again. When Amity’s polititians fire Brody, it is with good reason. It isn’t that Brody may or may not be right. It is the mere fact that he himself caused a (well meaning) panic, drew his gun and fired in the water. We know there’s a new shark out there, He knows there’s a new shark out there. Maybe the city council is in denial. But they also know Brody is a paranoid loose cannon. The taking away of his job as Sheriff is a nice character blow. Added to that, we know he’s right, and so are his superiors.
Yes, the family and character moments in Jaws 2 do have some depth to them, and when Brody pretty much goes it alone, he’s got almost no support aside from his wife and his deputy (now called ‘Jeff’ instead of ‘Leonard’ for some reason) who are left behind when the third act kicks in. The events leading up to that third act is what makes this film. It’s a given, isn’t it? Gimmie a sequel and I’ll give you more shark. But what a bonus! See folks, it’s really simple here. We have got, in disgise, a Dead Teenager Movie. The teens rebel, sneak out, must pay the price for lust, and will sacrifice themselves for friends or a young kid. The death toll is a bit higher, and we got four memorable demises. One is really stupid where, after Mr. Shark snaps away a water-skier he goes after the person in the boat. That person, for some oddball reason, pours gasoline all over herself (although in a panic) and indirectly causes the boat to explode. Luckily, she also scars up the shark a bit as well. Later we find that woman’s burned up body as Brody faces (again) his fear of water. Another is Eddie, but only because of the aftermath when his girlfriend Tina is severely traumatized. This makes us have some feeling for the poor kid. The next best “death” is that of Marge, who dies heroically. (Even if,in the days of my youth and HBO at my friend’s house, this was actually a stupid way to go, although not as dumb as gas can woman) But there is THE HIGHLIGHT of Jaws 2, where in the few years after viewing on cable, me and my friends actually thought the shark lept out of the water and clamped down on the heliocopter. Yes it did chomp down, but it didn’t shoot up like a dancing dolphin either. By today’s standards, this event is not as interesting as, say, what would have the attack on the Killer Whale might have been. It also was a lame way to go overall (a deleted DVD scene shows the pilot becoming the sandwich) but back then in the late 70s/early 80s? On the box? Golden moment, folks.But there’s something more for me than all this and just the classic tagline (“Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water”) and that is those days of geek youth. Sure, we loved Star Wars, Rocky, got into Conan a little bit . But then there was Jaws, and specifically, Jaws 2. I still recall my best buddy Shawn, in front of the TV and the HBO box, proclaiming with every shark snack…
Bye, Bye, Bab-eeeeee
and it was tough not to get a smile. And yes, we all thought the death of the shark by electric cable was nothing short of badass. In passing years, I love the first Jaws more and more, as I think it has aged better than Jaws 2. But while not every filmmaker will follow the ‘less is more’ guideline, there is one thing I would love to see filmmakers take from Jaws 2. A Dead Teenager film that has dead teenagers we not only care about – but having the main protagonist be someone who faces problems and who knows a little more than the kids do. That’s not a bad thing folks, if that character has thier best intrests at heart.