Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gray, Mark Gruner
“I’m telling you, and I’m telling everybody at this table that that’s a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again!” (Chief Brody, Jaws 2)
Poor Chief Brody. After dealing with a huge shark in the original Jaws and helping restore Amity Island to some sort of normality, weird things are starting to happen again. Surely there can’t be another shark in Amity? You bet your fins there is.
What made the original Jaws so gripping was the film’s refusal to show the shark until near the end of the movie. Until then you only saw people in the water reacting to attacks, screaming and writhing as the invisible killer underneath them turned the water blood red. It was the classic “what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see” technique and it worked a treat.
Jaws 2 starts off at a disadvantage, then, because it can’t use the same trick again. Hiding the shark is a pointless exercise because we all know what to expect and can’t be surprised a second time. As a result, it has a slightly different feel to its predecessor – we see a lot more of the shark and it gets involved a lot more this time around. At times it feels more like a slasher movie, a contrast to the original’s tense, slow pace.
Despite this, Jaws 2 is still fairly tame. The story goes that Universal were eager to get the film a PG rating to get as many ticket sales as possible, and so most of the shark attacks either happen off-camera or are cleverly shot so that the fatal bites are obscured by things in the way. This weakens the effect of the attacks and really takes some of the shock factor away.
The film also lessens the impact by providing a final act with far too many characters in it. Whereas the first film had only three heroes, giving each enough screen time to let the viewer learn more about them and warm to them, this time the final showdown involves the shark, Brody, a helicopter pilot and around ten kids stranded in their boats. I couldn’t give an eighth of a shit if some kid who had two lines of dialogue gets his leg chomped, I have no idea who he is and it makes no difference to the movie whether he lives or dies.
Jaws 2 isn’t as bad as it could have been. It goes in the direction it should have gone, it just goes about executing it in slightly the wrong way. With too many characters and not enough shock value it’s just a diluted, less effective version of the original.
WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Jaws 2 is available in a nifty special edition DVD set with extras, commentaries and the like, and it’s usually under a fiver these days. You can buy the UK version here from Amazon.co.uk, and get the US version here from Amazon.com if you live in America. Other than the region code, both versions are identical.