What The Film!? is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the general fuckery Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.
If you know a film with major plot holes or those that make you scratch your eyes out, tell us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.
This Week’s Movie: The Jaws Franchise (Part 1 of 2)
I love sharks and I hate Orcas. Sharks are beautiful creatures who have been basically unchanged since the Triassic period, two hundred million years ago. Evolution got that one right and didn’t need to download anymore updates. Orcas on the other hand are smart, deadly, and horrifically violent monsters. A shark may bite a human out of curiosity/self defense, but an Orca will kill you for fun. “Sharks are scary!” you may say, but the fact is that Orcas eat sharks. The 1975 movie JAWS is one of the many reasons why sharks have a very bad and inaccurate reputation. It’s also one of the most important movies ever made.
Prior to JAWS, movies used to be released in a few theaters, being shipped to another theater when finished. Movies would tour countries in the way that bands do, but JAWS bucked this trend by being the first movie to be released in multiple theaters across the country. It became a huge hit and this release method is still being used as the standard today.
It’s hard to make fun of JAWS, the movie is borderline perfect. Even at such a young age, so many defining traits of Steven Speilberg’s filmography show up; the father/son relationship, big brilliantly executed set pieces, and you can even feel moments that seem to parallel scenes in Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones franchise. Some sequences even hit the same tones as his later more serious work, echoes showing up in Munich, Minority Report, and Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg solidified his style, signature, and changed Hollywood forever in his mid twenties. It wasn’t easy, there are plenty of books and documentaries that tell the story of how poorly JAWS came together (which is a great story on its own). If you don’t know the production of the movie, the basic gist of it is that it was so troubled that it was unlikely that a movie would be made at all, let alone a great movie.
JAWS‘ plot line is simple, but direct: Brody, a new police sheriff who is afraid of water, has to protect a small town from a killer shark. It’s like the Tsavo Man-Eaters, but with a shark (and fictional). The movie is so engaging that any continuity or plot problem (scooba tanks don’t float, scooba tanks don’t explode, sharks kill people just for the hell of it like Orcas do, you can occasionally see land on the horizon when they’re out at sea…) gets ignored because you’re so into it. The movie proved successful enough to warrant a sequel in a time when Hollywood didn’t actually care about sequels. Speilberg didn’t sign on to direct the sequel as he was busy creating another instant classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, stating that “making a sequel is a cheap carny trick” (a decision he later regretted, which is why he insisted on directing the first sequel to Jurassic Park and every sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Universal Studios signed Bang the Drum Slowly director, John D. Hancock to direct Jaws 2. His version of the film was a much darker take, having the small-town city going bankrupt after the events of the first film. The politicians running the city are in debt to organized crime (which is a plot line cut from the original movie) and they’re desperate for an economic boost. They decide to build a new hotel/resort to try to generate more tourism, while ignoring Brody’s warning of a new shark attacking the town’s waters. It had parallels to the original movie while remaining different enough to be interesting.
John D. Hancock was fired from production after a month or so of shooting because Universal wanted a more light hearted adventure tone in its sequel to one of the scariest movies ever made. He was replaced by French director Jeannot Szwarc, someone who was more open to the studio’s suggestions (he even proposed the idea of the water-skiing opening sequence, a complicated scene that would fill time while the lighter toned script could be written). While it’s the best of the sequels, it’s still not very good. The tone is inconsistent and messy, the shark effects look worse than they did in the original, and it pioneered the idea that sequels needed to up the ante on the original to the extent that it becomes stupid (the shark destroys a helicopter, survives a massive fire, throws people around like softballs, and ultimately gets killed when Brody puts a live wire in its mouth, a move that kills the shark and leaves Brody unharmed).
Watching any of the JAWS sequels is awful. You watch them and sometimes they look right into you. The thing about the JAWS sequels is they’re lifeless, like a doll’s eyes. I used to really enjoy Jaws 2, but one day I watched JAWS and Jaws 2 back to back and the difference in quality was staggering. And yet, they keep getting worse. The JAWS franchise is the only franchise to have an entry on IMDB’s Top 250 and also an entry on their Bottom 100. Tune in next week for Jaws 3D and Jaws 4: The Revenge! Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-UTG!