Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Jaws 2" (1978)

"Jaws 2" (1978)
Starring Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary and Mark Gruner
Written by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... or something.  "Jaws" is a classic.  A finely crafted adventure tale pitting man vs beast on the ocean.  It had tense action sequences and interesting, iconic characters to anchor the story.  "Jaws 2" is a fairly basic retread of some of those same story beats, but without the interesting characters to really give the movie any real life or substance.

"Jaws 2" once again pits Roy Scheider's Martin Brody against a killer great white shark off the waters of the fictional island of Amity.  It's been some time since the events of the first film, and Brody has settled into a comfortable life as the chief of police on Amity.  His family has integrated well into the community, and things are generally going well for the island.  That is, of course, until a series of deaths leads Brody to believe that the waters of Amity has once again been invaded by a killer shark. 

And once again... no one believes him.  As the deaths and disappearances mount up, Brody is still unable to convince anyone in town that something terrible is happening in the water.  After he creates a panic on the beach by firing his gun into the water at what he believes to be a shark, Brody is unceremoniously fired by the Amity town government.  Undeterred, he continues his investigation until he finds out that his sons, Mike and Shawn, are day-sailing out in the water near where a diver has been critically injured.  Brody commandeers a police boat and heads out to save them and to confront the shark menace once again.

"Jaws 2", as I said, is a fairly basic retread of the first film, but with some of the stakes increased.  More people die in this movie, and more people are at risk in the climax as Brody races to save a dozen teenagers stranded at sea and being picked off by the shark.  The movie lacks Steven Spielberg's expert touch crafting both characters and set pieces.  None of the interesting ideas posited in the film is really explored; the shark is injured early in the film, ostensibly to give it a more visual personality to discern this shark from the previous one, but we only see it in brief glances anyhow. 

While we spent much of the first movie getting to know Brody, Hooper and Quint and developing a relationship between them, in this film we are asked to care about a group of teenagers who banter back and forth like... well... teenagers.  Their relationships are already set and nothing happens to change any of them.  The teens are also mostly interchangeable, since none of their personalities is particularly different from any of the others.  So Brody is the only developed character at all in the entire film, which is a huge burden to put on a single actor, even if it's as one as watchable and likable as Roy Scheider. 

The shark attacks aren't as visceral or entertaining as the original, with plenty of shots of the shark just sort of ramming boats and people screaming as it swims past. 

Still, while it can't match the classic status of the original, "Jaws 2" is a mildly entertaining sequel.  Things would get far, far worse in the next two films.