Perhaps I should’ve been wary of the fact that I knew next to nothing about Jaws 2 coming into it, instead of that being the reason I wanted to see it. Because it seems that most sequels to the really well-known blockbusters have at least some sort of rep, or some quirk about them that people tend to joke about. Jaws 2 on the other hand has about zero rep, and the most famous thing about it is something that isn’t even in the movie — its iconic tagline “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”. But as for what’s actually in the movie, I can see why no one ever talks about it — because it’s a boring uninspired mess that no one should talk about. Except me, right now.
You get a pretty good nutshell of this entire film in it’s opening scene, which sees a bunch of scubadivers inspecting the sunken “Orca” ship from the first film. We then hear that familiar score by John Williams (who actually returned to do this sequel), before we see a series of POV shots where the scubadivers are attacked by what we can assume isn’t a surly manatee. It’s a sequence that has all the beats of the first film, but just feels so lifeless and by the book, and has none of the craft or atmosphere of the sunken ship sequence from the first film. Needless to say, it isn’t the least bit scary.
We then see that the small town of Amity has regained some normalcy since the first film, while police chief Brody (Roy Scheider, fulfilling contract obligations) is still a little paranoid about sharks. We’re then introduced to a bunch of teenagers who I don’t want to spend any time with, but the movie thinks that they should be the stars of the film instead of the only actual star of the first film that Universal was able to rope into this mess. Anyways, more people get eaten by this new shark that’s terrorizing Amity (it’s never stated if this one has any relation to the original Jaws), while after getting fired from the police force, Brody has to take things into his own hands.
When it comes to bad movies, there are certainly a lot of different kinds, but there are basically three main categories I tend to equate with underwhelming cinema. Some of them I would call “fun bad”, meaning that there are some amusingly stupid elements of the film that can make it enjoyable despite its failures. “Interestingly bad” is a category I would put a movie like Trog in to, where it’s so bizarre that something like this exists that it makes it kind of watchable. And then there’s “boringly bad”, which unfortunately most bad movies fall into, where it’s just something people made in order to make money and there’s nothing particularly inspired about it. Except for maybe John Williams’ score, Jaws 2 is boringly bad on pretty much every level.
Much like the first Jaws, its sequel had a notoriously difficult shoot, as its original director John D. Hancock (Spielberg was long gone) was replaced midway into the shoot by TV director Jeannot Szwarc. In addition to that, the film was constantly being toyed with by executives, and original Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb was brought in to rewrite a lot of the movie while they were already on set shooting. Which should be of no surprise at all, because as a story, Jaws 2 doesn’t have anything terribly compelling going for it. Brody doesn’t really have any discernable arc in this movie, and there are lots of sequences late in to the film where we’re still seeing random boaters and water-skiers getting attacked by Son of Jaws. I don’t have any connection to these people, and therefore don’t care at all. I just know that the studio probably insisted on these scenes being added in to make the movie more “thrilling”.
But hearing about the difficult shoot of Jaws 2 I think really puts in perspective how much the first Jaws was one of those unexpected miracles you get every once in a while in art and entertainment. Despite the fact that everyone on the set of the first Jaws had a miserable time, it had the right people on board (like Williams and editor Verna Fields) while being led by an overwhelmed visionary like Spielberg. And on top of that, the original Jaws had a great triumvirate of muchismo acting that you simply can’t plan for, as Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw are really the heart of the movie. Which is usually what most good sequels do — they feed off of the characters and relationships that were there in the original film, and try to deepen them even further. Unfortunately, this was not possible for Jaws 2 since Shaw’s character obviously died at the end of the first film, while Richard Dreyfuss is a difficult grump who doesn’t care about Hollywood bullshit, and therefore his character is only mentioned by name in Jaws 2. And on a somewhat related note, I am all about Richard Dreyfuss.
So without the ability to replicate that great character dynamic that was there in the first film, Jaws 2 instead tries to accurately replicate the style and feel of the first Jaws. However, trying to replicate a style is not a very inviting way of getting an audience to reinvest in a story, and especially when the style is such a cold one, which director Jeannot Swarzc can’t even manage to replicate very effectively. But possibly the most baffling thing about Jaws 2 is that it’s supposedly the best out of the three Jaws sequels. Which to me, is just amazing that Universal could churn out a boring piece of crap like Jaws 2 and then say, let’s make this again, twice. But worse.
“Maybe I can just method act this shit if I pretend the shark is my agent.”