Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is convinced that a different shark is stalking the waters of Amity. He goes on a rescue mission when the new shark is attacking a group of kids that are sailing.
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Cast: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Jeffrey Kramer, Mark Gruner
MPAA Rating: PG for language and peril
Fun Fact: Roy Scheider did not want to appear in this movie. He had dropped out of The Deer Hunter but was locked in a multi-movie contract with Universal. Scheider and the studio made an agreement if he did this film Universal would forgive him for walking off The Deer Hunter. Scheider agreed to the deal but had frequent clashes with director Jeannot Szwarc.
Jaws was a smash as it became a pop culture phenomenon and was practically a household name. It brought in a profit for Universal and the studio green-lit a sequel. Steven Spielberg was asked to comeback to direct the sequel but turned it down. Richard Dreyfuss turned down an opportunity as well because he said he would only do it if Spielberg was at the helm. A new director in John D. Hancock was brought in but was relieved of his duties due to the studio not agreeing with his vision. So Jeannot Szwarc was hired and after some convincing Roy Scheider returned even if he did not want to. Scheider promised that he would give it his all. When people thought it was safe to go back into the water Jaws 2 was released in 1978.
With the high expectations that Jaws had, it was going to be a rocky road to make a sequel. The thing about this film is that while it is mostly a rehash of the first film, it is not a horrible sequel nor is it great. The tension is underwhelming as it does not have the great build up towards the shark creating chaos. We had seen that before and it was hard to recreate that magic effectively again. The pacing is toned down a bit and the focus now is more on the human characters. While we have some established characters, the main focus is the teenage characters that the story is based around. You could say that Jaws 2 was a precursor to the slasher phase of film making in the 1980’s. The characters are not horrible by any means, but they have those clichés that we all know about in movies. They do not listen to suggestions that there is a shark and go out on the water anyway. Frankly, most of the characters other than Martin Brody act like nothing is going on.
One thing that still stands out is the special effects. The shark still looks decent with the reliance of practical effects. When ever I see the fin of the shark rise above water, I brace myself in what is going to happen. Those are some of the moments that hold over, but the problem here is the direction is not as solid as the previous installment. I believe that Jeannot Szwarc had a vision that he wanted to present, but the studio might have had some creative differences with him.
Roy Scheider reluctantly returned to reprise the role. When doing a bit of research of the film there were reports that Scheider and director Szwarc got in a physical fight. The thing I give Scheider credit is that he gives a solid performance. He is still the brave hero we got to know and want to root for. Richard Dreyfuss is sorely missed as Matt Hooper and him and Scheider had nice chemistry. Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton return and frankly they do not much here. If they were not in this movie they would not be missed. This is where I give credit to the teenage characters. Even with all of the clichés at least we get to know them a bit and they are a focal point.
John Williams returns to write the score once again. While the music is good it just does not have the same feel. The fantastic theme song is a pleasure to hear again as it helps bring the mood of the film to life. An interesting fact is that Williams wrote the score before the film went into production. For what he was handed, Williams did a decent job in what he had to do. We get quite a bit of subtle music when needed and pieces to elevate tension where needed.
Overall, Jaws 2 is one of those sequels that did not really need to happen. While it is not a terrible or great movie it just feels like a rehash of an all time classic. The tension is weaker, and it does not feel like anything menacing is going to happen. It feels like a precursor to a slasher movie that focuses mostly on the human characters other than the villain. The only character that has any investment that you want to get behind is Martin Brody. While we have returning characters from the first film, the performances are not really needed. In fact, a good portion of the characters are forgettable and do not have anything that really brings them to life. John Williams returns to deliver great music once again. I believe that this film was more of a studio film that could have been better if all of the right players were involved.
Verdict: Middle Ground