a Primal Root Review
“Get out the blankets, I’m getting black and blue marks all over my butt, and my moms starting to get uptight about them!” Tina, JAWS 2
Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front, Spielberg’s 1975 summer killer fish movie, JAWS, is a masterpiece. It truly is a fantastic piece of entertainment. Thrilling, fun, horrifying, populated with human characters we grow to care about and monster based in our own reality. Every time you hop in the ocean to frolic in the surf with some naked beach bunny looking to snorkel your wang-doodle, there’s a possibility that a 10 ton aquatic death train of razor sharp teeth and an appetite of destruction is bearing down on you with every intent to turn you into pulled pork and leaving nothing behind but a few buckets of human V-8 juice. Being a Florida native I was practically raised at the beach. Once I saw JAWS, I never looked at those waters the same way again. What’s so incredible, is that this 40 year old master class in how to make a fantastic horror film still holds up phenomenally well to repeat viewings. It’s been parodied endlessly, knocked-off and imitated, but no killer great white shark film will ever top it.
Then there’s JAWS 2. Taking place a few years after the events of the first film we find our star and sherif of little Amity Island, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) patrolling the beaches again. Taking care of children karatying the picket fences and what not. Until, one day, a pair of scuba divers go missing, Brody knows in his guts that it’s a great white who has made it’s way to the warm, calm, inviting waters of Amity Island which has suddenly become a favorite feeding ground for these black eyes, large mouthed death dealers. As the narrator in the trailer for JAWS 2 explains “In all the vast and unknown depths of the ocean how could there have been only…ONE?” Sure, I can believe in there being more, but holy shit! To come back to the same little piece of turff that Bruce once went on a rampage through? I dunno, I’ll let it slide. After all, stranger things have happened, I guess.
Brody’s concerns go unheeded by his wife and the Amity Island board of rich assholes, but soon a water skier gets munched into oblivion and her friend who was captain of the vessel towing her when she got gobbled gets so goddamned terrified that, in a moment of sheer bonkers, off the wall violent brilliance, she pours a can of gasoline all over herself and then blows herself up with a flair gun as our shark is gnawing her boat into splintery chunks. It’s absolute lunacy for about 45 seconds of screen time and, in this viewers opinion, marks the absolute high point of JAWS 2. It’s sad, pathetic and hysterical beyond measure. I’m not sure what her plan was, but it really went the Wile Coyote route. But it does end up giving shark 2 a really mean looking burn scar to make it look super touch and cool. It doesn’t really work in achieving this, but Freddy Krueger would take this exact same concept and run with it a few years later to much greater affect and acclaim.
Now, before you start thinking this is a film concerning adults, I need to clue you in to the fact that the bulk of the movie centers on a group of interchangeable, unlikeable teenagers who enjoy sailing together all day every day. JAWS 2 was looking to tap into the dead teenager slasher market but never really has the stinky shark gonads to follow through. The two Brody boys are among the group of doofy after school special teeny boppers and end up being the focal point of our news blood lusting great white. In the final action set piece that goes on and on and on for what feels like an eternity, our human scarfing shark manages to kill only two of about a bakers dozen worth of teenagers. And the only likable teen happens to be among those eaten. It’s a group of teenagers stranded in the middle of the unforgiving ocean on tiny catamaran sail boats with tarp bottoms. Bruce was able to crush The Orca in JAWS, what the fuck is this sharks issue? There are all these screaming, flailing, dumbass teenagers ripe for the picking and our shark can’t handle it? He manages to eat a helicopter (Oh yes, it does occur, true believers) but can’t rip apart a few flimsy pieces of plastic and tarp bundled together by cheap rope. Man, fuck this shark.
But, I digress, there is a rather nifty kill when a one young man falls over the side of his little dingy and gets pulled through the waves in the clutches of the shark. Also, there a pretty inventive nasty moment when a scuba diver, surprised and terrified by the sudden appearance of the shark, shoots up to the surface and suffers a horrendous case of the bends for his scramble for survival. Its vicious and damn good stuff A little bit more of these kind of scenarios would have gone a long way as opposed to extended scenes of teenage prayer groups on stranded sail boats. Where’s Hooper and Quint when you need them? Oh, that’s right, Hooper won and Oscar and Quint got eaten. We’re shit out of luck, Gang. Also, there’s a nice tip of the hat to the far superior ORCA: The Killer Whale aka: Death Wish for Fish in the form of a dead killer whale which is discovered by two horny teens frolicking amongst the dunes. How these kids did not smell this baking in the summer sun dead whale carcass a mile away, I will never know.
Roy Scheider does his best to bring back the charm of the original film and plays Brody honestly, staying true to the character. Portraying the man as someone struggling with PTSD after the deeply traumatic events of the very first film. I’m not going to lie to you, I would have probably been more impressed in there were no shark in JAWS 2 and Brody were just delusional and terrified that something was happening again out in those waters. But, people want to see fins gliding through the water and people running out of the ocean, so that’s not going to sell any tickets.
Of course, by the end of the film Brody is vindicated by a killer shark actually eating people, dons his super tiny Dad shorts, heads out to find his kids, save their friends and ends up the chef of the Friday evening fish fry as he shoves the towns submerged power cable (Huh?) into the sharks gaping maw. There’s no “Smile you son of a bitch!” awesomeness, but Brody mutters something like “Dinner is served!”, “Come and get it!” or “This is going to be a real SHOCKER, wokka, wokka, wokka!”, but the electrified shark death is kind of fun in the same way watching sparklers are. It;s like sparkler, but coming out of a cheap rubber sharks eyes while black smoke billows out of it’s pie hole. Fun, but not as fun as it was when Brody shot that fucker and blew meaty red chunks through the sunny blue Amity Island sky to the delight of the theater patrons and seagulls alike!
JAWS 2 is pretty bland shit. There are some moments of pure fun, but there are 10 times as many halting trips through dullsville. It’s cool seeing the residents of Amity Island again and seeing a bit more of the town itself, but it’s never as fun or electrifying as that fist trip to Amity. It’s certainly the sequel closest in tone to the original JAWS, but it’s also the least retarded of the lot, which makes it kind of a ho-hum entry. It’s sequel business as usual but it’s never downright goofy and awful enough to be enjoyed for it’s badneess like Jaws 3-D or Jaws: The Revenge. It had potential and a cool enough set up, if they had been more daring and bold with what they had. Perhaps making the film darker and meaner than it’s predecessor, which had no balls to not only kill of pretty teenage girls and innocent children, but the holy grail of audience appaling deaths…a dog.
Hey, at least we learned what to do if a shark starts eating your boat. Just explode yourself! If sure as shit can’t touch you now that you’re a crispy critter. Might as well have explained that in the vast and unknown depths of sucker cinema goers wallets how could we not turn this remarkable film into and tepid franchise with a handful of horrible sequels?
I award JAWS 2 TWO out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets