Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws” is much darker in tone as the main characters come across as unhappy and have harsh tempers which constantly get the best of them. There are also a number of subplots that bring out the negative sides of each character throughout. When it came to turning “Jaws” into a movie, Spielberg worked with different screenwriters to make the characters more likable, and he eliminated many of the novel’s subplots. In the process, he changed much of the story to where the movie focused on the terror the shark wreaks on the helpless townspeople and tourists, and on the last act where Brody, Hooper and Quint go on a hunt to destroy it.
The movie has the married couple of Martin and Ellen Brody more or less settled on Amity Island, and Ellen seems to be happier than Martin about their relocation from New York City to their current residence as her husband has a big fear of the water. Benchley’s novel, however, has them at odds with one another to where they argue most of the time, and it is Ellen who is more dissatisfied with the move to Amity Island as she misses her former life in the city.
One major subplot which did not transfer over to the movie is when Ellen Brody has an affair with marine biologist Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss). It turns out she used to date Matt’s older brother and being with Matt vividly reminds her of the life she used to have. While Spielberg’s film portrays Matt and Martin as being friends, Benchley’s novel has them becoming enemies as Martin struggles with getting older along with his envy of Hooper who represents the man he used to be.
Quint, who was unforgettably portrayed by Robert Shaw, is described much differently and barely speaks at all. Suffice to say, his speech about being on board the USS Indianapolis when it sank is not in the book. Even Quint’s death is different as, instead of him being eaten by the shark after it jumps on board the Orca, he gets his foot caught in a rope attached to the great white and drowns after he is pulled underwater.
As for Hooper, who survived his ordeal in the shark cage in the Spielberg movie, he is killed off in the book as well. Perhaps it is karmic justice as Benchley portrays him as an obnoxious man who Martin almost chokes to death at one point.
Another subplot which did not carry over from the book is when Mayor Vaughn is found to be seriously in debt to the mafia, hence his strong need to keep the beaches of Amity open despite the shark attack. Spielberg’s movie, however, has him resisting Martin’s urges to close the beaches as Amity Island is seriously dependent on tourist dollars during the summer for its very existence.
When it comes to the ending of “Jaws,” Martin Brody does not kill the shark by shooting a bullet into the air tank stuck in its mouth which causes it to explode. In the book, he is helplessly stuck in the water after the Orca sinks, and the shark heads straight for him. In the process of Brody accepting his fate, the shark ends up passing away just mere inches away from him. After battling these men for several days while having barrels stuck in it and suffering from blood loss, the shark just gives in and dies which makes for a rather anti-climactic ending.
Many of the changes came about because Spielberg set out to make an audience pleasing movie, and he didn’t want the main characters battling one another as they battled the shark. But for those who have seen the movie hundreds of times, it is worth reading the book as Peter Benchley uses the shark as a metaphor for Martin Brody’s realization of his mortality and how it comes to affect his actions on the job and in his marriage.
Despite its differences, Benchley’s novel remains a riveting tale of suspense and terror worth reading while you sit on the beach and getting a nice suntan.
Okay, “Jaws 3-D” is not a great movie (I’m being generous here), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it on the big screen where it was being shown in 3D. I had seen it on television so many times and kept wondering if the experience of watching it with the extra dimension would make it more exciting. Mad Monster put together the 30th anniversary screening for this much-maligned sequel together at TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood back in 2013, and they presented fans with a beautiful DCP 3D print to watch. I have a hard time believing the 3D effects looked as good in 1983 as they did that evening.
In addition, Mad Monster also brought along guests who were involved in the making of “Jaws 3-D:” director Joe Alves, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb and producer Rupert Hitzig. All three were eager to talk about the making of this sequel, but they never did discuss how it was received when it was released 30 years ago.
The original plan for the third “Jaws” movie was to make it into a spoof to be called “Jaws 3, People 0.” Plans for this, however, fell through due to conflicts with Universal Studios, and this led to David Brown and Richard Zanuck resigning from the studio. Alves remarked how the pre-production on “Jaws 3-D” showed how smart Hollywood executives are. Of course, he said this with a bit of sarcasm.
“They really didn’t want to make ‘Jaws,’ and we fought to get that made. They tried to stop it four times,” Alves said of the executives. “’Jaws 2,’ after they fired the first director, they closed it down and Verna Fields (who won the Best Editing Oscar for “Jaws”) and I had to convince Ned Tanen (then President of Universal Studios) that we should go ahead and make it. And then here comes the third one, and they think so much of their biggest movie that they title it ‘Jaws 3, People 0’ which means they are making fun of their most successful film.”
Fields, who later became Vice President of Universal Studios, contacted Alves and told him, since Brown and Zanuck left, the rights to “Jaws” were sold to Alan Landsburg, a television producer best known for “That’s Incredible,” and he was making a mess of everything. Fields asked Alves to talk with Landsburg, which he did, and Landsburg offered him the chance to produce the sequel. But having worked 100 days as a Second Unit Director on “Jaws 2,” Alves was far more interested in directing it. But the conversation became very interesting when Landsburg told Alves of what his plans were for this sequel.
“I said you have to think about making a big shark,” Alves told Landsburg. “And he said, ‘oh no, no, no, no, no. I just want to use real sharks from what I have from ‘That’s Incredible’ and mechanical people.’ So that’s how great the thinking was when this production started.”
Alves then went to visit various aquatic parks for research, and he came across an underwater exhibit which was in 3D. He thought it was great and loved the depth of the technology being used. After exiting the exhibit, he started to think about the possibilities of filming “Jaws 3” in 3D.
“With ‘Jaws 3-D,’ you accomplish two things,” Alves said. “You take the onus off the third because there were very few thirds back then; I think ‘Rocky III’ was the only one at the time. And then you introduce a fresh look at it (the franchise). I went home and did a shark drawing in 3D and I took it to Landsburg and to Sid Sheinberg, and he looked at it and said, ‘Can I have this?’ I said ‘Sid, you’re President. You can have whatever you want! I just got to show it to Lew Wasserman first.’ I got the directing job and that’s how it started.”
Gottlieb had written the screenplays for the previous two “Jaws” movies, but he originally was not brought on board to write the third. The original script was credited to the late, great Richard Matheson whom Gottlieb said he great respect for, but at the same time he found his script to be “problematic” at best. As a result, the studio called him to see if he could help them out once again.
“When Joe (Alves) and Rupert came on, they all agreed on me,” Gottlieb said. “I had done the other two under difficult circumstances, and they said, ‘Can you do it again?’ So off I went to Florida and looked at Sea world, surveyed the situation and thought, yes I can do the script.”
Once everything was ready to go, the cast and crew proceeded to Orlando, Florida to film “Jaws 3-D,” and Gottlieb said the only food down there was “deep fried, refried or just fried.” Making the movie proved to be challenging not only because they were filming in 3D, but also due to the fact they were dealing with water and a big shark. Alves described the process of working with 3D to the audience.
“We worked with one film and not two cameras,” Alves said. “You take and split 35mm film one way that you have a proportion that is really difficult to compose. A shark is very difficult to get out into the audience because it has a dorsal fin. If you cut the dorsal fin off, you could float it right into the audience. You could take a snake through it, but as soon as something hits that frame it jumps back. So, the shark could come out as far as the dorsal fin and that was it.”
Hitzig went into further detail about the complexities of working with 3D back in 1983.
“This film was so different because we were so awed by the concept of 3D, but you only see in 3D those frames that work; you don’t see the ones that don’t work,” Hitzig said. “Now there is a point of convergence, and the two lenses of the camera have to be put into convergence. So if I’m focusing on you and you’re in vertical in the back, then I’m focused on you but you’re gonna be two images in the back. Joe had to watch out that there were no verticals in the back because they were going to be too strong. So we go to the motel room in Orlando and we would be watching the movie and going ‘that shot is beautiful’ and ‘oh no!’ Our eyes would go cross eyed or walleyed and we ducked to the floor. Nobody was looking at the performances. So, after the third week, I put a sign in the motel room that said ‘just when you thought it was safe to open your eyes – Jaws 3-D!’”
Now its 30 years later, and 3D has come back to life thanks to new technologies which have made it far more effective than ever before. Then again, not everyone is a big fan of 3D and many are tiring of seeing every other movie with the extra dimension. Gottlieb shared with us his thoughts on 3D.
“I haven’t seen it (‘Jaws 3-D’) in 30 years and I’m looking forward to it,” Gottlieb said. “Every 3D movie is an experience, and sometimes I like to see them twice; once in 3D to have the stuff whizzing by, and a second time flat so that I can enjoy the story and the performances and everything else without the distractions of shooting for effects.”
Before the screening of “Jaws 3-D” began, Hitzig wanted to remind the audience of something.
“Remember that its 30 years ago,” Hitzig said. “We didn’t have CGI, we didn’t have video editing and everything was cut on film which was a problem with 3D. I remember in the very beginning, Sid Sheinberg said, ‘If you can get the shark to come through the screen and land in the audience’s lap, we’ll all be rich. So try and get that shark (which was so huge) through that little screen.’ Instead of CGI, we had to composite on videotape and then go back to 3D which was almost an impossible technical stunt. It’s not an apology, it’s just a realization of what you’re going to see.”
Alves also remarked on a conversation he once had with film critic Gene Shalit.
“I had talked to him on ‘Jaws 2,’ and he wanted to know what we were doing on the third one,” Alves said of Shalit. “I was showing him the 3D stuff and was saying, ‘If it was a snake I could get it into the audience.’ A couple of years later I happened to be working on another movie and I saw Gene and he yelled over, ‘It should have been a snake!’”
Gottlieb left us with one last technology note.
“This script was typed on a typewriter. Fingers on keys, an IBM electric, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.”
Well, “Jaws 3-D” will never go down as one of the finest motion pictures ever made, but watching it reminded us of how much better it is than “Jaws: The Revenge.” Plus, seeing it in 3D made the experience more fun than without it, and this is saying a lot because these days 3D isn’t worth the extra money. The film may not have been a critical success, but it still did turn a profit at the box office and people have not forgotten about it. Big thanks to Joe Alves, Carl Gottlieb and Rupert Hitzig for taking the time to talk about their experience making “Jaws 3-D.”
WARNING: THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS, BUT YOU PROBABLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE ALREADY.
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…”
Ah, what a great tagline to a halfway decent sequel. “Jaws 2” is easily the best sequel to Steven Spielberg’s horrifying classic which became the first movie to make over $100 million dollars, so of course a sequel had to be made. Another shark is off the coast of Amity Bay, to get revenge or just to feed or just to scare the crap out of the residents who depend on the summer months for their very existence.
Some people seem to think this is the same shark from the first movie… What are you, stupid? IT GOT BLOWN UP! This is probably the wife of that shark, or maybe it’s his mother. Maybe it was the shark’s gay lover or something. We never do learn about the shark’s relatives, do we? I am assuming that the shark in “Jaws 3-D” was not a distant relative, but someone who just hates Florida theme parks with a passion. As for the shark in “Jaws: The Revenge,” that one was definitely a relative. It had to be to swim all the way to the Bahamas to go after the damn Brody family!
Anyway, back to this shark, also a relative who waited a little while after the first one to strike. This sequel takes place a couple of years after the original and opens with some divers exploring the wreckage of the Orca who get attacked by the shark. Immediately, we zoom ahead to Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) rushing off to the opening of a new hotel on Amity Island which his wife (Lorraine Gary) has helped out with. We meet up again with Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) who is as excited about the summer months as he was previously. We also get to see the two Brody boys, Mike and Shaun, who have grown up a lot since we saw them last.
Then the darn shark appears again when he (or is it a she?) is least expected. There is a good scene involving a water skier which is “Jaws 2’s” first big action sequence. Of course, no one actually sees this shark attack the skier, so they just assume it was some sort of boating accident. Otherwise they would have found out earlier and got rid of the shark sooner, and there wouldn’t be a movie to watch. But then some kids find a beached killer whale on the sand which has had huge chunks of his skin bitten off, and this catches the eye of Chief Brody who becomes convinced there is another shark on the hunt. He has no proof and only his instincts to go on, so naturally no one believes him.
One of the many great things about “Jaws” was the human drama on the island was very strong. Spielberg wasn’t just interested in giving us shark attacks. That brings me to this film’s biggest weakness; the scenes on dry land suffer without the buddy relationship between Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. The characters are more like clichés this time around instead of fully realized human beings, and the story is more contrived. One guy standing in Brody’s way is Len Peterson (Joseph Moscolo) who doubts his sanity every step of the way. He is the movie’s key idiotic character, and the one guy we desperately want to see get eaten by the shark. When movies have characters like these, it doesn’t take long for audiences to get aggravated by them.
You’d also think Mayor Vaughn would know better this time around. He went through all this crap with the first shark, and now he thinks Brody is misguided in his assumptions yet again. He urges Chief Brody not to press it this time around, and their working relationship in “Jaws 2” ends up seeming completely ridiculous. If the Mayor is not going to be trusting of Brody’s instincts, then he should have fired him a long time ago.
There was a naturalness to the characters and acting in “Jaws” which unfortunately does not carry over to “Jaws 2,” and this sequel is deeply affected as a result. It would have been great to have Spielberg and Dreyfuss back for this one, but they had better things to do like making “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Actually, it would have been a huge shock if Spielberg came back to direct this one, considering the hell he went through making the original.
However, if you can get past the contrived screenplay, there are still plenty of shark attacks to enjoy. The shark is still a very threatening villain like its predecessor. Every time that fin comes out of the water, I get goose bumps all over my skin. The tension is still pretty taut as the shark sneaks up on its prey stealthily. There are also a couple of good jump out of your seat moments here, especially one involving Scheider slowly going into the ocean to retrieve some boat wreckage.
While the first shark was indiscriminate in who he, or she, killed, the shark in “Jaws 2” seems to have a big hankering for teenagers, especially ones who won’t stop screaming. One critic, I can’t remember who, said this movie would be a good time for those who enjoy seeing teenagers getting eaten, so I can only imagine what parents around the globe feel about this sequel. After a while, it just seems like the shark is going after these teenagers in order to get them to shut up. It makes you wonder what the shark is thinking throughout, “WHAT ARE YOU STUPID?! I CAN HEAR EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE YOU STUPID SHITS!!”
The teenagers do a great job of screaming and acting when they are in shock. The moments where they are in shock are very effectively done, and it helps quiet things down before the great white pops up again. Among the kids is Keith Gordon who later went on to star in “John Carpenter’s Christine” and “Back to School” with the late Rodney Dangerfield. Seeing him looking so young here is a bit of a shock after all these years.
The last half of “Jaws 2” has the teenagers out sailing, basically laying themselves out as shark meat. Among these kids are the Brody boys, both who have been grounded from getting into the water because of their father’s suspicions. But what’s a boy to do when a girl’s cousin wants to go with him to the lighthouse? She tempts Michael with that line we often hear teenagers say, “Do you always do what your parents tell you to do?”
Furthermore, why should the older brother have all the fun? Little Sean hitches a ride with Mike who really doesn’t want him around. So, they have the typically brotherly relationship which adds quite a bit to the story. When the teenagers find their lives in danger upon the appearance of the shark, how they feel about each other becomes completely irrelevant as they have to band together in order to survive.
Actually, I wonder if the filmmakers went with teenagers as shark meat in response of the sudden popularity of the slasher genre. I mean, the great white shark is in many ways the ultimate serial killer. He has sharp knives for teeth, and he (or she) can cut you up good. This one leaves no leftovers even if we wanted any, and much blood is spilt.
“Jaws 2” was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, and it is a good thing I am writing down his name instead of trying to pronounce it. He takes on daunting task of following a Spielberg masterpiece with a sequel which can only hope and pray to match the power of the original. The fact he does not entirely succeed is not altogether his fault. No one could ever have expected this sequel to be better than the original, and this certainly could have been a lot worse. Szwarc pretty much films “Jaws 2” in the same manner Spielberg did in terms of the shark attacks, but he also shows us more of the shark as well. While showing the shark takes some of the suspense away, he still does a good job of keeping the viewer on edge as we wonder when the shark will strike next.
Scheider made it clear on several occasions of how he did “Jaws 2” as a contractual obligation to Universal Pictures. I doubt he was all that excited about doing the sequel while the other key players went off to do other things. At least Robert Shaw had a good excuse; his character got eaten in the original. All the same, Scheider is still very strong here as Brody as he tries to convince the town there is another shark out there and makes it clear he’s not going to wait around for everyone to realize this. Scheider is one of the best reasons to watch “Jaws 2,” and he gives the audience a lot to cheer for as the film reaches its inevitable conclusion.
Of course, we all know what happens to the shark at the end. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know, don’t read any further. But it is a very cool death as Brody gets the shark’s attention by banging on a power line and drawing it in by sound. Holding the power line out for the shark to take a bite out of, his glee and anxiety are ever so apparent as he invites the shark to “SAY AHH!!!!!” The death of the shark by electrocution is right on a par with the way the first shark died, and it’s a scene I’m sure audiences cheered like crazy.
Another key ingredient of “Jaws 2” was also one of the main ones from Spielberg’s film, John Williams’ music. His score to the original remains one of the best and most frightening pieces of music ever created for a movie. With “Jaws 2,” Williams takes those themes from the first film and mixes them up with new ones for the characters inhabiting this sequel. It’s another great score which captures the heart and terror which unfolds onscreen. None of the other composers in this franchise came close to matching what Williams did. They simply lost the heart of the music and relied too much on the main “Jaws” theme to carry them through.
“Jaws 2” is understandably no masterpiece, but it is “Citizen Kane” when you compare it to the other sequels which followed it. “Jaws 2” was the last good movie in a series which soon descended into mediocrity. If you have to watch something on cable in the afternoon, you could certainly do worse than watch this one. Besides, it gave us one of the greatest taglines in movie history:
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…”
Of course, by the time “Jaws: The Revenge” came around, the tagline sounded more like this:
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a movie theater…”
From its poster, “47 Meters Down” looks like one of those Syfy flicks like “Sharknado” or “Lavalantula” which are enjoyable for being infinitely silly and having pathetic CGI effects. Or perhaps it would be like one of those knockoff movies from The Asylum, a production company shameless in capitalizing on blockbuster films by using titles and screenplays similar to them (“Snakes on a Train” or “Transmorphers” anyone?). Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to make something similar to the 2016 sleeper hit “The Shallows” which stared Blake Lively as a surfer who has to use her wits in order to keep from being eaten by a great white shark. Either way, I came into this movie figuring it would be one you should not take the least bit seriously and enjoy for all the wrong reasons.
But to my surprise, “47 Meters Down” is a very effective thriller which is lean in its execution, and its main intent is to take you on a pulse pounding ride. In many ways, it is like Renny Harlin’s “Deep Blue Sea” which, while by no means an artistic triumph, played around with the clichés we remember most from shark movies like “Jaws,” and it employs them to where we think we know what to expect, but our expectations are thrown for a loop. What results is a motion picture which knows exactly what it needs to do and how to do it.
Mandy Moore and Clair Holt star as Lisa and Kate, sisters who, as the movie starts, are on vacation in Mexico. One night they run into some local guys who invite them to go cage diving for sharks. Just like Richard Dreyfuss in “Jaws,” these two women will be lowered into the ocean in a cage where they will get to see those sharp-toothed creatures up close without being eaten. But of course, we all know things will not go as planned as our two leads and the characters around them make one stupid mistake after another. Then again, if they didn’t make those mistakes, there would be no movie.
The clichés abound in “47 Meters Down” as the boat the ladies will be traveling on looks far too rusty to sail anywhere safely. You have Matthew Modine on board as the captain of the ship, Taylor, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Quint from “Jaws.” There’s also the fact that these ladies have never scuba-dived before, and you know this is just asking to invite disaster. We have the air gauges which act as the plot’s ticking time bomb as the ladies threaten to run out of air sooner than they think, they cut themselves to where blood flows from their bodies, thus inviting any shark in the vicinity to drop by and feast on human flesh, and there’s always the one guy who is there to save everybody’s ass, but we all know how long he will last (or do we?).
Lisa also exhibits tremendous anxiety about doing this even as Kate assures her this will be the best time the two of them have ever had (it won’t). Hearing this conversation between them immediately reminded me of a number of “Star Wars” characters saying this infamous line from one movie to the next: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Another unforgettable piece of dialogue which crossed my mind was Jon Voight’s line from “Deliverance” when he said to Burt Reynolds, “Let’s go back to town and play golf.” This was good advice which was left unheeded, and it makes perfect sense how Lisa’s common sense could be overturned by Kate’s need for adventure.
As you can imagine, everything goes terribly wrong as the boat winch breaks, and the women plummet down 47 meters to the seafloor. Director Johannes Roberts wisely keeps the majority of the action underwater as Lisa and Kate struggle to stay calm and not use up their dwindling supply of air. He puts us right in their shoes as, like them, we are left to wonder what the crew members in the boat are doing to bring them back to the surface or if they are doing anything at all. Roberts is also aided strongly by a pulse-pounding film score from Tomandandy whose work on “Killing Zoe” and “The Hills Have Eyes” remake rank among my favorites. Their music heightens an already intense motion picture to something which will fry your nerves and leave you on the edge of your seat even as we are forced to endure some unintentionally hilarious moments.
Granted, you can’t always expect David Mamet or Aaron Sorkin to be underwater with you when words fail you. When Moore cries out about how the shark almost got me, the audience I was with couldn’t help but laugh as it seems like such a silly thing to say. But then again, what would really say if we were stuck in the same predicament? I doubt we would be uttering a monologue out of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Long Day’s Journey into Night.” Of course, it always helps to have John Milius around when you need him.
Moore and Holt do strong work in creating a bond between and work hard to create characters who, while not having too much in the way of depth, quickly realize they need one another to survive this ordeal. Seeing one of them take off their mask and remove their oxygen tank just to get through the bars of the cage is enough to make one shiver, and this is accomplished without the use of special effects. The actresses are also aided by actor Matthew Modine who plays the Captain of the boat, Taylor. For the most part, we hear his voice more than we see him, but he gives strong support as he encourages his guests, people he never should have put in any danger, a reason to stay calm. In addition, he also reminds the ladies and the audience that the bends is not just the title of a Radiohead album.
Roberts previously directed “The Other Side of the Door,” a supernatural horror thriller which started off well, but later got bogged down in clichés it would have been smarter to avoid. “47 Meters Down,” however, is all about clichés, and just as Harlin did with “Deep Blue Sea,” he manages to manipulate those clichés to where we think we know what to expect, and then we are totally caught off guard. Just watch the scene where the actresses are playing around with an underwater camera, and you will understand what I mean.
Yes, the sharks are CGI, but they are still frightening antagonists in this movie. After a while, the terror comes from a combination of what we think is going on above the water as well as what we cannot see. The water is made to look especially murky to where we can’t see much of what is in front of us, and this leads to an especially scary moment when a character swims out to a certain point, and then suddenly can’t remember the direction in which she came.
Look, “47 Meters Down” is not Oscar material, but it never pretends to be either. While it may not reach the heights of “Jaws” or the unbearable intensity of “Open Water,” it is a taut thriller which will allow the audience a nice diversion for a couple of hours. Roberts and his cast understand exactly what this movie aims to be, and they deliver in a way which will get your adrenaline pumping. You can laugh all you want at the foolishness of the characters, but in this instance their foolishness is necessary for this movie to work at all.