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Jaws 2 (1978) - Movie Review

There are some films that are just so good, it’s impossible for a sequel to live up to it. Of course there are the rare exceptions like Aliens (1986) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) among a handful of others, but it’s a very rare thing for a sequel to be as good or even superior to the original.

In a time where sub-par sequels to movies made years prior just to cash in on the franchise are rife, you have to wonder why modern day sequels aren’t as good as they used to be back in the 80s and 90s.

I probably haven’t chosen the best franchise to use as an example here since the third and fourth instalments were pretty bad, however, this film is a worthy sequel in my opinion and I watched it again last week.

Jaws 2 (1978)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s an adventure/horror/thriller and the first follow up to the world’s very first “summer blockbuster”, Jaws (1975).

It reunites some of the actors from it such as, Roy Scheider (Jaws), Lorraine Gary (Jaws), Jeffrey Kramer (Clue, Jaws) and Murray Hamilton (The Graduate/also Jaws) as well as a few others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

Years after the shark attacks that left Amity Island reeling, Sheriff Martin Brody (Scheider) finds new trouble lurking in the waters. Mayor Vaughn (Hamilton) wants to rid the beach town of the stain on its reputation. But the disappearance of a pair of divers suggests that all is not right. When Sheriff Brody voices his warnings about holding a sailing competition, everyone thinks it's post-traumatic stress. That is, until a shark fin cuts through the water.

Jaws is one of my favourite movies of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it and although none of the sequels are a patch on it, this film is the only one of those I’m guaranteed to watch whenever I see it showing on TV.

It only has a rating of 5.8 on IMDb which I think is unfair because I’ve seen far worse films with better ratings. In comparison, the original Jaws (1975) has a score of 8.1, Jaws 3 (1983) 3.7 and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) 3.0.

Whereas I agree with the last two, I think Jaws 2 deserves a better rating.

One of the things I like about this movie is that it has the same kind of feel as the first one. The third and fourth instalments moved away quite dramatically from what made the first film so good but this one stays (to an extent) in the same area and doesn’t try to get too complicated.

It’s set, again on Amity Island (actually not an island at all but Martha’s Vinyard), brings back some of the same characters and just feels like the events of the first movie are still very recent. It’s also the only sequel to have John Williams return to score the soundtrack which I imagine helps greatly with that familiarity.

Obviously Jaws was based on the novel by Peter Benchley, and trying to replicate the success of a film based on book is virtually impossible to do due to the sheer writing talent of the author, as well as the originality of the idea itself. Once people are familiar with a concept, for the most part the surprise factor is lost and there’s always the expectation that any sequel should be bigger and better. I disagree. I think this often ruins sequels because they veer too far from the original concept.

This film, as I said stays quite faithful to the original. Yes, there’s a scene where jaws attempts to eat a helicopter (check out the hilarious beard on the pilot) and yes there are a few other unrealistic scenarios, but for me, the fun factor allows me to suspend my disbelieve enough for it to be a highly enjoyable continuation of the original story.

As it happens, Roy Scheider only returned due to contractual obligations with Universal. He’d just quit the role of Michael Vronsky in The Deer Hunter (a role that would become one of Robert De Niro’s most critically acclaimed performances) due to “creative differences” and making this movie, essentially smoothed things over for him with the studio.

It wasn’t a smooth ride though. Scheider wasn’t keen to play the character again since he felt people would be watching the film to see the shark and not him, therefore it wasn’t necessary for him to return. With a bit of financial persuasion though he agreed to do it but came to blows with director, Jeannot Szwarc a number of times (even physically) throughout filming.

Despite not really wanting to be there he gives another brilliant performance, and proves to an extent that he’s one of the key ingredients in what makes a Jaws film work.

Whatever the IMDb rating, I love this film.

No it’s not as good as the first Jaws but it taps into the same sense of fun, adventure and charm that makes it so enduring, and as far as sequels go, I think this is one of the better ones. It’s also got one of the most well known taglines in movie history:

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”

Seen it? What do you think?


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