As we come up for those summer nights and long for that ice cold beverage under the sun, Jaws will also be celebrating its 47th anniversary and have us second guessing that little dip in the water to cool off. It’s a seasonal must watch, the Home Alone of July, and just like the Christmas favourite, we have our pick of the range with sequels to kick our feet up to. Of course, not all sequels are as captivating as the original – the Jaws franchise is a fine example of this, but before you skip the delightful mess that is Jaws 3-D, know that you’re missing out on more than just questionable CGI.
Steven Spielberg is the godfather of cinema. We probably don’t need to tell you that he’s made a good movie or two; whether you’re watching E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, or Indiana Jones, you’re going to be in for a good time no matter how many times you’ve seen it all before. His work has shaped generation after generation; it may not be an overstatement to say that he always hits his mark; how many of us are still terrified to saunter into the water because of this little 1975 shark thriller? Jaws is a classic in every way it can be.
Then, three years later we revisit Amity Island to find Roy Scheider’s noble sheriff still reeling from the events of the first film and a fresh wardrobe of figure fitting khaki shorts – Brody doesn’t skip leg day, that’s for sure. Jaws 2’s a decent enough sequel; it doesn’t quite live up to the thrills of the original and it kicks off the first of two more equally unnecessary follow up projects; as much we don’t need nor did we ever ask for Jaws 2, it’s not bad, and has admittedly gone on to become the best of a bad bunch – obviously excluding Speilberg’s genre defining masterpiece.
Sometimes franchises don’t need to become franchises, and that’s ok. In fact, this is probably how a lot of viewers felt in 1983 when Jaws 3-D set its sights on devouring a new batch of victims, at SeaWorld no less. Remember that weird time in the 80s when a gaggle of horrors tried their hand at 3-D? With the cardboard framed, blue and red spectacles that didn’t really add much effect? More often than not we’d see a pole or various items being projected directly into the camera lens, and that’d be the extent of our 3-D experience. Hey, you gotta start somewhere, no judgments here, except with some (all) of the CGI in Jaws 3-D.
Besides the title and shoehorned attempt to continue the story with Brody’s now adult sons, Michael (Dennis Quaid) and Sean (John Putch), there’s nothing that even remotely connects the dots between Jaws 3-D and Jaws. This could be passed off as another shark film grasping the coattails of another’s success; you could change the names of the characters to convey some originality but the distance still wouldn’t be far enough, and they’re in Florida this time! All it achieves is depicting how unfortunate the Brody boys seem to be – even Quaid famously disowns the film. Who’d have believed that Louis Gossett Jr. also participates alongside Quaid and Lea Thompson a year after winning an Academy Award?
While a shameful expansion on the Spielberg thriller, Jaws 3-D is actually a lot of fun to watch, whether we want to admit it or not. We have to give it points on the creative front for that otherwise comically unbelievable yet quirky plot for separating itself from anything we’ve seen before in the franchise. Would SeaWorld have a pool directly connected to the ocean so they can occasionally let their dolphins roam the open water? Absolutely not considering it probably violates a safety precaution or two. Would a great white shark infiltrate a highly populated tourist spot to retrieve its pup? If it desperately wants to eat the kid, I guess so. Would an eccentric hunter be allowed to kill a shark live on national television? We get it. The story is problematic at best.
That doesn’t take away from the pure wave of entertainment you’ll be on the receiving end of by watching it. We can’t think too hard about the semantics of it all – or how poorly constructed the great white looks; a shark at a water park is a terrifying concept. At some point or another, I imagine most of us had that fear of spying a dorsal fin poke out at the swimming pool, so intensify that feeling by 100 and you’ve got Jaws 3-D’s underwater tunnel sequence. Appearance wise, the shark isn’t great, and that’s being generous; however, the film does have its moments – one being FitzRoyce’s brutal demise (Simon MacCorkindale).
In his grand plan to outsmart the apex predator, the hunter learns what it means to become the hunted. Trapped in a narrow tunnel with nowhere to go but into the jaws of the beast, FitzRoyce is crushed to death, and we have front row seats to the action. The scene is disturbing, near enough rivalling Quint’s (Robert Shaw) death from the first film. We know FitzRoyce is goner the second his line to freedom snaps, but it’s another thing watching him succumb to his fate from within the confines of the shark’s mouth. This stands as Jaws 3-D’s saving grace; we can feel the claustrophobia settle in fast, taking us by surprise given the standard of the film.
Jaws 3-D is the epitome of easy-going, light natured fun. We can’t take it seriously because it makes minimal effort of doing so itself. Long gone are the practical effects that have left us shaking in our boats since 1975, we’re going basic with a two-dimensional overgrown fish that’s about as menacing as Brody’s booty shorts. Campy is the trend of the 80s as performances vary from melodramatic to scraping the barrel for faux-enthusiasm, it’s a concoction of cringe-worthy drama, and it sucks us right in.
Bad it may be, but Jaws 3-D is far from the disaster we might want to remember it as – Jaws: The Revenge still exists, the third instalment never goes that low! While it’s no phenomenal legacy tribute, it embraces the flaws in all their glory, and who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
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