Jaws 2 (1978) Director: Jeannot Szwarc
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”
Jaws 2 is a surprisingly entertaining sequel to Steven Spielberg’s original. Keeping in mind Hollywood’s terrible track record with sequels my expectations were understandably low. However I was mildly impressed that Jaws 2 was not a total train wreck. Apparently for a brief time Jaws 2 was the highest-grossing sequel in cinematic history until Rocky II was released in 1979. Jaws 2 is a decent, watchable film but it is still grossly overshadowed by the original.
Behind the scenes, the movie was troubled from the start. Spielberg refused to entertain the idea of directing a sequel saying “making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick” and he neglected to even respond to the producers about the idea. The original director John D. Hancock was proved to be insufficient and was replaced with Jeannot Szwarc who was also controversial. Some of the key actors from the original refused to reprise their roles, notably Richard Dreyfuss. The film was mostly saved by retaining the lead actor (Roy Scheider) who was merely reprising his role in order to complete a contractual obligation with Universal but he was completely unhappy with production throughout, particularly with director Szwarc, with whom he frequently quarreled and even got into a physical altercation. Needless to say the mood on set was tense.
The story again takes place in the happy beach town of Amity (whose name means “friendship” and was again shot at Martha’s Vineyard). The opening scene is somewhat less dramatic than the original. Two scuba divers are attacked by a great white shark while they photograph the wreckage of the Orca, the boat from the original movie. More suspicious signs of shark attacks start emerging and Police Chief Brody suspects another great white shark is again plaguing the town’s waters, however he is prevented from investigating because a group of businessmen are planning to construct a new hotel. Again, the tension between blinded normalcy is contrasted with impending danger.
Chief Brody forbids his children from going out on the water but after pressure from others they disobey his order and a group of friends go sailing in six different boats. One by one they are all attacked by a vicious great white shark. They get stranded on the open ocean and even a helicopter evacuation fails when the great white amusingly attacks the helicopter and kills the pilot. In the end, Chief Brody trails the boats to a small island with an electric relay station called Cable Junction. He lures the shark to the island and electrocutes him. The one-liner in this film is “say ah!”