Movies – Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Creator – Peter Benchley
Jaws is an American natural horror film series that started with a 1975 film that expanded into three sequels, a theme park ride, and other tie-in merchandise, based on a 1974 novel. The main subject of the saga is a great white shark, and its attacks on people in specific areas of the United States. The Brody family is featured in all of the films as the primary antithesis to the shark. The original film was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, which itself was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. Benchley adapted his novel, along with help from Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, into the 1975 film Jaws, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Although Gottlieb went on to pen two of the three sequels, neither Benchley nor Spielberg returned to the film series in any capacity.
The first film was regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history; it became the father of the summer blockbuster movies and one of the first “high-concept” films. The film is also known for the introduction of John Williams’ famous theme music, which was a simple alternating pattern of the E and F notes of a piano. Williams’ theme won an Academy Award. The film won other Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Picture.
The success of Jaws led to three sequels, and the four films together have earned nearly $800 million worldwide in box office gross. The franchise has also seen the release of various soundtrack albums, additional novelizations based on the sequels, trading cards, inspired theme park rides at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Japan, multiple video games, and a musical that premiered in 2004. Although the first film was popular with critics when it was originally released, Jaws 2 received generally mixed reception, and the third and fourth films were critically panned. This reception has spread to the merchandise, with video games seen as poor imitations of the original concept. Nevertheless, the original 1975 film has generally been regarded as one of the greatest films ever, and frequently appears in the top 100 of various American Film Institute rankings.
However, Benchley later regretted he ever wrote the original book considering it encouraged a widespread public fear of sharks, which led to massive culls resulting in the various shark species around the world becoming endangered. As such, he spent most of his life promoting the cause of ocean conservation.
The original Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, is based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of Police Chief Martin Brody (portrayed by Roy Scheider) of Amity Island (a fictional summer resort town), in his quest to protect beachgoers from a great white shark by closing the beach. This is overruled by the town council, headed by the mayor (Murray Hamilton) that wants the beach to remain open in order to sustain the local tourist economy. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw). The three voyage out onto the ocean in Quint’s boat – the Orca. The shark kills Quint, but Brody manages to destroy it by shooting at the highly pressurized air tank that he has wedged in its mouth. In the end, Brody and Hooper are seen swimming away from the sinking Orca, having both of them managed to survive uninjured the shark attack on the boat.
Jaws 2 (1978)
The first sequel, Jaws 2, depicts the same town four years after the events of the original film when another great white shark arrives on the shores of the fictional seaside resort of Amity Island. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starring Roy Scheider again as Police Chief Martin Brody, who, after a series of deaths and disappearances, suspects that the culprit is another shark. However, he has trouble convincing the town’s selectmen. He has to act alone to save a group of teenagers, including his two sons, who encounter the shark whilst out sailing.
Jaws 3-D (1983)
The plot of Jaws 3-D (also known as Jaws 3) moves away from Amity Island to SeaWorld in Florida, a water themed-park with underwater tunnels and lagoons. As the park prepares to open, it is infiltrated by a baby great white shark which attacks and kills water-skiers and park employees. Once the baby shark is captured, it becomes apparent that a much larger shark, the mother, is present. The characters of Martin’s sons from the first two films are developed further in this film: Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) is the chief engineer of the park and his younger brother, Sean (John Putch), arrives at the resort to visit him. The events of the earlier films are implied through Sean’s dislike of the water because of “something that happened when he was a kid.” The events and character development from Jaws 3-D are independent from the rest of the series.
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
The fourth and final film, Jaws: The Revenge, sees the storyline returning to Amity Island, but ignores all plot elements introduced in Jaws 3-D. No mention is made to Michael’s girlfriend from the previous film, Kathryn Morgan (Bess Armstrong), or his career change from an engineer at SeaWorld to a marine biologist. In fact, one of the Universal Studios press releases for Jaws: The Revenge omits Jaws 3-D entirely by referring to Jaws: The Revenge as the “third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy.” By the start of the film, Martin Brody had died of a heart-attack, although his wife, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), claims that he died through fear of the shark. Her youngest son, Sean (Mitchell Anderson), now working as a police deputy in Amity, is dispatched to clear a log from a buoy. As he does so, he is attacked and killed by a shark. Ellen becomes convinced that a shark is deliberately victimizing her family for the deaths of the first two sharks. Michael (Lance Guest) convinces her to spend some time with his family in The Bahamas. However, as his job involves a lot of time on and in the sea, Ellen fears that he will be the shark’s next victim. When her granddaughter, Thea (Judith Barsi), narrowly avoids being attacked by a shark, Ellen takes a boat in order to kill her family’s alleged stalker. Hoagie (Michael Caine), Michael, and his friend Jake (Mario Van Peebles) find Ellen and then proceed to electrocute the shark, driving it out of the water and impaling it on the prow of Ellen’s boat.