The first sign we have that something is going to go horribly wrong with this movie can be seen during the opening credits. No, I'm not referring to the fact that Mario Van Peebles has high billing, although that is another bad sign. I'm talking about SharkVision. You know how, in the original Jaws and in many other horror movies, the camera assumes the Point of View of the killer? Well, here the camera is underwater at times, which makes sense from SharkVision; however, the camera then lifts out of the water so that it can see clearly, just above the waves, and it spends most of its time in this position. Let's just assume that SharkVision is the intended purpose of these shots...does that mean that this shark swims while floating on top of the ocean? Wouldn't that mean that the beast couldn't breathe? And wouldn't that make it a hell of a lot easier for the locals to kill? I hope that is the intended inference I am supposed to draw from that camera work, because the alternative is that the shark has its eyes on its dorsal fin.
|The presumed pre-production shark model|
When his body is discovered, Ellen immediately realizes what has happened. The shark that didn't actually ever kill anyone in her family before is now targeting her family. I'm not joking. That is her conclusion, and that is the premise of this film. Do yourself a favor and turn the movie off NOW. Ellen's other son, Michael, comes to Amity for the funeral with his wife and daughter and invites Ellen to spend some time with them in their island home in the Bahamas. She agrees. The end.
But wait...there's more! Apparently, the shark was notified that the Brodys were leaving Amity and it decides to follow them to the Bahamas. Wow, that's pretty unbelievable. What is completely unbelievable is that the shark arrives maybe a day or two after the Brodys. Yes, a great white shark traveled 1200+ nautical miles --- and entered into waters where great white sharks don't live, mind you --- just to kill off Ellen Brody's bloodline. Again, this is the professionally-written story. People were paid to come up with this.
In the Bahamas, the shark tries to eat Michael, but fails and quits, because a shark that traveled 1200 miles to taste Brody meat is going to give up after four minutes. Before the shark disappears, Michael manages to tag it with a device that reads the shark's heartbeat; the louder the beat, the closer the shark is. That might seem like an oddly specific tool for Michael to randomly have at his disposal, but only if you haven't self-medicated by this point in the movie. As an added treat, Mario Van Peebles has a very "authentic" Jamaican accent, mon.
|Only one of these characters dies in this movie.|
|Oh. My. GAWD! It's eating Tommy Shaw from Styx!|
Meanwhile, Ellen has been rediscovering the single life with a local pilot (Michael Caine, who was infamously filming this instead of accepting his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters) when she hears the news of her granddaughter's not-shark attack. Ellen does the only logical thing the script allows her to do --- she steals her son's boat, heads into the ocean, and plans to kill the shark with...um...well...she doesn't bring any weapons, so...kindness is my best guess. How's she going to find the shark? The answer to that is, and I quote, "It will find her." Oh. Okay. Sure. That makes sense. Here is the original ending of the film, which was later changed for the theatrical release because audiences didn't like it:
Now, you're probably thinking, "No kidding, they didn't like that ending --- sharks don't roar!" You have no idea. What they ended up doing for the final cut was keep most of that ending (roars included) and changed what happened when the boat hits the shark. As soon as they make contact, the shark explodes for absolutely no conceivable reason. And that was the ending that test audiences liked more.
I just don't know what else to say about this movie. I am disappointed in everybody involved, naturally. I've seen other Joseph Sargent movies that have been both entertaining and good, but this is inept in every possible way. Aside from the insultingly ridiculous story, the terrible cinematography, and the poor use of actors, the editing of the shark attacks makes it impossible to understand what is happening; you are left to infer what you saw, based on the aftermath.
The acting is painfully bad, although Michael Caine seemed to be having a good time. He must have been drunk. When he is asked about this movie, he usually gives a response something along the lines of it being the movie that gave him an island vacation, paid for a new house, and he won an Oscar while filming it, to boot. Michael Caine is a glass half-full kind of guy, apparently. Everyone else is B-movie quality at best. The worst, though, was whoever played Sean. There is a scene where he is trying to leave the police station to go home for Christmas Eve or whatever; he keeps walking out the door, but six or seven seconds after he closes the door, the police receptionist shouts "Hold it!" You would think that it would take at least six seconds for him to walk back in again (probably more, if you factor in reaction time and rolling his eyes), but he opens the door almost immediately each time she does this...almost as if he wasn't really leaving the station, but just waiting for a cue to deliver his lines.
There are just two more things I want to touch on before I drown my memories of this movie with scotch. The first is Ellen's unmistakable sixth sense. When her family is attacked, she somehow knows; she has a shark sense. Nobody mentions this, but it is an accepted fact in this movie. The second is that Ellen has flashbacks to shark attacks just before she mysteriously blows the shark to hell. The first clip is of Sean dying (which she wasn't there to see). The second is of the shark not really attacking her granddaughter (for which she was way too far away to actually see anything). The third was of her late husband preparing to not-quite kill the shark at the climax of the first Jaws (which she wasn't present for). That is some memory she has, isn't it?
I would give this movie zero stars, but the exploding shark bit was too funny to hate. It is the second-best (or worst, depending on you point of view) movie I have seen with an exploding shark, after Adam West's Batman: The Movie.
Lefty Gold rating of