Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jaws: The Revenge

Wow.  Just...wow.  The fourth and (presumably) final installment in the Jaws series, Jaws: The Revenge, is quite possibly the absolute lowest point in the history of movie franchises.  Sure, there are a handful of worse movies out there, but the difference is quality between this and the original Jaws is staggering.  Is there a greater drop off in quality between a great film and its sequel?  I don't think so, but please leave a comment if you have a better nomination for the crown.  Oh, and before I forget to mention it, this review contains SPOILERS, because you should never ever ever want to watch this movie without knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into.

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
Anyways, it is almost Christmas time on Amity Island, where all these movies take place.  Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) has been living with her son, Sean, and his wife ever since her husband (Roy Scheider's character) died between movies.  Lucky bastard.  Sean, like his dad, is a local policeman and one night he is given the task of retrieving a broken piece of the dock that is stuck to a dinghy in Amity harbor.  It's the last emasculating chore he will ever have to do; as he reaches for the floating wood from the safety of his boat, a giant great white shark pops out of the water and bites his arm clean off.  It's frighteningly realistic, too; it positively doesn't look like a guy who pulled his arm out of his sleeve and is just pretending that the arm is gone, and that he simply has an arm-shaped tumor beneath his shirt.  He doesn't have to live with that tumor long, though, because the shark eats him (and a decent part of his boat) almost immediately.

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.
After getting its heartbeat measured, the shark somehow figures out A) that Ellen has a granddaughter and B) who she is and C) where she is and D) exactly when she will take her first dip in the ocean after returning from Massachusetts.  The result?
Oh.  My.  GAWD!  It's eating Tommy Shaw from Styx!
  The stupid shark misses the granddaughter (she's in the pink) and eats somebody else!  When Michael finds out that his daughter has been near a shark attack (she wasn't actually harmed, mind you), his response is, "I should have known..."  Instead of telling him that nobody can predict shark attacks, Mike's wife screams at him something along the lines of "YOU KNEW AND DIDN'T TELL US?!?!?"  What, that a shark was in the ocean?  Go figure!  In any other instance, I would ask what is wrong with these idiots.  Unfortunately, they are correct to be paranoid, because the shark is after them.  It's not paranoia if somebody's really out to get you your script is really that insultingly stupid.

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.
Now, I can understand people that want to watch bad movies and laugh at them.  There is a lot to laugh at in Jaws: The Revenge, but it's more conceptual humor than laughing at what the characters say or do in the film.  Well, except for the exploding shark, that is too awesome for words.  Because the ideas are funnier than watching the movie itself, I give this movie the Lefty Gold rating of
By the way, there has only been one shark attack fatality in Massachusetts in recorded history, and that was over 80 years ago.  Just FYI.

4 comments:

  1. As awful as this movie may be, it was the inspiration for the great NES game "Jaws." And how does that game end? Well, you have to stab Jaws with the front of your boat, of course!

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  2. You can debate the artistic merits of The Blair Witch Project, but the sequel was pretty much the opposite of the first movie in terms of the aesthetic, quality, and tone. The Exorcist sequels were also famously wretched, and show up frequently on lists of the worst sequels of all time.

    Technically The Phantom Menace is a prequel, but the drop-off between that and the original three movies is staggering. Nothing comes close. Attack of the Clones is a thousand times better, and that movie sucked.

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  3. Okay, okay...I will buy The Phantom Menace as the biggest drop off in quality from a great movie to a sequel. However, I will argue that there is more to like in Episode I than Jaws: The Revenge. There's more to make you angry, too, but the visuals of the battle droids and Darth Maul alone are better than anything in this movie. Still, I can laugh at this movie. Episode I just pisses me off. Good call, Dan.

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  4. I just spent 20 minutes playing the Jaws on a NES emulator. Looking back, it is hard to figure out why video games ever caught on, especially the ones based on movies.

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