Jaws 2

Jaws 2 (1978)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Roy Scheider, Keith Gordon, Murray Hamilton

When it comes to sequels, there appears to be a methodology working in Hollywood, which dictates, "If you can’t make it better, make it bigger!" This axiom certainly applies to "Jaws 2". Whereas Steven Spielberg’s classic "Jaws" is a touchstone for character development and overall tension, Jeannot Szwarc’s "Jaws 2" is more action driven. Of course, the biggest difference is that as the shark was rarely seen in "Jaws", he’s all over the place in this sequel. While critics have dismissed "Jaws 2" in the past, the film definitely deserves a second-look and the new DVD from Universal Home Video is the perfect forum for that re-visiting to occur.

"Jaws 2" takes place four years after the original "Jaws". Amity Island is once again a quiet and peaceful place and local developers are striving to attract more tourist. But, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who tangled with the shark in the original film, is always on the lookout for trouble. And trouble certainly does arrive, in the form of a 24-foot great white shark, which begins to terrorize the local waters, first by killing two divers and then by taking out a water skier. Following these incidents, Brody immediately begins to fear that Amity may be having another "shark problem". But, as in "Jaws", the local officials, led by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) don’t want to listen to the truth, no matter how much evidence Brody brings them.

To make matters worse, Brody’s son Mike (Mark Gruner) and his friends (which includes a young Keith Gordon) are all sailing enthusiasts and take their sailboats out, despite Brody’s warnings. Soon, the fast and hungry shark sets his sites on the young boaters and only Brody can save them. As the shark goes on a feeding rampage, Brody must race to rescue his son and once again save Amity Island.

Comparing this film to the original is like comparing "Jaws" to "Jaws 2" — it’s simply a waste of time. Whereas "Jaws" always struck me as a very mature suspense film (that just happened to be about a giant shark), it becomes very clear from the beginning of "Jaws 2", with the introduction of the teenage characters, that this movie is being aimed squarely at the youth market which flocked to the theaters to see the first film. Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown prove themselves to be very smart and business savvy, as they gave this young audience exactly what they came to see. That is, shark action. While filming "Jaws", Spielberg was forced to limit the amount of shark screen time due to technical problems. Here, director Jeannot Szwarc shows us the shark from the get-go and is never bashful about letting "Bruce" jump out of the water.

So, while there is some character development with Chief Brody (with Scheider giving a very good performance), the real purpose of "Jaws 2" are the action sequences. And while there are definitely some slow parts in the movie (the film could’ve probably been cut down to 90 minutes and still worked), the shark attack scenes definitely pay off. And while, yes, 23 years later the shark definitely looks fake, "Jaws 2" still manages to pull off some suspenseful and exciting scenes with the shark. In "Jaws", the shark was sneaky and attacked without warning. In "Jaws 2", the shark attacks everything in sight, coming up from the depths at regular intervals. These frequent attacks certainly take away any credibility that the film may have had, but there’s no denying that they’re fun. One thing that certainly sets "Jaws 2" apart from its predecessor is its dark tone. While the body count is only slightly higher, it’s revealed in the extra features that the film had to be cut to avoid an "R" rating. There are definitely some disturbing scenes in "Jaws 2", both in terms of the shark attacks, but also the aftermath of these attacks. Watching the film again, I realized that it was these darker scenes that stood out in my memory.

Universal Home Video certainly proves that they aren’t ashamed of "Jaws 2" by giving it a stellar DVD presentation. The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. As I’d seen the film multiple times, I watched the "Making of" featurette first. The scenes from "Jaws 2" offered there were grainy, so I’d expected as much when I watched the movie. I’m happy to report that this wasn’t the case. This newly remastered digital transfer looks great. There is hardly any grain and there are practically no defects from the source print. It’s obvious that Universal went through some work to restore this film. The colors look very nice and the fleshtones appear realistic. Something that "Jaws 2" does share with "Jaws" is that it’s a film which takes advantage of the <$PS,widescreen> frame and the framing on this transfer appears to be perfect. Actually, I can’t imagine watching it any other way!

The audio on the "Jaws 2" DVD is a Dolby 2-channel mono soundtrack. While this is a bit disappointing, allow me to say that this is one of the best sounding mono tracks that I’ve ever heard. Of course, there’s no surround sound, but the dialogue is always clear and audible and there’s no discernible hiss. The important thing is that John Williams’ familiar "Jaws" motif comes through crystal clear, and adds just the right amount to atmosphere to the film. (Although, I must say that as in "Jaws", the incidental music here really gets on my nerves.)

Along with the nice transfer, Universal has also done the film justice by loading it with some nice extras. We start with a 45-minute featurette, simply entitled "The Making of ’Jaws 2’". Being a huge fan of "Jaws", I know all about the making of that film, but I knew next to nothing about how "Jaws 2" was made. This excellent documentary will tell you everything that you need to know, from script development to location problems to shark malfunctions. The most surprising thing for me (besides the fact that the film started off under another director) was that many of the difficulties which plagued the production of "Jaws" happened on the set of "Jaws 2" as well. This featurette verified something that I’ve always suspected when director Jeannot Szwarc says, "I kept saying from the beginning, we must show the shark, a lot." That’s "Jaws 2" in a nutshell.

The behind-the-scenes view continues with "’Jaws 2’: A Portrait by Actor Keith Gordon." In this 8-minute segment, Gordon relives his memories from the set of "Jaws 2" and describes how the experience shaped both his acting and directing careers. The best part about this feature is that Gordon isn’t bashful about sharing his thoughts and feelings about what happened between the cast and crew. More personal observations come in the 7-minute segment, "John Williams: The Music of ’Jaws 2’". Here, the Oscar-winning composer shares his reflections on the music from "Jaws 2" and what he did to expand his original score from "Jaws". Next, we have a very brief interview with Szwarc, as he describes the difficulties that were experienced with the French translation of the title for "Jaws 2".

As for the more traditional extras, we have four deleted scenes, each of which is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. Three of these scenes simply contain extra dialogue expanding on the subplot of Chief Brody’s problems, but the fourth is an extended take of the helicopter attack. Next up, we have a still gallery which offers nearly 100 photos from "Jaws 2", and is divided into four sections; The Shark, The Production, The Cast, and Marketing (this section is the best, as it features pictures of the "Jaws 2" trading cards). Three different scenes are presented in storyboard form in the next segment. Following this is "Shark Facts", which offers some very informative tips on sharks and how to behave around sharks. There are two theatrical for "Jaws 2" presented on the DVD. Both are presented full-frame and both show practically the entire film. (And we think that trailers today give away too much!) Also, note that the first trailer presented is labeled as a "Re-release". The extras are rounded out by Production Notes and Talent Files.

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the video store, "Jaws 2" makes its way to DVD. While it can never live up to the reputation of "Jaws", "Jaws 2" does prove itself to be a fun and exciting action film, despite some slow spots. For you shark lovers, there is plenty of shark action and some truly disturbing scenes to boot. Universal has done a great job with the transfer of "Jaws 2", and the "making-of" featurette is well-worth the purchase price. This is an impressive DVD and that’s the tooth!