JULY 6, 2010
For whatever reason, I saw the Jaws series entirely out of order. Jaws: The Revenge was actually the first one I saw in its entirety, and today I finally watched Jaws 3, which I had never actually seen anything of beyond clips in retrospectives and such. Of course, this one was originally presented in 3D, and part of why I had avoided it for so long was because I wanted to break my Jaws 3 cherry with its “proper” presentation. However, I learned that prints are increasingly rare, and that most theaters (including the New Bev) are not equipped to show the particular 3D format Jaws 3 used. So fuck it, I settled for Netflix Instant.
And 96 minutes later, I realized that it didn’t matter whether or not the film was in 3D - it would still be a giant bore. I know Jaws 4 is the critical black sheep of the series, but I’ll take that one any day of the week over this one. At least 4 had some sense of peril and adventure, and the awesome banana boat scene. This has... dolphins. DOLPHINS, for Christ’s sake. And despite having two sharks, it seems to have the least amount of action of the series (including the non-action minded original), which makes even less sense when you consider the 3D stuff. I can’t imagine audiences being overwhelmed by things like Dennis Quaid and Bess Armstrong engaged in the old job vs. relationship debate, which seemingly takes up more of the film than sharks.
Granted, I don’t like an excess of “Comin at ya!” shots, especially in 2D (see: Friday the 13th 3 in 2D for the most annoying example), but there should at least be SOMETHING that would engulf the viewer, no? Avatar doesn’t have any of that crap at all, but it has the lush jungles, the crowded laboratories, etc. Everything here is flat, flat, flat. I should be watching it and saying “Man, I wish I was seeing this in 3D!” but instead I was actually glad I was at home, where I was free to pause the film and watch my cat try to figure out his new treat dispenser in order to see something exciting. The only benefit I could see of a 3D presentation would be (presumably) a slightly better image, as the film is excessively blurry at times, due to depth of field optical tricks that are no longer really there.
But enough of that, let’s talk about the movie’s inherent problems that have fuck all to do with polarized lenses. For starters, they keep putting people in danger and then forgetting about them. Sean Brody has an understandable fear of water after the events of the 2nd film, and thus the filmmakers’ idea of bringing his phobia to a head is... writing him out of the movie just when the shit finally hits the fan. His girlfriend gets injured and he decides to leave the area, fear of water still probably intact. Also in the 3rd act, a group of tourists get trapped in a tunnel underwater, with water rising AND the shark swimming around nearby, and yet director Joe Alves (who thankfully never directed again) can’t be bothered to cut to them every now and then to remind us that they’re in danger, or have them attempt their own escape instead of relying on Dennis Quaid, who is doing some boring shit with welding in order to get them out. First of all we know he won’t get eaten, because A. he’s Dennis Quaid, B. he’s the star of the film, and C. This is 2010 and I know he lives to become Lance Guest and fight the shark’s baby down in the Bahamas. So these scenes have no tension whatsoever. At least if they stayed with the anonymous tourists, there could be some possibility of carnage, since the series has never shied away from killing kids or random people. But we pretty much never see them again until they are rescued.
Ditto the goddamn dolphins, who are trapped with the shark in a section of the lagoon (I’m actually a bit baffled how all this stuff works - apparently they managed to trap a 35 foot shark inside the park for days without noticing? How big is this place?), and like the tourists, Alves doesn’t bother to wring any tension out of the scenario. I actually forgot that they were in there at all, let alone in some sort of danger. I mean, I know it’s 1983 and they can’t have a shark eating a dolphin (or even better, having two dolphins attack a shark) without CGI and such, but couldn’t they at least fake a “chase” scene or something? I mean, they’re cute little dolphins! Any audience would be rooting for them to escape and get all upset if they were in danger, right? Well, they’re mostly MIA, apart from a confusingly edited scene where one of them helps Quaid get away from Jaws.
Speaking of Quaid, he is of course playing Mike Brody, with some other guy playing Sean. The parents are unaccounted for, but that’s OK since they’re in Florida in this film and we can assume they’re still in Amity. But why use the Brody family at all? How many goddamn sharks can this family kill? Even Michael Myers gave up on the Strodes eventually, and that was his purpose! I don’t think the people sitting down for Jaws 3D were really discerning; if it was just about a shark attacking some folks at Sea World* I don’t think anyone would care (if anything they’d probably just say “Well the Brody family lives in Massachusetts so it wouldn’t make sense for them to be here” - the audience being more logical than the producers!). Or they could have at least turned their attention to Matt Hooper, sort of like how The Lost World followed Malcolm and JPIII followed Grant. And if Dreyfuss didn’t want to come back, they could just recast - they had no problem recasting the Brody kids in every movie, with all of the aging (and by Jaws 4, de-aging - Lance Guest seemed younger than Quaid does here) problems such decisions would cause being completely ignored. At least for 4 they actually made this the plot of the film - it’s actually less stupid than this constant coincidence nonsense.
Plus it’s just a snoozefest. There are a couple of near-miss scenes with water skiers and the like, but for the most part it plays out like the first half of a disaster movie, setting up a bunch of characters and foreshadowing things that will come into play later. And that would be fine if there WAS a payoff, but as I already explained, there is almost zero suspense to the “disaster” parts of the film. And Louis Gossett Jr is introduced as a greedy park owner, but they never really make him a human villain, nor is he particularly heroic either. He’s just sort of there. Actually that’s an exaggeration - he is seen helping someone to safety during the climax, and then he just disappears, with one of the heroes just assuming he got out OK for audience closure’s sake. The highlight of the film is actually when Quaid steals a golf kart from some guy and needlessly shoves him to the ground in the process (he then crashes the thing about 12 seconds later). IN 3D!!!
The effects are also abysmal, and it’s not limited to the shark this time. Apparently no one knew what the fuck they were doing, so when a composited submarine turns around in the water, a large chunk of it disappears entirely. And the film’s supposed “money shot”, in which Jaws swims into an underwater control room with a big glass wall (sort of like that scene in Deep Blue Sea where they “throw” Stellan Skarsgard at the glass), is botched in every possible way, from the shark having zero animation to it whatsoever (it just sort of glides toward the camera) to the glass appearing to be about 1-2 inches thick, which wouldn’t need a shark to break if it was 50 feet underwater. Plus it, like most of the other “action” scenes, is confusingly edited - Jaws eats some anonymous technician, and then seemingly disappears in subsequent shots, despite the fact that she should take up about half the area. And then they (surprise!) blow her up, and at first it’s kind of cool to see its parts flying toward you, but then they have both its upper and lower teeth fly out and stay in place, which doesn’t make sense in a physical sense (why would they stop moving?) or a storytelling one (the bomb that blew it up was in its mouth - wouldn’t the teeth be the most mangled, if not completely disintegrated?)
At any rate, I’m glad I saw it. Like many, I’ve often mocked Jaws: The Revenge for its plot holes and terrible filmmaking errors (dry Caine, a howling shark, etc). But now, the next time someone wants to take a shot at it, I can reply “It’s still better than Jaws 3”, and use any one of the above examples to make my case. Even that impossible NES game was better than this.
What say you?
*I love how Sea World was totally fine with this movie, lending them their name AND their park. Christ, Disney wouldn’t even approve of being one of several underwater monuments in Escape From LA even though it would in no way make them look bad. But 13 years before, Sea World’s like “So the movie’s about a shark killing our visitors, partially due to staff incompetence and faulty equipment? You had us at killing the visitors!”