Jaws is a horror masterpiece. Steven Spielberg put himself on the map with his killer shark spin on a previous movie, Duel. Cinephiles know that Jaws: The Revenge is an awful movie. In fact, it’s not just awful, it’s all-time awful. Let’s not forget Jaws 2, a perfectly serviceable if not better than expected, sequel. But what about Jaws 3-D? In the summer of 1983, Jaws 3-D was one of a handful of trilogy cappers that included Return of the Jedi and Superman III. It was also a part of an early 1980’s 3-D revival. Now that Netflix has added all Jaws titles to their menu, you need to know which sequels have some bite. Is Jaws 3D ‘so bad it’s good’ or the ‘third dimension of horror’ just plain ‘bad’?
Years have passed since a Great White Shark terrorized Amity Island. Twice. Chief Brody’s sons, Mike and Sean, are grown up now. Older brother Mike Brody works at SeaWorld Orlando with girlfriend, Kay Morgan. Younger brother Sean is still traumatized by his childhood shark encounter. When he arrives as SeaWorld to visit his brother, past fears quickly re-surface. A 35-foot Great White Shark has broke through the park’s underwater gate. Now it’s a race against time to save the theme park’s unsuspecting guests.
Jaws 3-D An Inferior Sequel in Every Way
Director Joe Alves had previously served as the production designer on the first two Jaws movies. Though it’s unfair to compare any filmmaker to Spielberg, Alves was clearly in over his head. Take Jaws 2 as an example. Clearly, that sequel is inferior to the original, but it stood on its own as a capable shark thriller. In contrast, Jaws 3-D miserably fails on just about any measure of quality. But it also fails in the one area it absolutely needed to succeed – its killer shark.
In fact, I’ll go as far as to suggest that the shark effects here are actually worse than Jaws: The Revenge.
Making a killer shark movie? You better bring the shark effects. Undoubtedly, Jaws remains the benchmark. Other killer shark movies – Deep Blue Sea and The Shallows – succeeded with more-or-less convincing effects. Comparatively, Jaws 3-D has awful shark effects. Not awful by 2019 standards; we laughed at the effects in the 1980’s. In fact, I’d argue that the shark effects here are actually worse than Jaws: The Revenge. Much of this can be attributed to the use of 3-D technology. More recent horror movies, like My Bloody Valentine 3D, make a good case for horror using the technology. But 3-D technology in the early 1980’s had a clear B-movie gimmick feel to it. The 3-D looked awful in Friday the 13th Part 3, and it’s atrocious here. If the original Jaws is a B-movie elevated by masterful film-making, then Jaws 3-D is the full embracing of its B-movie roots.
The Third Dimension of Horror Apparently Involves A Lot of Talking
One problem that plagued Jaws 2 was the absences of Richard Drefyuss and Robert Shaw. More specifically, Jaws 2 struggled to maintain tension and interest whenever its titular shark wasn’t on screen. Dreyfuss and Shaw, along with Roy Scheider, were first-rate actors working with a good screenplay In addition, Spielberg knew how to tease suspense even without showing his Great White Shark. Jaws 3D really struggles in this regard. Unlike Spielberg, Alves doesn’t seem to know what to do when his Great White isn’t terrorizing the water park, which is often. What you’re left with is a movie that drags for long chunks of time. Even talented actors like Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, and Louis Gossett Jr couldn’t do make the movie’s land-locked scenes watchable.
Jaws 3-D a Toothless Killer Shark Movie
If the land scenes were dull, Jaws 3-D could have over-compensated with some over-the-top carnage. Sadly, Jaws 3-D makes poor use of its rubbery villain. The movie struggles to emphasize the threat and sheer enormity of its killer shark. Nowhere in the movie is there a good ‘money shot’ of its shark that drives home just how big it’s supposed to be. Alves never juxtaposes his big fish with anything to give it the necessary scale. As a result, the Great White’s first ‘appearance’ falls completely flat. This is probably due in large part due to the poor shark effects. When it does appear, even just briefly, the shark looks completely fake. Alves couldn’t even manage a good dorsal fin shot.
But not unlike last year’s The Meg, Jaws 3-D is hampered by its PG-rating.
And in spite of being the third movie in a horror franchise, Jaws 3-D has a surprisingly low body count. The sequel gets points for one scene where a character is crushed and tenderized in the Great White’s mouth. But not unlike last year’s The Meg, Jaws 3-D is hampered by its PG-rating. A Great White Shark loose in a water theme park seemed ripe for some limb-ripping terror. Alas, this sequel is largely toothless.
Jaws 3-D a DOA Sequel
Jaws 3-D should be the worst movie in the Jaws franchise. It’s not a disappointing or underwhelming sequel. For all intent and purposes, this is a genuinely bad movie. That it’s not the worst Jaws movie truly says something about just how incomprehensibly idiotic Jaws: The Revenge turned out. Ironically, if I were discussing Jaws: The Revenge in this column, it’s just the right amount of cinematic insanity to be, ‘so bad, it’s good’. Jaws 3-D is just too dull to hit ‘guilty pleasure’ territory.