Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is an unparalleled masterpiece. As a franchise, however, Jaws may offer the best illustration of diminishing returns. Three years after Jaws scared people away from the beach, Jaws 2 reminded it us it still wasn’t safe to go back in the water. Though it never came close to approaching the original’s quality, the sequel was still an entertaining summer rollercoaster ride. And then the bottom dropped out. Jaws 3-D is … not a good movie. But just when you thought the franchise couldn’t sink lower, Jaws The Revenge said ‘hold my beer’. Today, critics consider the franchise’s last sequel to be one of the worst movies ever made. If Jaws 3-D is a bad movie, Jaws The Revenge may approach the ‘so bad, it’s good’ sweet spot.
Several years have passed since a Great White Shark terrorized Amity Island. After a heart attack kills Police Chief Martin Brody, yet another Great Shark swims to Amity Island, killing his son Sean. A grief-stricken Ellen Brody travels to the Bahamas to be with her older son, Mike, and his family. But when a Great White Shark surfaces in the Caribbean waters, Ellen believes it is the same shark that killed her son, driven by a primal revenge against the Brody family.
Jaws The Revenge – This Time It’s Personal, And Really Bad
At the very least, the Jaws franchise had a way with taglines. And the sequels actually improve on Jaws’ original, ‘You’ll never go in the water again’ boast. First, Jaws 2 warned us, “Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water again’. But Jaws The Revenge topped it with this braindead tagline, ‘This time it’s personal’. Never has such a brief statement so perfectly captured the colossal stupidity of a movie’s premise. Yes, Michael de Guzman’s screenplay runs with the premise that a shark is targeting the Brody family. Jaws The Revenge doesn’t imply it – the movie’s Great White swims from Amity Island to the Bahamas to target Ellen Brody and her surviving family. And if you think that’s stupid, try reading Hank Searls’ novelization. Searls, who wrote Jaws 2’s novelization, doubles down on the stupid with a subplot involving a Voodoo witch doctor.
Even if you could ignore the sequel’s dumb premise, Jaws The Revenge commits numerous crimes against logic. There’s Ellen Brody’s possible psychic connection with the shark, a leftover from Searls’ dumped voodoo plot. But it’s the sequel’s entire climax that descends into absolute ‘what the fuck’ territory. Maybe it’s director Joseph Sargent’s use of footage from Jaws as a flashback – to a scene for which no living character was present. Or it could be Ellen Brody impaling the shark with a moving ship’s broken bowsprit. Arguably, the Great White’s roar as it’s impaled is the cherry on top. Watch the DVD or international version and you’ll get to see the shark explode when its impaled.
When Bad Sequels Happen to Good Actors
At least Jaws The Revenge has some great shark effects, right? Right? To be fair, the sequel doesn’t completely swing and miss in this regard. In fact, our mechanical shark is something of an upgrade over what Jaws 3-D dumped on audiences. Google that sequel’s climax and bare witness to the franchise’s nadir. In contrast, Jaws The Revenge occasionally delivers some good shark thrills. That opening Christmas-themed shark attack off the coast of Amity Island may be the highpoint. Flash forward to the Great White’s banana boat attack and you’ll find as good of use of the mechanical shark since Jaws 2. At least Sargent briefly recalls what made Jaws terrifying. Unfortunately, Jaws The Revenge also delivers some lazy effects with some scenes revealing behind-the-scenes set props.
…Jaws The Revenge occasionally delivers some good shark thrills.
Yet despite the poor quality of the end product, the Jaws franchise must have still had some allure to actors. Apparently, Roy Scheider only did the first sequel out of a contractual obligation. In Scheider’s absence Lorraine Gray finally got the lead spot … for what it’s worth. An impressive supporting cast joined Gray. In addition to Lance Guest (Halloween II) and Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine turns up and manages to keep a straight face throughout the sequel. In a now famous quote, Caine’s response to the sequel’s poor quality was, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific!” That’s an epic burn. It’s so good that it may even justify the sequel’s existence.
Jaws The Revenge Takes a Bite Out of a Classic Franchise
No one is likely to dispute Jaws The Revenge’s status as a bad movie. Unfortunately, the sequel lacks the traits of true cult turkey. Though its premise is stupid, the movie plays it straight with decent actors giving performances that far exceed what’s going on around them. Most of the sequel’s unintentional hilarity doesn’t kick in until the climax. And some of the movie’s Caribbean photography is actually quite beautiful. Perhaps if Sargent and de Guzman had kept Hank Searls’ voodoo subplot, Jaws The Revenge might been strangely quirky. Instead, it’s just a bad, boring movie that’s an insult to Spielberg’s original vision.