“Jaws” is a renowned classic. With its balance of suspense, drama, and a fantastic cast of characters, it’s the quintessential movie. 1978 thriller “Jaws 2” follows with much the same storyline as its predecessor. Although “Jaws 2” lacks the technical prowess of the renowned 1975 Stephen Spielberg original, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable romp.
While the opening credits roll, a great white shark attacks and kills two divers snapping photos of the wrecked Orca, Quint’s (Robert Shaw) boat from “Jaws.” Meanwhile, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) arrives late to the opening of a new hotel on Amity Island. His wife, Ellen (Lorraine Gary), begs him to pretend he’s been there the entire time. When Chief Brody asks how to accomplish this, Ellen replies “Look bored.”
A few days later, the shark devours a water skier and proceeds to wash her down with the driver of the speedboat. This scene includes a ridiculously over-the-top sequence of events which leads to the boat exploding on the water. While the disappearances of the divers are strange, it’s a beached killer whale which causes Brody to believe that a great white is once again attacking off the coast of Amity.
Unfortunately, Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) is still the same slick, uncaring politician as before. The townsfolk, notably Mayor Vaughn, ignore Brody’s warnings. Just when they though it was safe to go back in the water, the subterranean terror resurfaces.
Although “Jaws 2” remains an entertaining flim, it’s essentially the same plot as before. Brody plays the earnest police chief attempting to preserve the safety of his community. Mayor Vaughn mumbles his way throughout the movie, seemingly unconcerne with the well-being of Amity.
Cinematography is top-notch. Underwater shots shine an awe-inspiring resonance. Similarly, airborne helicopter shots are phenomenal. In what’s arguably the best scene in “Jaws 2,” from a technical perspective, the camera pans across the shore showing the beachgoers in their fun and revelry. John Williams returns to handle the score. Whereas his soundtrack was more balanced in “Jaws,” it’s increasingly suspenseful in “Jaws 2.”
While “Jaws 2” benefits from artful cinematography and score, Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece is a more nuanced. Director Jeannot Szwarc takes the reins from Spielberg and the pacing, as well as originality, are severely lacking. Moreover, effects are sub par compared to the original “Jaws.” The shot of a killer whale on the beach is painfully fake and makes the animatronic shark from “Jaws” four years earlier seem frighteningly realistic.
It’s Scheider, however, who largely saves “Jaws 2.” I enjoy how “Jaws 2” explores Brody’s paranoia from the events of the first film. In a tense moment, Brody discharges his firearm into the ocean, believing that there’s a shark. It turns out there’s no shark, just a school of fish. Brody, the boy who cried “shark,” is deprived of his badge. At one point, Brody even refers to his battle with Jaws in the original film as “hellish.” This element, and Scheider’s phenomenal performance, lends much-needed drama to the film.
Whereas “Jaws” killed a kid, “Jaws 2” ups the ante. Most of the third act features teenagers in peril several of whom get chomped to bits. By nature of children in peril, there’s elevated suspense. Compounding the situation, both of Brody’s children venture out onto the ocean and are subsequently in danger.
Despite rehashing the original “Jaws,” the sequel is quite a bit of fun. It’s marvelous seeing a great white take down a helicopter. While this moment admittedly jumps, nay, pole vaults the shark, it’s immensely enjoyable. Brody’s triumphant kill at the end is impressively outlandish. Nevertheless, it’s boatloads of delight to watch.
Ultimately, “Jaws 2” doesn’t stray from its predecessor. Truthfully, it’s the same plot, with a few returning characters. Effects and pacing are a decided step down. Yet Roy Scheider’s inspired performance elevates anotherwise average film to a good movie, fabulous cinematography, and spectacularly campy moments further make “Jaws 2” an underappreciated sequel.