The 1978 film Jaws 2 poses a question that has been asked many times under many different circumstances:
When will people learn?
Seriously, you would think that after everything that happened during the first Jaws, the people of Amity Island would be a little bit smarter when it comes to sharks. I mean, did Ben Gardner, the Kintner Boy, Quint, and Chrissie Watkins all die in vain? If I lived on Amity Island, I would be so paranoid about another shark attack that I would probably move to Manitoba. At the very least, I would demand that the beach be closed if there was even the slightest chance that another great white shark was somewhere out there, eating anyone foolish enough to get back in the water.
It’s just common sense!
But no. In Jaws 2, when another shark shows up and eats two divers and a water skier before blowing up a motor boat, no one is even willing to consider shutting down the beach. Even after Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) insists that another shark has shown up, no one is willing to listen to him. “I know something about sharks!” Brody insists but the town council just shrugs him off. Maybe they think that Quint and Hooper did all the work the last time and that Brody was just along for the ride.
Of course, Brody does bring some of his problems on himself. Brody spends a lot of this film sitting in the dark, brooding about sharks. When he sees a shadow in the ocean, he runs down to the beach and starts shooting at it. “It’s just blue fish!” someone yells while Brody looks a little confused. How shocked can we really be when the town council fires Brody? He was a loose cannon.
Before he gets fired, Brody orders his teenage son, Mike (Mark Gruner) to stay out of the water. Of course, Mike doesn’t listen. He goes sailing with his friends and his younger brother, Sean (Marc Gilpin). That’s a big mistake, of course. As soon as Mike and company are a good distance away from Amity Island, the shark attacks and leaves them all stranded at sea. Mike is knocked unconscious. Sean is trapped on a boat all by himself. One of the teenage girls, Jackie Peters (Donna Wilkes), totally freaks out while her older sister, Brooke (Gigi Voran), suggests that they all play charades to pass the time. Everyone dismisses her idea but you know what? I have it on very good authority that sharks love charades. I think Brooke was on to something…
Jaws 2 is a strange, strange movie. It’s really two films in one. Jaws 2 starts out as an almost by-the-book remake of Jaws. True, Quint’s dead. And Richard Dreyfuss had just won an Oscar so there’s no way Hooper was going to come back. But Brody’s back and he’s once again an island police chief who is afraid of the water and who can’t get anyone to listen to him. Just as Jaws started out as almost a small town comedy, Jaws 2 has an early scene where Brody has to deal with the quirky citizens of Amity Island. (Unfortunately, Harry and his really bad hat don’t make a return appearance.) A scene where a dead killer whale washes up on the beach is shot to remind us of the scene in the first in which Hooper and Brody examine a dead shark.
But then, halfway through, Jaws 2 turns into a totally different movie. Suddenly, the teenagers are trapped out in the middle of the ocean and the shark is circling them and Brody is searching from them and the whole movie just goes insane. Roy Scheider abandons any attempt at subtlety as he becomes as obsessed with shark as Donald Pleasence was with Michael Myers in Halloween. The shark turns out to be incredibly sneaky. He’s never around until you stick your hand in the water and then suddenly — SHARK!
How powerful is this shark? He’s so powerful that he eats a freaking a helicopter! Seriously, a coast guard helicopter tries to rescue the kids and ends up getting eaten by the shark! That scene alone is worth whatever’s led up to it. (I think Jaws 2 might be the first film to feature a shark eating a helicopter.) The film only gets crazier from there, with Brody eventually reduced to verbally taunting the shark while clutching onto a power cable.
Now, admittedly, those stranded teenagers aren’t the most developed characters in the world. There’s a lot of them and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who is who. Fortunately, this is a 70s films and that means that Jaws 2 is all about the hair. You may not know their names but you’ll never forget their hair:
Check out some of the members of the Jaws 2 hair club:
(Okay, Luther wasn’t actually in the movie but just imagine if he had been!)
Anyway, Jaws 2 cannot begin to hold a candle to the original Jaws but it’s still a lot of fun. Admittedly, there are a few parts, especially during the first hour, that drag in a way that Spielberg, the consummate story teller, would not have allowed. I could have done without some of the lengthy scenes where Brody tries to convince the city council that there’s another shark in the water, if just because we already know that the shark’s there and we can guess that the beach isn’t going to be closed. (After all, if the beach was closed, there wouldn’t be a movie…)
But once the teenagers are stranded in the ocean and the shark is eating the helicopter and Brody is calling it a bastard while hanging onto a power cable, there’s no way that you can resist the charms of this sequel. Jaws 2 isn’t exactly good but it’s just so entertaining!
Jaws 2 frequently shows up on AMC so keep an eye out for it!
And, for the love of God — stay out of the water!