Jaws 2 (1978) – or – People 1, Shark 0.

So how do you follow up such a great film like Jaws? Easy. You don’t. Maybe someone should have told Universal before they headed off into the direction that became the Jaws sequels.

Forget about the fact that another shark winds up in the same little town and seems to terrorize one particular family. I can overlook that. What’s harder to overlook is the annoying teen characters that fill so much of the movie. At what point did Jaws turn into a slasher film?

The setup is very similar to the first film. The first half is watching Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) attempt to convince Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) and his crew that another shark is hanging around, the second half is watching Brody try and destroy the shark. This time he’s got to save his sons Mike (Mark Gruner), Sean (Marc Gilpin) and a bunch of Mike’s friends.

Of course Robert Shaw can’t return since he was chewed up in the first film, and Richard Dreyfuss was too busy to be able to return, so right away the film lost two thirds of what made the first so great. Scheider does a great job as Martin again and it’s really his presence that manages to make the film watchable at all. It’s not hard to say that this is the best of the sequels and a lot of that goes to Scheider. Although, having him in the third and fourth films probably wouldn’t have saved them either.

Big shark, small boats, bad combination. Hell, even the helicopter won't fare too well in this one!

The first half at least tries to build on the original film. Brody takes the fight to the city much harder this time around. He certainly doesn’t want what happened in the first film to happen again. Of course the mayor and his council don’t see it that way again. Dollar signs help them sleep at night so they don’t want another shark panic. While Brody held back the first time around, here he goes all out. He’s become a man possessed as he tries to make the mayor listen to him, pushing so far that he’s fired from his job. Of course, everyone soon realizes that he was right, which comes too late as usual. Seems Martin’s sons have found themselves the target of the shark when they went out on their sailboats and it’s up to Martin to get out there and save them.

If only sharks knew that spaghetti didn't grow in the sea, this one would still be alive to eat the Brody family in part 3.

A couple of people manage to become shark food but the movie is lacking the suspense and terror that the first film had. It all breaks down to a typical slasher flick in the second half as the shark stalks and kills teens that are trapped in an isolated location. Jaws was great and they should have left it at that, instead they turn the shark into some sort of strange serial killer and just fill their film with screaming teens. What we get in the end is pretty sad as Brody takes the shark down with a giant electrical line from the bottom of the sea floor.

Jaws 2 is a bit of an oddity. In comparison to the first film, it’s just awful. Knowing what’s coming after makes it seem like a masterpiece. Parts three and four just destroy the entire series. At least you can box the first two films and accept them a little more. First Brody is stalking the shark, taking the offensive and trying to destroy him. Now the shark is stalking Brody, leaving him on the defensive side. It may not stand up to the original, but at least we can see how they work together.

In the shadows – Will

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