Teen Drama, Tiny Boats, and Paranoia: Is Jaws 2 (1978) Worth It?

This is the first post in the *air horn noise* BONUS edition of the Horrorathon for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) because we ended up raising $300 (!) for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

We are starting with Jaws 2 because let’s be honest, I’m not going to say anything about the original Jaws that hasn’t already been said. So let’s just jump into the deep/weird side of the Amity Island beach.

From IMDb: Police chief Brody must protect the citizens of Amity Island after a second monstrous shark begins terrorizing the waters.

After the blockbuster success of the original film, Universal Studios was keen to churn (chum?) out a sequel and Jaws 2 was created as a follow-up three years later.

Despite its fantastic tagline (“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” is probably more well-known than anything else about the sequel), Jaws is such a satisfying story it seemed silly to create a sequel. The only reason it even popped into my head to cover the Jaws sequels is this meme which really makes ya think about the importance of voting in local elections:

But even if it can’t live up to the glory of the original, can Jaws 2 offer its own merits? Let’s find out:

Recap:

The movie starts with two scuba diving photographers kicking along bottom of the ocean before coming across the sunken remains of the Orca (aka the ship from the original movie). They start posing for photographs just as the iconic theme starts and we get a shark POV to indicate they are not alone, and they quickly meet their untimely demises.

We are reintroduced to some of our returning characters, Chief Martin Brody and Ellen Brody, who are attending a town function Ellen helped organize to celebrate the opening of a new luxury hotel on Amity Island.

We are also newly introduced to the Mayor Larry Vaughn’s teenage son who is of course named Larry Junior, and the movie quickly ascends to its true form Jaws: The Teen Summer Drama. We see some teens discussing drama and who is dating who – a frequent theme of the movie as we will soon discover. Mike, the now teenage son of Martin and Ellen Brody, is being setup on a blind date with someone’s cousin. But he’s NOT crazy about blind dates – and don’t just take my word for it:

The next day, welcome to the hottest clurb this side of Amity Island: teens sailing really close to each other on tiny boats.

But we hear that ominous theme start when we get a shark POV shot under the water. Someone is upset they weren’t invited to the tiny boat for tiny teens drama!

The shark fin begins chasing a woman on water skis and nabs her. Jaws the 2nd then goes gangbusters on the boat that was pulling her. Then the woman steering the boat, and I’m not making this up, douses herself with gasoline and then shoots a flare gun at the shark chomping into the boat, inevitably setting herself on fire and causing the boat to explode before Jaws 2: Electric Boogaloo can nab their human Saganaki.

“A ella le gusta la gasolina, dame más gasolina, como le encanta la gasolina, dame más gasolina.” 

Mike Brody tells his dad he’s going to go sailing again because, “what else is there to do?”, which proves accurate because the next scene is the teens gallivanting around an empty lighthouse till they discover a mutilated beached killer whale with noticeably large bite marks.

Same vibe when I wake up on a Monday tbh.

Chief Brody is immediately suspicious they have another Great White on their hands, but the new shark expert who comes to investigate is not so sure. Chief Brody mentions how “dolphins communicate” and asks the shark expert if she thinks sharks might know if another shark was destroyed in the area. She tells him “sharks don’t take things personally” because she obviously hasn’t seen Jaws 4: The Revenge yet!

Don’t worry we’ll get there

Chief Brody goes to the mayor who is definitely on team #NoFinNoSharks, and rejects any insinuation to the contrary. Brody drives along the coast, and seems like he’s about to walk slowly and deliberately into the water ala The Awakening for a moment…

…before he finds a human corpse floating in the water. The mayor insists people die in the water all the time anyway so no reason to raise the alarm.

Brody sets Mike up with a job, and Mike notices his potential girlfriend gallivanting with Larry Junior in the water! But teen jealousy doesn’t have a chance to stew for too long because soon a restless Brody is up in a tower on the beach about to act a complete fool when he thinks a shark is in the water. He sees a large shadow, but without the main theme, underwater POV, or even the stray fin we know he is wrong.

He screams for everyone to get out of the water and begins shooting his service weapon off on a crowded beach at what ends up being just a school of bluefish.

Later, he develops the photos from the dead scuba diving photographers and becomes way too insistent one of the pictures is a closeup of the shark.

Could definitely benefit from a different Instagram filter

Brody brings the photo to the city council, and after a heated exchange the mayor asks him to wait while they discuss the photo. They instead vote to remove him from his position which does check out on account of him firing his service weapon into the water at a crowded beach. But it is sad to go from the literal Amity Island man of the year to fallen out of favor in just three years.

Jaws 2 biggest crime? Doing Brody dirty like that

Meanwhile, Mike sneaks off the next morning to sail with his friends and his little brother Sean threatens to bust him if Mike doesn’t bring him along.

Resident teen horndogs Tina and Eddie are about to have sex on one of the patent (trademark pending) tiny boats for tiny teen boats, but it turns out the shark hates premarital teen sex just as much as the Voorhees family because the shark goes straight after the boat, knocking Eddie out and killing him in front of Tina.

Chief Brody and Ellen realize their children, as well as the other teens, are in danger and go to rescue them. They find a traumatized Tina, and Brody has Ellen and another police officer escort her back to safety.

Meanwhile, Jaws the 2nd finds and attacks the teens, resulting in a boat traffic jam as the shark flips some of the boats over and causes some of them to crash into one another. The teens eventually tie all their tiny boats together and wait for rescue.

A harbor patrol helicopter finds them, but with how hyped the teens are coupled with a lack of Brody you just know this isn’t going to end well. Sure enough, Jaws the 2nd attacks the helicopter, flipping it over and presumably drowning the pilot.

The last 15 minutes of this movie consists of Chief Brody trying to safely get the teens on his boat, lots of teen girls screaming hysterically, and Sean yelling “go away!” at a shark as a form of self-defense. Eventually, Brody pulls up a high voltage power line and realizes he can use it against the shark by tricking the shark into biting into it.

And while this seems ridiculous, getting a shark to bite into a high pressure tank and managing to shoot the tank and blow it up while balancing oneself on a sinking boat’s mainmast like in the climax of the first movie is…even more ridiculous so you win franchise.

Random Notes/Analysis:

  • Richard Dreyfuss refused to reprise his role as the shark expert Matt Hooper sans Steven Spielberg, but I love that the movie throws in a teen that is clearly meant (at least in personality and appearance if not expert shark knowledge) to serve as a bargain bin Hooper:
  • Love that we get a prolonged and initially out-of-context closeup of Brody injecting sodium cyanide into bullets that ultimately just go to waste when he (just metaphorically) jumps the shark and fires a bunch of bullets into the water at a crowded beach. It does throw us off from the actual climax where he uses a power line to destroy the shark
  • I love Brody’s extremely understated “I’ve had some experience with sharks…” the the shark expert

Is It Worth It?

I mean…if you are a huge fan of Jaws and want a bargain bin carbon copy that retains some basic elements and star power, then yes this is worth it. For me, this was so bland that I can completely understand why the franchise was dead on the water after the first. It is a very risk-adverse attempt to capture the magic of the first, but lacks that certain je ne sais quoi (and by je ne sais quoi I mean auteur director Steven Spielberg, crisp themes, and character dynamics) of the original.

Next time, I’ll do a deep dive (pun absolutely intended) into Jaws 3-D – a movie I have some surprisingly stronger feelings about!

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