Jaws: The Revenge
by Scrooge McSuck
For years, Netflix has added countless movies, television series, documentaries, and anything else you can think of in the form of viewable media. It wasn’t until recently that they added to their extensive library one of the greatest movies ever made, a true classic that, for the most part (we’re looking at you, mid 70’s haircuts!), remains timeless. The story of a small Northeastern town that relies heavily on Summer tourism, and now a town that is home to an eating machine. The local authorities try to sweep it under the rug, but a New York City cop, who is afraid of the water I might add, keeps pressuring them until one incident too many occurs on July 4th. Enlisting the help of a Marine biologist and a professional Shark hunter, the three men set out aboard the Orca in a battle of Man vs. Nature. The 25-foot, 2000 lb. beast is unlike anything any of them have ever encountered before, defying physics with immense strength and intelligence. Eventually, all seems lost for the three men, with one attacked beneath the water in a last-ditch effort to inject the monster with poison, and another eaten aboard the ship after the Shark launched itself, adding the final destructive blow to an already damaged ship, causing it to sink. With quick thinking and heart of a lion, the Chief of Police used a recent learning experience to throw an oxygen tank into the mouth of the leviathan. With time running out, he perched himself on the highest point of the quickly sinking ship, and in one of the most iconic moments in film history, nailed a bullseye on the tank inside the mouth of the beast, destroying the creature that wracked havoc on his town and on his family. The name of the movie? JAWS. And the consensus of viewers on Netflix have given the film an average rating of 3 stars of out 5. Along with Jaws, the series of sequels have also been added to the streaming library, including the infamously bad Jaws: The Revenge. The rating for that? 2 stars out of 5.
2 STARS OUT OF 5. To the common Netflix viewer (who I’m assuming consists of nothing but Adam Sandler and Martin Short fans, based on this rating), that means this movie... no, strike that, this abomination to feature films, is only SLIGHTLY worse than Jaws, the masterpiece directed by Stephen Spielberg? You know, had Jaws been given an overall support of 4+ stars, maybe, just maybe, I’d buy this rating, or maybe, in some sick, perverse way of judging the film, the 2+ stars for Jaws: The Revenge was a "so bad it’s good" rating, but the rest of the sequels seem to be settling in around the same neighborhood. I’m not one to tell anyone they are wrong, but seriously... how in the hell can anyone support this movie? The 0 stars out of 5-system should be invented for such an atrocity.
My dislike (that’s putting it mildly) of Jaws: The Revenge is almost legendary. The mere mention of the film will give me the unexplainable desire to point out every flaw that the movie runs, all 87-minutes of it, from the first credit to the final declaration that none of this is based on reality, and if it is, it’s by complete coincidence. Not one scene survives some kind of blunder. Poor writing, poor camera work, poor acting, a lack of continuity, a lack of common sense, insulting the intelligence of the viewer, laughably bad effects, laughably bad bloopers left in the final cut, a re-shot ending with one of the lamest, cheapest, most pathetic images you’ll ever find in a movie with a budget higher than whatever pocket change you have sitting on your dresser drawer.
Naturally, the following question probably comes to mind... if I hate the film so much, if I find it to be a complete embarrassing to motion pictures, why do I not just waste my time, but own copies of it across all different sources? To answer that question would be impossible. Yes, I have the movie on VHS (with footage "not seen in US theaters"), on traditional DVD (purchased from a Wal-Mart bargain bin way back in 2005), and you want to know the sad, sad truth? The first Blu-Ray DVD I purchased? Jaws: The Revenge. Neither of the DVD’s contain any significant features, so having both in my collection is probably a waste of space and hard-earned money, but for whatever reason, this movie has become sort of a curse. No matter how much I hate it, no matter how mad it makes me trying to make sense of any of it, I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, or spending money on it. I’m really messed in the head. Probably has to do with watching a lot of WWF and WCW in 1995. That stuff would rot your brains, too.
If you think I’m being way too hard on a 29-year old movie that most people generally ignore since it’s the 3rd sequel to a movie that wasn’t intended to have sequels, then you’ve never really watched the movie or paid attention to all the baffling moments. At the risk of my own sanity, I’m going to watch this movie, one more time, maybe even for the last time, to give you the ultimate synopsis on the bane of my existence. I present to you, you lucky readers, in honor of Halloween Havok, financed by Universal Studios and released on July 17th, 1987... Jaws: The Revenge. This Time, It’s Personal.
Yes. THE TAGLINE IS "THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL". Before I even pop the DVD in, I have to call attention to such a ridiculous tagline. Remember the scene in Jaws 2 when Chief Brody is asking a Marine Biologist if Sharks could come and avenge the death of another shark? No? Oh, that’s right, nobody bothers to watch Jaws 2, which was actually a decent movie, considering it’s a sequel. Back to the subject, after asking the question, she responds, almost in shock that he would ask such a stupid question, that shark’s don’t take things personally. We’ll get more into the plot of the movie and the "This Time It’s Personal" crap later.
Have I ever mentioned that there’s a "Jaws" video game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System? ... OK, OK, enough stalling. Time for Jaws... the Revenge.
After the gratuitous "Shark POV" opening for the credits, we find ourselves in the kitchen of the Brody Family, or what’s left of them, anyway. Ellen (Lorraine Gary) is widowed (how recent is up in the air), her youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson)) is now a member of the Police Force, and Martin (Formerly played by Roy Scheider) is worm food. Ellen’s other son, Michael (Lance Guest)), lives in the Bahamas and works as a Marine Biologist. He’s married to a cardboard cut-out (Karen Young) and has a young daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi) played by a young girl with a tragic Hollywood tale that I don’t want to get into to. The entire scene acts as one big exposition, with a phone call filling in a bunch of blanks to some of the most minor stuff (Michael’s job, where he lives, the granddaughter’s age...). With a run time of 87 minutes, you have to cram as much as possible into every scene, right?
We’re less than 5-minutes into the movie (cough:87 minute run time:cough) when Sean wanders into the office to find out that he needs to go out and do the job of the coast guard because there’s a piece of drift wood stuck. Throughout the entire scene, we’re forced to look at a headshot of Martin Brody, who if you’ll recall (you won’t, they didn’t tell us this) has passed away.
I guess the lure of being in a terrible movie only to be sacrificed in the early moments of the film weren’t enticing enough, so Sean gets to come up to bat in his father’s place! Sean goes out on his dingy, while the town is rehearsing for a Christmas festivity. As he pulls in the drift wood, suddenly we get quick cut glimpses of a shark... with the water already stained with blood. After about 5-seconds of headache inducing shots, Sean collapses, missing an arm. Even with the suggested padding of his heavy coat AND the fisherman’s jacket, it’s obvious that his left side has gained some serious mass to hide his arm. Anyway, the carolers continue to sing as the Shark goes for round two, pulling Sean into the water, and what I and anyone else would assume, is to devour what is left of him. As uncomfortable as the scene is with his screams of horror drowned out by Christmas carols, this was a pretty strong scene, minus the production error of showing blood in the water before the attack.
We cut to Ellen having to identify the remains of Sean’s body at the morgue... and it looks like the shark left pretty much the rest of the body, minus the arm. I guess he wasn’t that hungry, or maybe this was a message to Ellen, because after all, this time IT’S PERSONAL. Michael and his family arrive to comfort her, and in a "why the hell do it if you’re not going to say anything about it", one of the women in town there to keep her company is none other than Mrs. Kintner, the mother of the boy killed in the first "Jaws." Ellen quickly insists the Shark specifically came for Sean, and was responsible for the death of her husband. She also suggests that Michael give up his job working in the water. Michael’s response is not to believe in that "voodoo" and informs the viewers that his father died from a heart attack. "He died from fear" is one of the worst excuses in film history to write off a character. After going head to head with a man-eating shark not once, but twice, and suggesting years later he died from FEAR, is a huge discredit to the character.
Ellen has her first example of flashbacks during Sean’s funeral, looking back to the first movie where Sean would imitate everything his father did at the dinner table. Of course, I can remind everyone that her POV would not be the camera’s POV, but at least she was there to see it. After yelling at her son to leave his job, she’s quickly (as in without any hesitation) talked into taking a trip to the Bahama’s. Michael’s theory of "there’s never been a Great White" because it doesn’t like warm water is some major bullshit, especially since they’ve used the line before (minus the warm water) in the FIRST MOVIE! As they take a ferry to... wherever, we find the drift wood has surfaced again. THE SHARK IS FOLLOWING THEM! I’m not making this up, that was the intended reaction the movie wants. For us to discover the shark IS vengeful.
Another quick scene later and we’re introduced to Hoagie (Michael Caine), a part-time pilot who develops a romantic interest in Ellen because both are past the stage of middle aged, I guess. Could they not come up with a better name for his character than HOAGIE? Was "Gyro" not available"? We follow that with a pointless scene where a Taxi Driver is singing Christmas songs to them, and then Ellen yelling at her granddaughter (Thea, for those accusing me of ignoring the character’s name) for playing over the water, just like her husband did to Sean and Michael in the first movie. How many times have I said "like in the first movie" already?
Michael shows off some whacked-out art that his wife has been working on, and I guess it’s supposed to look the mouth of a shark. We quickly segue into a scene where Ellen is out swimming and gets attacked, but it turns out to be a NIGHTMARE. You’ve got to love faking out the audience when you damn well know this character isn’t going to die, at least not until the ending. Michael goes to work, riding in a small yellow submarine, and being berated by his partner in Marine Biology, Jake (Mario van Peebles). I guess his job is tracking conch shells on the ocean floor. They squabble a bit (because Michael had to leave because of the death of his brother) before making up. OK?
The film is already running out of steam, as we move onto Christmas morning, and everyone being uncomfortable when Thea mentions Sean again. Ellen excuses herself and for the second time, yells at Michael for his choice of profession. Didn’t we just see this exact exchange about 10-minutes ago? Michael says there’s nothing to worry about, and at the 27-minute mark, we see the floating grey turned known as the Shark, in all its fake glory. No time table is really accurate, but it’s assumed that they’ve only been in the Bahama’s for a couple of days. TO SUGGEST A SHARK CAN TRAVEL FROM THE COAST OF MASSACHUSETTS TO THE BAHAMAS is laughable. To add insult to comedy, Ellen feels a telekinetic attachment to the shark, as she’s creeped out at a random moment while building a sand castle with Thea.
Michael and Jake continue to bicker about whatever, and Ellen and Hoagie have a walk on the beach as Ellen reveals what she’s been feeling lately, and continues to run with the "the shark is after us" theory. At least Hoagie isn’t yelling at her, mostly because he wants to get in her granny panties. They continue to bond, with Hoagie teasing a kamikaze attack with his plane, forcing Ellen to react and grab the wheel. Michael doesn’t quite approve of the relationship, but doesn’t have the balls to say anything about it. You know, if the script was even 1/10th decent, the acting could’ve made this a watchable movie. Besides the Zombie performance from (Michael), everyone else is giving decent effort in trying to make this work.
We need more filler, so there’s a "local festival" going on. The Shark shows up, bypassing Jake, and jumps up at the boat, possibly for Michael, and just kind of chews at the side before disappearing. At least this time the shark didn’t pop up with blood already in the water, but it does look like they stole a clip of the shark from later in the movie and recycled it here. Wouldn’t you know it, Ellen senses something wrong. I guess you can make a Mother’s Intuition joke, but I’m already banging my head into the table for having to decipher the script and making sense of the comical plot of a Shark, a SHARK THAT WAS DESTROYED THREE TIMES, coming back for revenge (Yes, they are suggesting that this is the SAME SHARK, at least from Jaws and Jaws 2).
The filler continues, with a scene of Carla slinging her panties at Michael for creeping on his Mother’s date with Hoagie and a Birthday party for Jake’s wife in the guise of a trip to the local Casino. In less than a WEEK, we’ve had a Christmas, a random festival of dancing, and a birthday/New Year’s Party in the Casino, and the only thing we got coming out of any of the scenes are "I don’t want you working in the water" and "(senses the appearance of the Shark)." Did someone accidentally shuffle one of those middle-aged romantic comedies into the Jaws script? I feel like I’m watching two entirely different movies depending on what characters are featured.
Back to work on the water, and Jake has a plan to tag the shark and trace where it goes. Who needs tracking stupid Conch when you can track a 30-foot, 4-ton great white Shark that may or may not have supernatural powers. Remember in the JAWS Video Game for the NES? Yes, this scene inspired that aspect of the gameplay. Well, just the "Jaws Tracker" part, and collecting Conch for currency. They chum for the Shark, the Shark shows up, and they succeed in tagging it. Well, so much for that scene. Still better than Michael and Carla arguing over taking out the trash. Does a film with an 87-minute run time need pointless filler like this?
Instead, it includes one of the most contrived scenes imaginable: The Shark attacks the Yellow Submarine that Jake is riding in and chases him around. Thankfully, there’s a sunken ship that happens to be within swimming distance, and Michael leads the Shark, THROUGH NARROW PASSAGES, through the ship before making his big escape using his Oxygen tank as means to propel himself while the shark does his best impression of the Kool-Aid Man breaking through a wall. If you bother watching this movie, just pay close attention to the Shark, struggling to wiggle its way through a hall that it barely fits in. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?! I should also note I’ve ignored the multiple examples of the mechanism that carries the Shark around being exposed. The water is gorgeous, but too clear for camera, and it exposes the Shark’s fake appearance more so.
Following his near-death experience, realizing his mother has been right the entire time (HIS MOTHER, SPOUTING CRAZY SUGGESTIONS OF A SHARK OUT FOR REVENGE), and a nightmare (the second of the film) Michael goes through the same sequence with his daughter that happened in the first Jaws with Martin and Sean. It’s a cute scene and a nice throwback, and again, it’s ruined by the fact the script is so terrible that we just look at scenes like this and call them lazy without much more thought than that. We’re almost at the 2/3 mark of the film, and there’s no momentum despite the poor attempts at creating it.
Stuff happens, more stuff happens, but none of it matters. We move the focus to a ceremony on the beach where Carla is showing off her piece... of art. During the ceremony, the Shark FINALLY makes another attempt at killing a Brody, this time setting its site on Thea, riding an inflatable banana boat. I’ll wait until the laughter dies down... ready? The Shark must’ve left its prescription glasses back in Martha’s Vineyard, completely missing Thea and instead eating a stunt woman that we have no emotional attachment to.
Enough is ENOUGH for Mrs. Ellen Brody, and she steals Michael and Jake’s boat to go after the shark herself, because this time IT’S PERSONAL! She also has flashbacks to the first Jaws, scenes she wasn’t even present for, so how she can have a visual memory of it is beyond me. Maybe she’s just remembering a good movie. Michael and Jake find Hoagie and have him fly them out over the water to find where Ellen went to, and wouldn’t you know it, the Shark is more than happy to make regular appearances now. Hoagie crashes the plane into the water, but is quickly attacked by the Shark. With luck and the good lord on his side, Hoagie not only survives, but is pulled on deck in what appears to be in completely dry clothes. Maybe he went to the year 2015 and bought quick-drying clothes before his adventures with the Brody Family.
Jake has an idea to drive the Shark wild... some kind of electronic signal that really makes absolutely no sense to me. Jake does what he can to help, but the Shark attacks and drags him into the ocean, and we can presume Jake as dead considering the amount of blood he’s already lost. Michael picks up where Jake left off and flashes the signal... AND THE SHARK ROARS. Again, I’m not making any of this up. THE SHARK ROARED. It pops up from the water and ROARS. Multiple times. I feel like I should end the recap of the movie right here, because nothing could and nothing should top a SHARK ROARING... then we get the ending.
Depending on what you watch, there’s two endings, because this movie needed to exercise creative freedom. The most logical ending, or as logical as things can get, is that Ellen steers the ship into the Shark, penetrating a piece of the ship, and the Shark dies, taking the ship down with it. Ellen, Michael, and Hoagie survive, and that’s the end. This version is only seen on the "TV edit" version, or as a bonus feature on the Blu Ray.
The version we’re supposed to see, the version that was reshot because for God’s sake, they needed to do a reshoot, was one of the most peculiar scenes I’ve ever seen. The same set up, the shark roars and blah blah blah, but this time, when Ellen penetrates the Shark, THE DAMN THING EXPLODES. Not only does it explode, but if you freeze-frame the scene, you can see a poorly constructed model that is quite literally a toy shark and a boat made out of a popsicle sticks. Then we recycle footage of the Shark from the 1st Jaws sinking to the Ocean floor. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but this somehow became the desired ending to whoever made the final edits to the film. Oh, and Jake lives. EVERYONE LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER, except Martin because he was a pussy and Sean because he lost an arm. They died.
Final Thoughts: I’ll get the easy part out of the way... the good stuff. Most of the actors did a solid job with the material they had to work with, and I didn’t mind the relationship developing between Ellen and Hoagie, but of course, that ended up going nowhere when the film concluded. Now, the bad stuff. I don’t know where to begin with this... I guess it begins and ends with the script. Then there’s the Shark. It’s ugly and is shown way too much. I don’t care about the "we can’t recycle the same reaction to the first movie" excuse, when something looks bad, you show as little as possible, but they paraded this shark out there over and over, giving the audience ample time to point out every flaw it had.
Back to the flaws of the script... A lot of the dialogue doesn’t go anywhere, they recycled the same interaction several times, and they had to fluff out a film that just barely qualified for the necessary feature-film run time. Finally, the plot was absurd. A Shark out for revenge? Not only that, but the unbelievable moments of the film, like somehow getting Sean of all people to come out on the water when it wasn’t his job, meaning that other activities had to occur to create such an opportunity for the Shark, and let us not forget that the shark traveled to the Bahama’s in approximately two days. Poor script, poor special effects, and one of the worst endings in film history trumps decent performances any day of the week, and this deserves all the hate and ridicule it gets.
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