Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975): Movie Review

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
by Jason Lees, MoreHorror.com

There are few things in life that can’t be improved upon. Few first things, I should say. That first kiss, the first time you drive a car, maybe the first time you rode your bike without training wheels. Notice that all those big firsts, while some overly romanticized, are all surrounded by fear. Maybe it’s that emotion that makes certain events so memorable, that makes them stand out. Or maybe I’m reaching a bit. Either way, I was recently lucky enough to watch the two most important people in my life watch JAWS for the first time.

I grew up on JAWS. Way back in the day it played on ABC with extra footage and barely any gore cuts. I remember the promos on during the news and how the whole world went shark crazy for a while. JAWS is one of the defining moments in my childhood. We taped it off TV and would watch it religiously, my older sister and I, over and over, daring each other to not look away when Ben Gardner’s head popped out of the bottom of that boat.

But I’m getting off track. Again.

Just in case there are a few others out there lucky enough to have not seen JAWS yet, I’ll add a quick synopsis. And when I say lucky, I mean that you’ve got something special in store for you. JAWS is the story of a small tourist island who gets the an uninvited extra guest one summer as a great white shark takes up residence off its coast. Swimmers starts turning up (partially) and it’s up to a group of three men to track down the beast in order to save the locals. Okay, it’s not really that exciting when you sum it up. Just imagine you’re up to your eyeballs in salt water and you see a dorsal fin cutting towards you through the water. Yea, that’s a better summary.

Watching two people whose opinion I covet more than anyone else’s watch it for the first time made my day. I’ve seen the film far too many times to get that same jolt. Unfortunately, no movie can hold up after dozens of viewings, no matter how good. I’ve probably seen JAWS close to a hundred times, and that’s no exaggeration. That’s not bragging, that’s just admitting that I had that much free time as a loser kid. It’s been sitting on my shelf for the last few years now, just staring down at me. I’ve been putting off watching it lately hoping to finally catch the documentary “The Shark is Still Working” if it’s ever released. Finally, my little family and I decided to watch Jaws as a way to ring in the oncoming summer. Why not?

They loved it, and watching them love it brought back just how good it really is. Forget good. Great. Amazing. Scary as hell.

Roy Scheider was never better than he was here. No movie hero, to me, was ever more vulnerable or real as his Chief Brody. Robert Shaw was and always will be Quint. And no matter what Richard Dreyfuss does for the rest of his career, I’ll always hear his voice and immediately go back to his giggling laugh in JAWS.
Yes, it’s dated, and yes, Spielberg tacked on the wildest ending ever shot for a man against nature flick, but hell, it works. Every frame of JAWS works for me. And apparently, it still works. By now we all know that the secret to JAWS is how much they couldn’t show, and by how well John William’s score was used to add dread to scenes of endless ocean, but that doesn’t lessen the end result. Today’s CGI could easily make a far more realistic shark, replacing good ol’ rubber Bruce, but you know what, we had that film. It was called THE DEEP BLUE SEA and as fun as it was watching LL Cool J fight off sharks, it was nothing to JAWS.

JAWS works not so much because of the shark attacks, but really because you feel you’re with those characters on the Orca. The action scenes are as good as anything Spielberg has ever directed, Raiders and all, but the true fear in JAWS comes from biting your knuckles as Brody and Hooper are pulling the rope lines up to the boat. You feel the ropes burn across Quint’s hands. You bleed with these guys. And when it’s over, you want to watch it again.

JAWS is a time capsule. Not one that takes you back to the 70’s, but one that takes you back to when movies weren’t so damned polished and weren’t meant to be over-analyzed. JAWS, for all its accolades, is really just a big popcorn guilty pleasure. You can make it out to be more than it is, but it’s just fun. Bloody good fun.

And please please please, Hollywood. Don’t remake it. Just re-release it. I’d love to see this up on the big screen somehow, but not re-imagined. Give me more PIRANHA flicks, but leave my JAWS alone.

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