Jaws 2 (1978)

Jeannot Szwarc

Roy Scheider - Police Chief Martin Brody
Lorraine Gary - Ellen Brody
Murray Hamilton - Mayor Larry Vaughn
Joseph Mascolo - Len Peterson
Mark Gruner - Mike Brody
Marc Gilpin - Sean Brody
Jeffrey Kramer - Deputy Hendricks
Ann Dusenberry - Tina Wilcox
Gary Dubin - Ed
Keith Gordon - Doug Fetterman

Genre - Thrillers/Horror/Slasher/Sharks

Running Time - 116 Minutes

In 1975, a killer shark film called JAWS changed the movie industry forever. It launched the career of one Steven Spielberg. It inspired an army of killer shark/aquatic animal films. And it was the first film to gross over $100 million domestically in the United States, making JAWS the first summer blockbuster. The Peter Benchley novel-turned-film has become an institution within pop culture, cementing its status as a classic horror-thriller.

At the time of JAWS release, the idea of a sequel was few-and-far-between. Sure, there had been sequels to films before, but many studios were afraid to shell out money to continue a story that may not have necessarily needed a continuation. Things changed, however, when 1974's THE GODFATHER PART II was a massive success. Studios saw dollar signs and realized that sequels could work, whether a film needed one or not. Since JAWS was considered more successful than any of THE GODFATHER films, Universal wanted to make another JAWS film, feeling there was more life in this shark's tale.

Like the original JAWS, JAWS 2's production was troubled, to say the least. For one, Steven Spielberg honestly had no interest in returning as director for the film, feeling he had already done a shark film and didn't want to be 'that guy'. Also, he was still haunted by the problems that plagued the first film that he didn't find making a sequel all that appealing. Spielberg was willing to act as producer, but scheduling conflicts stopped that from happening [Spielberg was directing CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND during the shooting schedule for JAWS 2]. JAWS' supporting actor, Richard Dreyfuss, couldn't shoot the film either due to his obligation to star in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND as well. Dreyfuss's character, Matt Hooper, was supposed to play an important role in the original script, but only gets a brief mention in the final draft.

Speaking of the script, it kept changing during the course of pre-production of JAWS 2. The original version was a more character driven affair, with focus on the townspeople of Amity rather than on the shark. In other words, it was supposed to be similar to the first film. While the stuff about the Town Hall building the condo, Mayor Vaughn's refusal to buy into Brody's warnings about another shark attack, and the teen cast were in place since the start, there was supposed to be more development within the Brody family - especially when it came to Chief Brody and his eldest son, Mike. Both were supposed to have a giant fear of the water due to the trauma they had experienced in the first film, focusing on their struggles to get back in and save Amity from another terrible shark attack. However, Universal wanted a more action-packed sequel with more emphasis on the shark, since the fish was considered the reason why audiences went to see the first film. So the characters, besides Chief Brody, were less developed in order for more scenes of the shark.

Universal hired John Hancock to direct, but Hancock was more impressed by the original, character driven script rather than the one the producers wanted to shoot. Feeling Hancock wasn't able to direct the more safer and conventional 'shark eats teens' flick, the studio hired Jeannot Szwarc [who would later direct 1984's SUPERGIRL and 1985's SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE] to handle the project.

Roy Schieder, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton returned to reprise their roles. Schieder, in particular, wanted nothing to do with the sequel. However, he was under a three-film deal under Universal, and was forced to star in JAWS 2 due to the fact that he had dropped out of THE DEER HUNTER due to creative differences [he would have played Cpl. Steven Pushkov, who was portrayed at the last minute by John Savage]. Schieder was professional, however, and played Brody to the best of his ability. However, he also had creative differences with Szwarc, feeling Szwarc didn't care about the actors or their characters. Schieder felt Szwarc was more concerned with the mechanical sharks and the action sequences over the more human aspects of the film. There was even fist fights between the two. Yet, the two managed to keep it together long enough to complete the film.

JAWS 2 was released in June 1978, grossing $78 million domestically on a $30 million budget - eventually making $209 million worldwide after a couple of reissues. While a success, it was critically seen as inferior to the first JAWS, making 45% of the original financially as well. For years, JAWS 2 has been seen in a bad light due to the status of the original. And while the sequel isn't as great as the first film, time has been extremely kind to JAWS 2 for the past 34 years.

Four years have passed in Amity since a giant Great White Shark had terrorized this beloved beach town and was stopped by Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schieder). A couple of divers explore the ocean floor and find the Orca, which was Quint's vessel from the first film. As they begin taking photo evidence of the ship, another huge shark finds them annoying and eats them. Then, the shark has his or her sights set on Amity.

After some strange disappearances and deaths, Chief Brody begins suspecting dangerous shark activity in the ocean. However, Mayor Vaughn (
Murray Hamilton) refutes his claims, worried another shark attack would disrupt the town's plan to build some condos that would build revenue. But when a group of partying teens, including Brody's two sons (Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin), are stranded at the hands of this shark, Brody is on the rescue to make sure a repeat of four years prior does not happen.



- Roy Schieder. If there's any reason to watch JAWS 2, if you haven't already, it's for Roy Schieder's fantastic reprisal as Police Chief Martin Brody. Knowing the history of Schieder's issues with starring in this sequel make his performance that much more fascinating. He steals every scene he's in and make us care more about Brody than we already did from the first film. Schieder really plays up the fear and paranoia of another shark attack. You can't help but believe him and root for him, especially when he panics with the knowledge that his two sons are out on the water while a shark is killing people. In a lot of ways, I felt John Carpenter was inspired by this performance when he wrote the character of Doctor Sam Loomis for both HALLOWEEN (1978) and HALLOWEEN II (1981), as the hero becomes more crazed in his hunt, but with just cause. I personally enjoyed Schieder's performance in this sequel than I did in the first one, and he's great in the Spielberg classic. Just a true professional, regardless of his feelings towards the project.

- The rest of the acting. The other actors aren't bad either, even if they are nowhere close to Schieder's performance. Lorraine Gary is passable as Ellen Brody, Martin's wife. She gets a little bit more to do this time around, although her presence doesn't seem as important. Gary would return in the infamous JAWS: THE REVENGE as the main character. Boy, I just can't wait to discuss that one. Murray Hamilton also returns as Mayor Vaughn, delivering the same performance as he did in the first one, but with more sympathy towards Brody. Joseph Mascolo - Mr. Stefano Dimera [from Days of Our Lives] himself - does okay as businessman, Len Peterson. He's not in the film a whole lot, but he definitely plays up the antagonistic nature against Brody. Jeffrey Kramer is still very good as Deputy Kramer. The two Brody sons, Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin, portray their roles well. Keith Gordon, of CHRISTINE and BACK TO SCHOOL fame, is cool as the nerdy Doug. The only actor that really annoyed me was Donna Wilkes as Jackie. She was kind of bitchy, and her screaming and crying at the end just grated me. I get that she was traumatized and scared, but I seriously was hoping she'd receive an AIRPLANE! moment where the other teens would just smack her around so she would calm down. But the director probably had to do that, so I'll cut her a bit of slack. Not as good of a cast as the first JAWS, but they still did a good job.

- The direction. Jeannot Szwarc is no Steven Spielberg, but he handled the visual presentation of JAWS 2 pretty damn well. There happens to be a nice amount of tension and suspense in the film anytime the shark is about to attack its victim. The shark POV shots are done well. The underwater shots look nice. Even the recreation scenes from the first one, especially the beach scene, are fine even if Spielberg did it better.

In a lot of ways, Szwarc treats JAWS 2 as a slasher film, using many of the motifs that would epitomize the sub-genre. Funny enough, this film was released months before John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN - the film considered to start the trend, even though there were films before it that had a similar storytelling structure. The shark is more than just an animal here. It's a force with human characteristics. Szwarc shows multiple times where the shark's fin will peek out of the water as it studies the background, as if knowingly planning an attack. Anytime a boat appears, this shark attacks it and doesn't stop until it kills anyone on it. And the shark usually attacks those in the throes of passion. Szwarc really humanizes this shark visually, making him sort of creepy and stalker-like. The teens in the film are chum for this shark anyway, so Szwarc has fun with the death scenes. He also institutes jump scares, like when Brody comes across a corpse in the water that quickly pops up in front of him. Szwarc never treats the film as a character-piece, like Spielberg did in JAWS. JAWS 2 is more of a horror-action film, which doesn't bother me at all. It's your typical sequel - and while the direction isn't perfect [I'll get into that in a bit], Szwarc does a commendable job behind the lens. I'm sure he was feeling the pressure, but he does as good of a job as anyone could have in the shadow of a more famous and better director.

- The special effects. Unlike the mechanical sharks in JAWS, they actually work here in JAWS 2. The lack of special effects helped the first JAWS, since it allowed the film to focus more on the characters rather than the fish itself, giving the shark a mystique that strengthened the film. But that mystique can't be recreated for a sequel, since anyone watching this knows exactly what they're in for. So having the shark appear more is a good thing, in my opinion, because that's what people want to see. Sure, the shark looks a bit fake and rubbery at times. But for the most part, the shots of the shark look great and really make those scenes its involved in quite thrilling to watch. The way the shark attacked boats, patrol helicopters, and just normal people swimming in the water are handled well. I believe three mechanical sharks were used, with my favorite being the scarred shark due to a fire early into the film. This shark won't quit, which makes the sequel somewhat exciting. We also get electrocutions and explosions here, which are done well. And the gruesome appearance of a half-chewed killer whale, which I'm sure was a nod to 1977's ORCA. The film had a bigger budget and it shows somewhat. The effects won't set the world on fire or anything, but they're very good for what they needed to accomplish.

- The score. John Williams returns and does a great job creating the soundtrack to the film. It's still highly effective and really gives the action sequences more emotion than expected. The music creates a lot of tension and excitement. Williams is awesome here.

- And the Stupidest Bitch in a Horror Film Award Goes To...

What a dumbass. Made me laugh for a straight ten minutes though. Highlight of the film for me.

- Pacing issues. JAWS 2 needed a bit of editing and a tighter screenplay to cut some of the filler that plague this sequel. While a majority of the film is watchable without any problems, there are moments that ruin the film's flow and momentum. These scenes mainly involve the teen characters interacting, like getting ready to sail, or hanging out at bars by the beach. Rather than feeling these scenes are important enough to lead towards something, they feel more like padding on an already long running time. You get a cool moment of the shark scaring and killing people, which is then transitioned into a scene where the teens just lay about doing nothing interesting for five minutes. If the characters were interesting, I wouldn't care. But since they're not, it becomes a problem.

- Lack of depth. Speaking of uninteresting characters, JAWS 2 suffers from that horror sequel staple - lack of character development for the supporting characters. Besides Martin Brody, everyone else is pretty much one-dimensional. This is particularly true for the teen characters, who all seem stereotypical and nothing more. Even Mike Brody, the eldest son, is just your typical rebellious teenager who just wants to have fun, not understanding why his father is so strict with him. But he's not particularly interesting to watch either. The major issue with this and that we see more of the teens than we do the more interesting Martin Brody, which doesn't help in terms of its pacing or fun. These teens are there to be victims for the shark. Nothing more, nothing less. The script isn't terrible and the actors handle the material as well as possible, but if the teens were supposed to be really important for the conclusion, a little more characterization would have improved the film. I'm very curious what that original script read like.


Even though it gets a lot of hate from JAWS fans, I think JAWS 2 isn't a bad sequel at all. Sure, it's nowhere as great as the original film. But for what it is and what it wants to accomplish, it's pretty much a success. While it does suffer from major pacing issues and characters you won't really care about besides one, the acting [especially by Roy Scheider] is strong, the narrative isn't too bad, the direction is good, and the special effects hit the mark for the most part. Definitely the best JAWS sequel by a mile, even though it wasn't really needed. Still, you could do worse if you're looking for a killer shark film that also happens to be a slasher. Like the next two sequels that came out after this that I have been requested to review. Can the shark eat me now?

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. What a fair assessment of a much maligned sequel. As you say - the world was not swimming in Part 2's when this came out - so it was kind of novel to see. I saw Jaws in the theater, but I saw Jaws 2 the night it premiered on Showtime - and I watched it a bunch of times that month. I enjoyed it. I'm a little sad to hear that you're apparently not going to give a lot of love to 3 - but we'll talk about that when it posts. And then there will be 4. Oh boy. In any case - thoroughly enjoyed this post!

    1. I disliked it more when I was younger, but I don't think it's too bad now. 2 isn't as good as the first, but it does have its moments and it's made pretty well. Too bad the screenplay wasn't as strong as it should have been.

      As for JAWS 3D, it's a bad flick but sort of a guilty pleasure. It won't be as positive as this review, but it won't be totally bashed either. I'll save the bashing for JAWS: THE REVENGE.

      Appreciate the comment as always!

  2. I'd always heard that Scheider was to play the part of Michael in DEER HUNTER, the role DeNiro ended up in. Scheider didn't believe the motivations for the character...

    Anyway, JAWS 2 is okay, but if you want a real sense of what it *could've* been, read the Hank Searls novelization:

    And ever since I saw LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, Hancock's first film, with its ghostly watery spookiness, and learned he was to have directed JAWS 2 - man, it could've been amazing! My favorite scene in 2 is when the we see the shark quietly gliding through the waters towards Amity...

    1. The producers claim that Schieder was always meant to play the John Savage role, and that DeNiro was always cast as Michael. I think Schieder himself said that the Michael role was his. There's still conflicting info about the truth in terms of the casting for THE DEER HUNTER. Either way, Schieder probably made a big mistake by dropping out.

      I'll check out your link to see how JAWS 2 was truly meant to be. I would have loved to have seen the character-driven version rather than the slasher version.

      And while Hancock did a great job with LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, he was never going to get his way on JAWS 2. Universal wanted the film we eventually got. Studio interference wins again.

      BTW, I love that shark scene too.


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