Think I've gone mad with that 4 out of 5 score? Read on and I'll explain.
This film is obviously compared to the Spielberg classic and criticised for not matching it which seems rather unfair since hardly any other films (if any!) have managed to match or equal Jaws 1. Take a look at this sequel nowadays and you should be surprised to discover that it's actually a lot better than you had previously thought. One thing's for sure, it's certainly the second greatest shark monster movie ever made. I would heavily suspect that the worst shark monster movie ever made is the one by Lamberto Bava although sadly I'm still to see it!! The French director came up with some truly fabulous point of view shots and quite rightly, he realised that he had to deliver something that Spielberg couldn't (although the lack of shark factor certainly worked in terms of suspense for Spielberg) - a working animatronic great white shark that you see a great deal of in some blistering horror action sequences. The point of view shot where the shark follows a water skier from beneath the surface is something very special indeed and I love seeing the p.o.v. camera shots filmed above the shark's back (filmed by placing a horse saddle and the cameraman on the back of Bruce the animatronic shark!).
The film has a witty script written by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler and it's fun to see more of Chief Brody and his family a few years on. Ditto with the Jeffrey Kramer as Brody's deputy and the Amityville mayor, although we don't actually see too much of Murray Hamilton. What makes the film an essential buy for shark or horror fans is the great white's numerous appearances and his attacks on the victims. In fact in this regard, Jeannot Szwarc actually performs better than Spielberg. Controversial but true.
I think that the original film was so effective because so much time was spent on the characterizations and drama aspects of the film that you sincerely believed in and cared about the folks involved and the town that they lived in. This time around, whilst the film certainly keeps true to the spirit of the characters and their subsequent behaviours or dialogue, the shark is the real star of the feature. That's what makes this film so enjoyable. Also, there are some truly great horror movie scares and genuinely disturbing moments such as Brody finding the charred corpse in the water, the diver being lunged at half way through the film, and the girl being devoured in front of a small child (that was the scene that really freaked me out when watching this on the television as a little kid) just to quote a few examples of many.
It's a bit sad that this film shouldn't be regarded quite as highly as it should be. Your only possible criticism is that it wasn't as good as the original film. Jaws 2 should be rated as the very impressive horror film that it really was (don't let the low certificate rating and violence levels fool ya). Jeannot Szwarc deserves a great deal of respect for what he managed to achieve here. The film offers a fully convincing continuation of the Brody and family in Amityville aspects of the story but really excels in the shark attack action sequences and the innovative camera work.
See this film nowadays in it's far superior 2,35:1 widescreen ratio and hopefully you'll realise what I'm talking about. Jaws 2 is by far the second greatest shark monster movie in the world, kudos to Szwarc and all of the cast and crew involved.
This Universal DVD has an anamorphic print which does feature some print damage but nothing too serious. The big disappointment is that this DVD only features mono sound. That's an inexcusably bad way to treat a classic successful horror and coming from a large company like Universal it seems even more outrageous. I mean, come on, mono? I own little known films released by little known firms which have been given the full 5.1 remix treatment. Shame on you Universal, even 2.0 stereo sound wouldn't have been too much to ask for. Tsk.
Still, at least the extras are a lot more impressive:
- A very informative making of featurette lasting 45 minutes
- A fascinating featurette on actor Keith "Mr. Christian! Mr. Christian! Pump up this boat!" Gordon's recollections of shooting this film (over 8 mins)
- A 7 minute featurette about the John Williams score for this sequel
- Almost 5 minutes of enjoyable deleted scenes
- Storyboards, production photographs and trailers for Jaws 2 and the two subsequent sequels
Pretty good don't you think? Especially considering that this sequel has been criticised rather often over the years (despite its success). That making of featurette explains how the film began production with a different director and script and was then halted and began anew when it was realised that the film was not performing well and needed a much better script and a more appropriate choice of director. All three of those featurettes are highly enjoyable and full of fascinating information about the production of the film and the involvement of the cast and crew.
Bar the huge mono sound disappointment, this DVD is highly recommended to all shark, monster movie or horror fans.