Ah, Jaws 3D!
That staple of my childhood growing up.
Jaws 3D was something of an event in my household for me growing up. I had never seen the first two Jaws films until well into my teens. For a guy who loves monsters, I was a candy-ass in my youth.
Afraid of the dark, In Search Of…, The Incredible Hulk, you name it? I had a neurotic aversion to it.
Jaws 3D, however, was different. This was the SAFE Jaws movie, with very little gore, few fatalities (two) and all that SeaWorld goodness.
Netflix has all the Jaws flicks on their service currently and I decided to revisit Jaws 3D after having not seen it in, shoo, at LEAST 20 years (on TV a couple years before I graduated, so circa 1995-1996.)
Now I will say this up front…
This is a shit-tier film.
However, it’s the cardboard effects that cause 90% of the problems and truth be told, it’s not their fault.
Odd, right? I’ll get to that point.
On its own, self-contained merits, the film is actually pretty fun. We leave Amity, Long Island, and dive-in to the sunshine state of Florida where the eldest Brody child, Mike (Dennis Quaid), is working as a Supervising Engineer at SeaWorld, having just designed the elaborate Undersea Kingdom, a submerged park-within-a-park, operating forty feet below the surface in a lagoon (yeah, I know, technically this makes no sense as SeaWorld, in Orlando, is landlocked, but, work with me, okay?).
His adorable girlfriend, Dr. Katheryn (played by the cute-as-a-button Bess Armstrong), is the head Marine Specialist and animal trainer. Something’s got her dolphins spooked and she can’t figure out why they refuse to go out into the lagoon, uncharacteristically wanting to stay in their small pens suddenly. With the grand opening of the Undersea Kingdom underway, guests flocking to Sea World include Mike’s younger brother Sean (played by… I dunno and I’m too lazy to look it up) and a British wildlife photographer, Philip Fitzroyce (played with flair by Manimal-himself, Simon MacCorkindale) who’s good friends with the SeaWorld’s nebulous owner Calvin Bouchard (Lois Gossett Jr., baby!).
Oh yeah, Lea Thompson is in this, in her film debut as a water-skier, so y’know, you get to see her in a bikini and stuff.
So the dolphins start acting wigged out, one of repair divers goes missing one night (after Brody told him no overtime) and some kids looking to plunder coral (who knew there was a black market for it?). Things REALLY go tits-up when they find a ten-foot great white inside the park itself. Kay decides she can catch it and with Fitzroyce’s help, she does, but the thing dies after being put on display a day later.
Probably of embarrassment for being in a film with shit like this…
Well, Overman, the diver who disappeared, pops up later, literally, in front of the guests at the Undersea Kingdom. Kay looks at his slimy-remains and freaks, stating the bite-marks in the body are far, far bigger than the guppie that died and that they have a major problem. When they go to warn Bouchard, he doubts them and tells them to chillax… until the damn shark swims out in front of them in the restaurant.
Brody, Fitzroyce and his assistant all race to the surface to get everyone out of the water; hilarity and hijinks ensue. Lea Thompson gets a big gash on her leg (y’know, because the shark that bit a dude in half can’t obviously attack a girl), Mike gets a flashback of Amity ’75, and people get trapped in the Undersea Kingdom because Jaws cracks the glass and… and… they’re just trapped, okay?! Meanwhile, Fitzroyce tries to kill the shark (which is a gawddamn prehistoric monster, going by size alone) only to get eaten just as he’s about to blow its ass up with a hand grenade.
Mike makes a seal so they can pressurize it and get everyone home, and they do, but when they return to the control room, the Megalod-, sorry, Jaws, smashes it’s nose in, trying to eat everyone.
Whoops. I lied That’s three fatalities; it east one of the control room technicians.
Mike sees the grenade (because much like scuba tanks, Great Whites have a hard time swallowing shit) in Fitzroyce’s hand. He takes a curtain rod (that he found lying around) and reaches into the shark’s mouth, pulling the pin and…
So yeah that’s the whole plot.
Now remember when I said the problem (that wasn’t the problem) was the effects? Here’s why…
…it was filmed in 3D, but, the production team didn’t plan on a 2D release. So what is billed as a 2-D release is actually the Arrivision “Left-Hand” portion of the reel (which was combined with the lower “Right-Hand” portion on a stereo projector to produce the 3D effects.
Now while the scenes that were inserted certainly look terrible in 2D, particularly the Mini-Sub and the Dolphins at the very end of the picture leaping and dancing in front of the screen, I have been told from numerous sources that the film in 3D looks quite spectacular. Universal rereleased it on Bluray with the proper 3D formatting restored (but laughably mentioned as a “Bonus Feature”). From what I understand, the scenes that feature popped-out effects were put against oceanic scenes that were filmed in Arrivision-proper and that there’s a layer depth given and that when things appear, they literally are free-floating in your living room.
This, I’m sure, elevates the film when you watch it in the proper format it was meant to be seen.
And I love the film, but again, this goes far, far beyond being Jaws; when your shark is THIRTY-FIVE feet long, it has transcended “Shark” and becomes Kaiju – a prehistoric monster. Megalodon would be the preferred adjective, as I don’t care what it self-identifies as.
The Japanese marketing actually got it right, though:
One thing that has stuck with me all these years is the score to this film.
This was, to my knowledge, the only major film to be composed by Alan Parker, a U of K composer who came up with the Scottish news jingle.
But y’know what? This is a first-rate score! The sweeping “Undersea Kingdom” theme that combines with the Love theme for Kay and Mike permeates a good chunk of the soundtrack, but it’s refreshing for the franchise. Don’t worry, John William’s two-note shark theme is still present, but this music is a bit more modern in it’s style (John Williams, when scoring the first film went with “Pirate” music, emphasizing that it needed that oldschool, adventurous romp. Taking place mostly in a (for it’s time) futuristic theme park, Parker went with a more contemporary sound and it works. His themes are memorable, especially the Water Skiing theme, take a listen!
And damn, did I mention had a ginormous crush on Bess Armstrong?
And… I’m rambling now.
UPDATE – Holy shit, my math sucks. This movie has a body count of five (5? V?) – Overman, the two Coral thieves, Fitzroyce and the Control Room Technician.