Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where the story continues when sometimes, it ought to have ended! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they put on their water wings and wade out into the peaceful, blood-soaked waters of Amity Island.
Today’s film offering: Jaws 2
Lilly: Welcome back to Amity Island, Jaws lovers! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water because you forgot the grisly shark deaths from a few years ago–nope, this island is a magnet for big murder sharks so just stop swimming at the beach already! Jaws 2 takes place a few years after the events of Jaws, and the Amity Island tourist bureau clearly had been working hard, because everyone seemed to have forgotten about the messy shark deaths, including that of a little boy. I mean, sure, there had never been deaths of that multitude at Amity beaches before, but whatever, stop being so ridiculous about it, Brody!
And oh yes, we are joined by Jaws survivor/final guy (though not really since Hooper makes it), Police Chief Martin Brody! After the traumatising events of the first film, the poor man stuck around to attempt once more to get that peace and quiet he had hoped for in this post in the middle of nowhere tourist country. Not that he enjoys the water any more than before, and in fact, seems to openly despise it. If Jaws was the story of a shark menacing an island of people, Jaws 2 is the story of the ghost of that shark tormenting one of the residents while a real shark gets up to murdery mischief, the town council thinking it all a case of the Brody who cried shark.
Andy: Except of course there is an actual shark running around out there, with the gimmick that this time it’s had half its face burned off due to an incident early in the film involving a woman basically setting herself on fire with a gas can. This is worth watching in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way – gone are the measured cadences of Spielberg’s attacks. Instead we have … this.
Lilly: The film is taken a step further when Brody’s son, now grown up into the teenage rebellion stage where we all went out into waters where a shark had attacked us and killed a man in front of us to spite our father, right? Parents just don’t understand! Mike decides to take some friends (and his little brother) out on boats to hang out, because why not! It’s not like there is a recent case of a murder shark around these parts, right? Wait. Opposite.
Andy: Yeah, there’s a definite skew towards the younger folks here. Gone are the three middle-aged men out re-enacting Moby Dick; instead we have a group of teenagers trapped on a sort-of floating raft of their boats. It seems kinda harsh to say the latter group is less well-characterised than the former – Quint, Hooper and Brody being three of the most fully realised characters in, well, anything – but they aren’t really characterised at all, so when some of them inevitably get sharked, it’s more like the shark is a slasher villain than the strange, existential threat of the first.
Lilly: Jaws 2 is a film which not only continues the story of Amity Island, but explores what happens to characters after the horror film is over. Another shark is introduced, but this shark seems so much worse due to not just the upped ante of a sequel but also because Brody’s clear PTSD ramps up the tension, so scenes where even the audience knows it isn’t a shark but in Brody’s imagination are proven to be scary because we see Brody suffering in a way that is almost too real. Brody is a very real character in this film.
Andy: He is. He’s probably the only one, though. Even returning characters, like his wife and sons or the town mayor (wait, how did he get re-elected?) don’t really move past their characterisations in the first movie.
Lilly: Then we also see the horror of a town that lives off tourism. What do you do in the position of the town council of Amity Island, where you’ve clearly got a shark problem but you also don’t want to drive away money that will help your people survive through a long winter? Well, in Jaws 2, maybe the council goes too far with their denial and treatment of the shark issue as nothing, but seriously, it’s a scary thought. How do you risk the town’s tourist money without definite proof that it will save lives? A blurry photo of a shark from a site of a known shark attack of the past doesn’t really cut it when livelihoods are at risk. Shark attack politics! I love it!
Andy: Despite what you might have heard it’s not horrible, but it’s not very good either. It’s not that it doesn’t measure up to the first one – almost nothing does – it’s like it’s on a completely different scale. And this is coming from the guy who defended Alien 3 at length a few weeks ago – if my love for that and my ambivalence for this is any kind of scale to judge whether you should see this by, then use it.
Lilly: I definitely recommend it if you like monster shark films–if you are watching Sharknado, you should definitely give this a try. While you get all the fun of a monster shark, attacking sexy teens and doing general menacing, you also get a little peek into the mind of someone who survived such a thing, and see how sometimes, no matter what you do to save your town, it still doesn’t beat out small town politics for levels of horror. Go, watch, enjoy!