Sharks have always terrified me, but never as much as jellyfish. In one of my first visits ever to the beach (6), I saw a girl get stung. We weren’t swimming. In fact, I remember that the beach was closed (possibly due to the high concentration of jelly fish). We walked past a puddle close to the water that had about 4 or 5 in them. I didn’t quite understand what they were, but I soon learned how nasty they could be: A 12 year old girl came running by us (bawling) and screaming that she was stung by a jelly fish. My terror began, and it took me many years to get into the ocean.
Combine my childhood fears of jellyfish with growing up on Jaws movies and you have a 37 year old man that is still weary of the ocean. With all these shark attacks this summer and my boys discovering Shark Week this week, I’ll be swimming in lakes this summer (Thank you very much.). Of course, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying movies like Jaws 2 this week.
Jaws 2 is the 1978 follow-up to the classic Jaws. While not as surprisingly terrifying as the original, this film raises the bar of danger by putting (primarily) kids in harm’s way. It doesn’t hurt that some of the kids are the main protagonist’s kids and raises the sense of urgency the film needs.
After the events of the first film, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is a broken man. He was clearly traumatized by the events and believes that a shark will return to the area for revenge. While everybody else laughs at his insecurities, he barely holds on to his sanity through his wife (Lorraine Gary) and two boys (Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin). After a few people going missing, Brody is sure that his instincts are correct. When a dead killer whale beaches, he’s even more sure.
Mike (Brody’s oldest son played by Gruner) is oblivious to any danger (as is most of the town). He loves sailing, and all of his friends want to spend the summer soaking up the sun out on the water. As Brody tries to prove he’s not crazy, Mike decides he is and sneaks out on the water with his friends. Younger son Sean (Gilpin) decides to go out as well.
It’s here that the sequel goes in a direction that its predecessor never did and set the tone for its other sequels: The shark seems hellbent on finding the kids. It seems to take on humanistic qualities in the ensuing battle. All of Brody’s fears come to life before him, and the man rises to the occasion. However triumphant these moments are just took me further and further away from reality. I know there isn’t a shark gunning for me out in the ocean, but a chance encounter…that shit can happen.
The kids being trapped on open water is phenomenal. Half of their boats are sinking. Some get bit. The shark just patrols and when you can’t see it, it is at its most dangerous. Take away the rest of the plot, and this set up can stand on (and has) its own. But, again, reality is broken by the monster’s keen ability to make rescue impossible. I mean…it took out a helicopter!
All in all, Jaws 2 is a fun watch. It’s not as acclaimed as the original (and shouldn’t be), but it’s entertaining in itself. Reality gets a gut punch on occasion, but it’s still better than 90% of the shark/fish movies I’ve seen in my life.