SEQUELITIS: Jaws

“Sequelitis” is a series I’m going to be writing on several movies that seem to have gotten worse as more movies were made. I will try to stick to serieses I’ve seen all parts to, so we’re going to miss out on the horror movies that I’m sure fit into this trope. To start out, we’ll start out with the textbook example of Sequelitis, the Jaws series. No other series has started so high to end up so low. I’d link to the TV Tropes on Sequelitis, but I would rather keep you on this site through the end of the article.

In 1975, the world got Jaws. Based on a novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws was the tale of a small island town police chief whose’s beaches are terrorized by a 35-foot long killer Great White Shark. Every single aspect of this movie is perfect. From the casting to the acting to the pacing to the editing, even to the 70’s special effects. Jaws changed everything about movies from that point on. It literally created the summer blockbuster. Even though the making was plagued by storms both literal and figurative, Spielberg managed to create a classic film almost because of the problems. Imagine Jaws if the mechanical shark actually worked the way they wanted to and was visible in the first scene like was scripted; the movie would have been just another monster movie, albeit a well-acted monster movie. As it is, Jaws is the perfect example of how to make a movie.

Such great success is always attempted to be repeated, so a sequel had to be made. So three years later in 1978, we got Jaws 2. Jaws 2 falls into the “if it worked, do it again” category of sequel. A new team had to be found and the final product was pretty much the first movie without anything that made the first movie good. Again, Amity is attacked by a giant Great White Shark and no one believes the police chief, played by Roy Scheider again only due to a clause in his contract, when he tries to say that another shark is terrorizing the youngsters. And why should they? If one Great White Shark attacking a New England island is improbable, two within a couple years of each other is impossible. Hence the real problem with most sequels: a lot of movies are already pushing the boundary of what is believable and making the same thing happen again to the same people pushes it over the edge into ridiculousness (see: Die Hard). Even in the movie, characters point out the implausabilty, making a big deal out of sharks not taking revenge (remember that for later). So in Jaws 2, instead of having the perfect team of Brody, Quint, and Hooper, we get Brody going off by himself to save a bunch of teenagers who are being bullied by this new shark. Instead of not showing much of the shark unless it was dramatically necessary, we see this shark all the time and while they scar it up rather soon into the movie to make it different, technology had not changed that much and was still not ready to be the focus of a movie. Universal spent three times as much for Jaws 2 than they had for the original, more than they had for any other movie to that point. They got a third of what they did for Jaws, which fortunately for them was more than they spent, and unfortunately for us was enough to make another sequel.

Jaws 3 was originally pitched as an Airplane-style parody of the series. After Spielberg said that he would leave Universal if the did a parody (good for them, as ET was next on his list), they decided to not make it a direct parody. They did learn their lesson from Jaws 2 and didn’t repeat the same movie again. This time they gave us “gimmicks”, which is what this type of sequel is categorized as. The most obvious was 3D. The last time 3D was popular (every thirty years it seems) everyone had their third movie in 3D so they could use the title “X 3… D”.  Jaws 3-D was filmed in 3D at SeaWorld Orlando and told the story of a baby shark who breaks into SeaWorld and dies and the mamma shark who comes in for revenge. In order to tie it into the first movies, two characters were forced to be written as Brody’s sons, which is a tenuous connection at best. And again, almost 10 years after the first, the shark still looks fake and is shown way too much. The movie is almost a parody whether it meant to be or not. The blue screen effects are numerous and terribly done, the mechanical shark might as well not be mechanized, and the things coming out of the screen in 3D is laughably bad. Again, though the movie made a little over half what the previous movie did, it still made a profit.

For some reason, this wasn’t enough. The studio decided to do another one. So Jaws 4 was made, actually titled “Jaws: The Revenge”, and it follows the “everything done wrong” type of sequel. It ignored the fact that Jaws 3-D included Brody children and recasts them again, one as the short-lived police chief of Amity and the other as a research scientist in the Bahamas. The story focuses on Ellen Brody, the widow of Chief Brody from the first two movies, as she is more and more convinced that there is another shark out to get revenge on her and her family. And by what you see in the movie, she’s absolutely right. Despite the second movie being about how implausible it is to have another shark in Amity because they don’t take revenge, this movie is focused on the fact that there is another shark, and its definitely out for revenge. After this new shark lays a trap specifically for her son and eats him in Amity, Ellen does one right thing by moving away from that strangely shark-infested island. However, instead of moving herself and her family to Colorado where no shark has ever been seen, she moves to the Bahamas with her son who works in the ocean. And believe it or not, the shark not only follows her, but beats her plane there. Still, the shark only targets members of the Brody family, and Ellen seems to have some kind of physic connection to the shark for no reason at all. Eventually Ellen goes out to see to face down the shark and have flashbacks to things from the first movie that she wasn’t present for and ends up ramming it so hard it explodes and breaks the model of her boat in the worst special effects of the series, thanks to a test screening where the shark didn’t die dramatically enough and the audience didn’t like that a character who was shown on screen to have been eaten dies. So an already weak movie was reshot to be even more weak. And they got Michael Caine to be in it! Finally, a Jaws movie flopped so bad that a sequel was never considered again.

So, that’s pretty much how Sequelitis works: a studio pushes a series too far with too little ideas with a diminishing budget until the thing that comes out is a waste of film. Hope you enjoyed this quick look at how it works. Hopefully I’ll be able to explore it further as we bring up more movie serieses.

 

Thanks to reader Charlie, who pointed out some mistakes in the original article.

Originally posted 2012-04-04 11:44:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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