Jaws

There is pretty much no debate about whether or not Jaws, directed in 1975 by Steven Spielberg, is a great movie. It's clearly masterful, and obviously well-shot, directed, written, and acted. It's an incredible movie, and so much talent and skill and love went into making it.

The only question I have is how much I enjoy watching it over and over again. I really enjoyed the movie when I first saw it as a kid, but it does seem to lose some it's excitement, for me, each time I see it. It's sort of like, once I know what is going to happen, it gets a little more dull to watch each time. I did watch it feeling tired and full of food today, but I just wasn't as engrossed in the tension or scares this time. Maybe it's just me. Keep in mind, I'm not saying that I don't like the movie, or I don't think it's great. It's great. I just wasn't feeling it today, but that doesn't mean it is not great.
I hope we all know the plot by now - there is a giant great white shark terrorizing the vacation destination Amity island, and it needs to be stopped so tourists can goof about on the beach and spend money. The motley crew of Brody, the police chief, Hopper (an oceanographer) and Quint, a shark hunter, assemble and try to track down the giant shark.

The best part of this movie is something that was accidental. The giant sharks didn't work all the time, and the film had to be shot without it. Spielberg used different techniques to show the powerful, huge shark without actually showing it. We see him drag a pier out into the ocean, and later, the shark is mostly seen as only yellow buoys that it drags around with him. Ebert writes about how strong this is, as well. I think that by not showing the shark, there is so much more tension and excitement. The power and size of the shark is implied, and because of that, it holds up so much better years later. If we had just seen the fake shark, it wouldn't look so polished and purposeful. I love the tension that the lack of shark creates, and I'm so happy that the fake sharks were not ever working very well.

I also like that the three heroes are everyday kind of guys. I know that "normal people being the protagonists!" is a pretty tried trope, but I think it works well here. It's a pretty extreme situation, and it really helps to have characters that the viewers can relate to and enjoy. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't think I could take on a giant shark. I like having characters who are in over their heads, too, since it makes it easier to root for them, for me, at least.


There is also the masterful soundtrack, which everyone knows. It's almost not even worth writing about it. What is slightly more interesting is the impact that Jaws had on cinema. Ebert writes, ""Jaws" was released in 1975, quickly becoming the highest-grossing picture made up to that time, and forever wresting the summer releasing season away from B movies and exploitation pictures. The major Hollywood studios, which had avoided summer, now identified it as the prime releasing season, and "Jaws" inspired hundreds of summer thrillers and f/x pictures" (Great Movies II, 208). The other day, Ebert mused on Twitter that is the world does end tomorrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 3D will be the last movie ever released. Hm. He has Jaws to thank for that.

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Jaws
Buy it on Amazon

Jules and Jim

Here is a kita.