My Favorite Movies – Jaws (1975)

6 May

By Tanner Smith

Here’s the film that helped create the “summer blockbuster,” made Steven Spielberg famous, and gave us three or four of the scariest movie moments we’ve ever seen!

The production problems of “Jaws” are well-known (half the crew even dubbed the film “Flaws”), particularly with all the troubles that can be imagined when filming out at sea. And Spielberg was a young talent with a couple feature films under his belt, and he had huge ambitions in making “Jaws.” But there were many ways the film could’ve gone wrong. Thankfully though, Spielberg used what he had to his advantage and created a film that impressed just about everyone nationwide.

One of the problems he faced was working the animatronics of the shark, which posed the question, “How can you make a scary shark movie without a well-functioning shark?” Spielberg found a way to fix that problem as well: by not showing the shark most of the time but making the audience feel its presence. You see the shark’s POV underwater, you see blood in the water, you see HUMAN LIMBS in the water, the characters attach barrels to the shark so they know it’s still there, and up until the ending, you only catch glimpses of the monstrosity. But most importantly‚ĶJohn Williams’ chilling score. With just two simple notes and an accompanying theme, we were able to be scared of the shark without actually seeing it.

“Jaws” is the perfect example of the phrase “less is more.”

We do see the shark up close when it destroys the ship and attacks the men onboard, and you can see why it wasn’t used more before: it looks fake. We’d be laughing at the film if we got to see more of this thing and if the film wasn’t so well-made leading up to this point.

I love watching this film with a crowd (I did twice–once at the Cinemark in Conway; the other with my cinema-history class at UCA)–when the head pops out of the boat underwater, there’s always at least three or four people SCREAMING. (That’s a great jump-scare, by the way–most jump-scares are false scares following a loud noise, but that ain’t no false scare!)

The main characters are also great. Brody (Roy Scheider) is a great everyman, trying to save his community by stepping outside his element to help catch a shark; Quint (Robert Shaw) is a wonderful Captain-Ahab-type who just wants to capture this damn beast of the sea; and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is wonderful comic relief while also knowing everything to know about marine biology. (My favorite Hooper moment is when he sarcastically laughs at some amateur fishermen who are out to hunt the shark and then mutters, “They’re all gonna die.”)

My favorite scene: the infamous moment in which we get our first look at the shark, as Brody finds himself staring it in the face for a brief moment before backing up slowly and informing Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That’s another thing I love about this movie: Spielberg’s ability to insert much-needed humor to a terrifying situation.

Quick sum-up of my thoughts on the sequels: “Jaws 2” is an okay movie, even though the only reason it exists is for box-office reasons. “Jaws 3-D” is hilariously bad. And “Jaws: The Revenge” is EMBARRASSINGLY hilariously bad (though it makes for one of my favorite Siskel & Ebert reviews, slamming it). I hope Michael Caine got paid well for that last one.

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