In Defence of… JAWS the Revenge


“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific!” – Michael Caine.

The 1985 sequel Jaws the Revenge (the fourth movie in the popular Jaws franchise) was a massive flop at the box office, received terrible critical reviews and is often cited as one of the worst movies of all time…but is it really as bad as its reputation dictates?

Today I will do the unthinkable… I will put forward the case that Jaws the Revenge is actually quite good!

Now lets not get carried away – I am not proposing that the movie is brilliant, just not the toxic mess some would have you believe. It is not even the worst movie in the series – JAWS 3D wears that crown.

For those who havent seen it (and I imagine there are quite a few of you) the movie follows Ellen Brody, the wife of Chief Brody from the original. Ellen decides to leave Amity Island  – after her youngest son Sean is attacked and killed by a Shark in the towns waters – to join her eldest son Michael and his family in the Bahamas.  Michael is now a Marine biologist, and has been studying Conch migration (someones gotta do it) with his partner Jake. Despite her picturesque surroundings, Ellen can not shake the feeling that something is wrong. She fears that her family is being targeted by the killer sharks, and that they will not stop until have all been taken. Ellen pleads with her son to give-up his job and to get out of the water for good. Michael is of course sceptical, and tries to reassure her that sharks do not have agendas, and that she is just being paranoid. Ellen warily agrees, until the sudden and mysterious appearance of a large Great White Shark in the area suggests her worst fears might not be so crazy after all!

Jaws the Revenge admittedly has a lot of problems. It would have been a thousand times easier to write a piece on how terrible it is.

The Shark is fakest looking one of the series, with the crystal blue oceans of the Bahamas showcasing the beast in all it’s not so impressive glory. In some cuts of the film – the Sharks wires and internal  mechanic are visible in almost every shot.

The film is horribly melodramatic at times, and nearly all of the action set pieces (if you can really call them that) are shoddy, and muddled. The films ending is infamously one of the most confused climaxes ever put to screen. In fact, unless you read up on it afterwards, it’s not even clear how the shark actually dies. Depending on which version you see, there are two different endings – one where the Shark is impaled on the end of the heros boat, and slowly dies. One where it hits the end of the boat, and then explodes for no reason whatsoever, and im not kidding. The additional footage was added to the second ending in an attempt to make it more dramatic and comprehensible. Unfortunately, it appears Universal were only willing to spend roughly $45 on the re-shoots, because the special effects are, well…shit. Take a look at the screen grabs below for confirmation…

…oh dear…

To be honest, even the very genesis of the plot – the idea of a shark pursuing one family half way around the world – is completely ridiculous in of itself.

But I would argue that for all the bad, there is a lot of good on show here.

While Director Joseph Sargent may have struggled with the action side of things, the film looks far better than it should with the budget it was handed. The scenes in the Bahamas are beautiful captured, and the film as a whole looks polished and slick …excluding some so-so special effects work.

The slow burn approach that worked so well for the original is here too. We are dealing with real people, in a real town facing a problem that is completely over their heads.   The movie spends time with its characters, and the life they lead – allowing you get to know and care about them, thus increasing the tension when they are put in peril. This point is illustrated by the fact that the Shark barely makes and appearance until roughly half into the movie. Some have criticized the film for its lack of Shark action – which I do understand – but I for one appreciated the time spent building character.

Sargent also pulls off the drama and suspense to good effect. The movies opening is particularly well done.  It is Christmas Eve, and Chief of Police Sean Brody is called out to recover a broken line from Amity`s oceans. The scene is set at night, and the combination of the towns glowing Christmas lights and a choir singing carols in the distance give the scene a really creepy, surreal feeling as shark approaches. This opening attack scene is dark, haunting and vicious – perfectly re-capturing the suspense, and foreboding of the first movie.

There are also a few other decent scenes to speak of. The first, is the moment where Michael is chased through a sunken ship by the killer shark. Yes,  the logistics of the size of the shark in comparison to the ship don’t quite gel, but the scene is extremely tense, and well put together. Again, a scene that wouldn’t feel out place in the first JAWS.

The banana boat attack is also well done. The shot of the shark rising from the water and taking its screaming victim is a really terrifying image. The director lingers on  the Shark as it is suspended out of the water a tad to long to be believable,  but it is still one of the most frightening and effective attack scenes in the entire series.

One criticism that I have never understood is the bashing the acting gets.

It’s actually quite good in my opinion. In the same way that Edward Furlong gets criticised for his “bad” acting in T2, I just don’t think it’s that terrible! This is Loraine Gary`s (Ellen Brody) movie, and she really throws herself into the role 100%. She is entirely convincing in all aspects of her character – from the grieving mother, to the strong-willed shark killer she evolves into.

Michael Caine is a little on auto pilot here, but he is still as fun and charming as ever playing pilot Hoogie. The blossoming relationship between him and Ellen is engrossing and believable. In-fact, the acting is generally good all round. Lance Guest  is a little stiff as Michael Brody, but not jarringly so. His partner Jake (Mario Van Pebbles) is really fun to watch, with the actor bringing life and humor to a role that could have so easily been annoying and forgettable. You really feel it when his character dies near the end of the movie. Although (due to test audience demand) his character survives in some cuts  – which is of course, completely ridiculous.

Anyway, I would now like to address the two most common criticisms that get thrown at the film  –

  1. Ellen flashes back to moments from JAWS that she was not around for.
  2. The Shark roars during the film’s climax.

Ok, there’s no denying that Sharks do not roar in real life. But hey – this a monster movie, not a National Geographic documentary. Sharks don’t follow people half way around the world either. So lets cut the makers some slack shall we. I personally feel that the shark  roaring during the final confrontation adds to beast intimidating presence, and whacks  the – oh shit! its coming right for us – tension up a few notches.

As for the infamous flashbacks – ok so Ellen wasnt actually there in person to see the events that occurred to her husband – but im sure he told her about them! How else are the film makers going to convey her recollections without cutting to footage from the first  film? Other movies have used a similar method to convey memory – so why does this movie get such a hounding for doing the same thing?

In summary – JAWS the Revenge isn’t perfect by any stretch – but if you watch it with an open mind, I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find a good-looking, half-decent thriller, that contains some entertaining performances and is at times, quite frightening.


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2 Responses to “In Defence of… JAWS the Revenge”

  1. Captain Yesterday Says:

    Good article. I have only seen the beginning and end of Jaws 4 – and it will take a few beers before I can fill in the rest. After Jaws 2 I have tried to forget any other shark films were ever made. Regardless of Jaws 4’s relative merits the creepy look of that plastic shark is all the horror I can stand for now!

  2. TheJawsFan Says:

    I personally though the Flashbacks made the ending more dramatic and if Ellen is looking at the shark and seeing what Brody saw 🙂

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