Jaws 2

Jaws 2 ★★½

With so many essential elements from the original missing while still trying hard to live up to that first film, Jaws 2 is neither able to replicate the power of Steven Spielberg's seminal Jaws nor get out of its wake enough to become its own unique thing, and flounders as a result.

Chief Brody and his wife Ellen are back (Roy Scheider & Lorraine Gary) as is Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughan, and once more it all falls on the chief to protect the citizens of Amity Island from a second killer great white shark that's dropped by for a visit. While the film suffers from the absence of Richard Dreyfuss' Matt Hooper, it REALLY suffers without Robert Shaw's Captain Quint. And while I didn't expect the film to throw another salty sea captain our way, couldn't we have gotten someone a little better developed than the dopey deputy played by Jeffrey Kramer? Equally underwhelming is the gaggle of teens this film unloads on us to be the main targets of the new shark. Despite counting an extra young Keith Gordon (Christine) amongst their numbers, the individual personalities of the kids are poorly fleshed out and rarely eclipse the realm of stereotype.

Perhaps most mishandled of all the characters is the one who needed the deftest of touches: the shark! Right from the start we see a lot more of this ultimate ocean predator than we did the first time---needlessly more. Some might say "eh, might as well show the audience what they came to see... and besides, they already know by now very well what the shark looks like." Well we also already know what Jason from Friday the 13th is basically going to look like with each new sequel, but it still helps the films build tension by having him stealthily sneak up on campers (and the audience!). The problems with the shark scenes here also highlights what a difference an amazing editor can make. We don't have Verna Fields' careful handling this time to turn those technical problems with the shark's appearance into one of the greatest suspense devices ever put to film. But here, the shark always being so out in the open means that none of the kills (except for one) ever really shock, and it makes the film all the blander.

John Williams is probably the film's MVP. His score for Jaws 2 was still created during a time of peak creativity for the composer, with his output from 1975 to 1982 featuring more iconic music than any film scorer had ever made during that short a period. Coming in a close second behind Williams is Roy Scheider as Brody, whose performance is good enough to mostly carry the film during the scenes he's in. And if nothing else, spending time on Amity Island with Scheider's Brody is a fairly comfortable cinematic experience, which makes Jaws 2 worth the watch if for no other reason than you just want to see him in that role and in that place again, but without the rest of a film you're no doubt very familiar with by this point. It's kinda like putting aside pics and home videos and instead visiting your hometown just to see the one friend you grew up with that's still there...but, you know, with more sharks eating people and stuff.

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