Reposting an older piece from my other blog.
When I was four years old my parents showed my sister and me Jaws. They edited it for us though, telling us when to cover our eyes and ears. Later that same week when our grandma was babysitting us she asked us which movie we wanted to watch. We told her we wanted to watch Jaws. She was a bit reluctant until we mentioned that we had already seen it. She said okay. Of course, we forgot to mention that we had covered our eyes and ears at the bloody parts. I had nightmares for a month.
Soon after this event Jaws became my favorite movie, and it continues to be to this day. I think a person’s taste in film can say a lot about their personality. Knowing Jaws is my all time favorite film could indicate that I like to be scared. I was the first time I saw it in it’s entirety. I think that may be why I became fascinated with it at first. Most people classify it as a horror film. It’s not. It is most definitely an adventure film. And, it is the composition of the film as an adventure story that kept it at the top of my list.
Every aspect of the film seems to fall nicely into place, especially considering how every piece of the filming seemed to not fall into place, and in fact fell out of place or went wrong. The music is perfect, the actors are perfectly cast, even the choices they had to make about implying the shark was there when the mechanical one didn’t work end up making those scenes and the fear factor perfect. What you can’t see but know is there is most times the scariest thing because you’re left to your own imagination.
There have been countless articles and documentaries done on the production of Jaws and it never ceases to amaze me how much went wrong in that time and that even with the way things went, they still managed to turnout an incredible film. I think it demonstrates that the people making the film were exceptionally talented and good at what they do. I think it’s also a testament to Steven Spielberg’s brilliance that the film was marketed the way it was. I know there were a lot of people involved in that process but the consumer product line that was created for this film exudes Spielbergian concept.
Now, putting the marketing and production aspect of this film aside, the story is great. The setup is explained in the poster. It’s a movie about a shark that attacks people. Add in some profits-driven politics and you’ve got yourself the first hour’s conflict. Once they actually get out on the ocean though, the real adventure begins. I think the character development is really what makes this movie so great. Brody is incompetent when it comes to anything sea related and he even falls short with some of his duties as a father and husband. This is a classic Spielberg element. Having a father that has yet to prove himself, and is still childlike in many ways is something he includes in many of his films. Brody does end up being the hero of the film but not without some help along the way. Hooper comes in to educate Brody on the most important details of their enemy and to eventually provide him with part of the weapon that will destroy the beast. Roy Scheider plays Brody well, making sure to highlight his nervousness in the delivery of his lines with a higher pitched and quivering voice, until he delivers that famous line right before he destroys the animal. Once it gets to that, his voice is hardened and angry. He is ready for this thing to be dead and the whole ordeal to be over. Hooper is also played marvelously by Richard Dreyfuss. He has his signature nasally voice to help him play the young and full-hearted Matt Hooper.
It is Robert Shaw though that steals the movie and provides the perfect performance for the best character. I’ve already written a post analyzing his performance in the U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue scene but I’m going to give another brief review of his performance. His first appearance in the film is one of the greatest character entrances of film history. He starts off with scratching the chalkboard and then goes into this speech about killing the shark and how terrifying it really is and they need to recognize that it won’t give up so they must kill it. He knows a thing or two about these creatures and feels a sense of revenge against them, the cause of which is revealed later, in his most famous scene. I’ve already picked apart that scene but I have to say once again how wonderful his performance is. I still can’t get over how expressive his eyes are and how understated his overall performance is.
This film had everything going against it. The didn’t have a full script when they started shooting, the mechanical shark wouldn’t work, and everyone kept getting seasick. Yet it ended up redefining the summer blockbuster. It really did change they way movies were made and marketed and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.