We’ve lived with the ocean for thousands of years, yet it can often seem like another planet. It hosts thousands of creatures and animals that we like to eat and use, yet they range in size and shape and can even seem threatening. Even in the oldest days of Columbus sailing to the New World, the maps featured an ocean filled with unidentified sea monsters that could devour ships in the blink of an eye. Marine biologists and fellow scientists have had a big hand in identifying what lurks within the deep, yet still contains dangers that could come about from jellyfish to large whales and sharks.
I bring this up because I consider Jaws a monster movie within the blockbusters that Spielberg has made. He clearly took up inspiration from the famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Birds, adapting many concepts that are not just animal related, but fear related. What The Birds and Jaws shares in common is that most of the fear and frights come fro, what could happen rather then what does happen. These are also movies that should have been simple B-movies that are there to scare people, but were both so good at what they were doing that people have tried to replicate them since.
We open in Amity Island in the Martha’s Vineyard area where in the film’s iconic opening, a young woman is attacked by a larger then usual shark. New police chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) is about to close up the beach, when he’s stopped by Mayor Larry Vaughn (played by Murray Hamilton) who insists the death came from a boating accident, though he’s really concerned over losing tourist dollars. Brody leaves the situation alone until another shark attack claims the life of a boy.
Brody holds a meeting to catch to shark, though local crazy fisherman Quint (played by Robert Shaw) says that only he can truly do it. Brody turns him away, insisting that local hunters can do the job much cheaper. Consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) arrives to help and even dispute a caught shark as not being “the shark” that’s been making the attacks. Mayor Vaughn accepts the caught shark as the predator and demands that the beaches remain open for the forth of July weekend. Another attack happens, though it nearly get’s Brody’s oldest son. To make sure that shark is truly caught, Brody, Quint and Hooper sail out to open waters to make the final hunt.
People have constantly phrased Jaws as being one of the best Blockbusters and I too am on that offence. People responded so heavily to the creature feature for two factors. The first reason is the way the film proceeds to show the shark, which is ironically rarely. Through most of the first half, the shark’s presence is only hinted through POV shots and particular editing that insure that something is near the beaches. Only during the open water scenes do we finally see the shark, which still looks menacing.
The second reason is how relatable and likable these characters are. Roy Scheider was the perfect choice to play the role of a cop who thought that his major crime fighting days were over, only to be forced not only to get back in action, but to fight his own fears. Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss also map out the perfect psychological struggle that Brody faces with Shaw portraying the spiritual side while Hooper is the scientific side, leaving our hero to act as our in-between man to overcome this beast. Add in some descent shark effects and a highly memorable John Williams theme, and it’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t enjoy Jaws.
I’ll give this five fishermen boats out of five. Though Spielberg had admitted that E.T. and Schindler’s List are the movies that he wants to be remembered for, Jaws should be remembered to for applying many of his trademark filming skills that created the perfect definition of suspense.