Summer Shark Movies: Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema…

 

jaws-1975-poster

Today as I write this, it is the day after the summer solstice.  Summer is upon us and you know what that means…yes, shark movies.

In my lifetime (as this is the only lifetime I’m blogging about), there is just ONE shark movie at the very top of the pyramid, and that is Steven Spielberg’s immortal classic JAWS.    Saw it in the summer of 1975 as a 9 year old boy, and my fascination with the ocean hasn’t diminished much since.

Most shark movies since JAWS have largely been exercises in mediocrity punctuated with some good scares here and there, but occasionally there is one that distinguishes itself for one reason or another.  For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to start with JAWS and work my down some of the pack.   I’m not planning to cover EVERY shark movie made since 1975, just the ones that have stood out to me for some reason or another (good or bad).

 

I.  JAWS:  The motherlode of shark movies…

In the summer of ’75, my family piled into our Volkswagen bus and hit the local drive-in (so very SoCal in those days) to see JAWS.  We waited around the block for over an hour, trying to get in for the next showing (the drive-in was filled to capacity!).  At a given point, our car was stopped for so long that my dad, sister and I just got out of the bus and looked over the drive-in fence to watch the last quarter of the movie in silence.

^ Drive-in movie sound, in the dark days before digital…

Back then, drive-in theaters had a single, crappy, tinny, monaural speaker you hung inside of your car through the driver-side window (these days, you tune your car stereo for sound at a drive-in; but I haven’t been to a drive-in theater for decades).   Since we were outside the lot, we didn’t have access to a speaker, but the images we saw over the fence were amazing.   Three guys battling a shark to the death.  Wow.  Then, as the cars from the previous screening left the lot, we were finally allowed in.  I watched the first hour of the movie (with sound this time!), but… I fell asleep.  Hey,  I was 9 years old and I’m pretty sure it was way past my bedtime (hehe).   Later on, my family and I would see JAWS in a proper walk-in theater (always my preference) and in the proper order.  It was like truly seeing it for the first time (again).   That opening scene with a young skinny dipper being eaten alive by an unseen, underwater leviathan is one of the best openers in ‘70s cinema.

^ Probably not a cramp…

The movie stayed with me forever; like Star Wars, it kinda changed my life.  I looked at the ocean with a healthy respect and awe that I hadn’t really felt before JAWS.   For many people at that time, JAWS scared them out of swimming in the ocean.  For me, it did the opposite: it drew me in.   I think it might’ve also sprang from my childhood fascination with dinosaurs, except that these creatures still existed and lived just below the surface of the ocean.   That same ocean I used to see (and swim in) as a kid when my family and I went to the beach…

I didn’t come to truly scrutinize JAWS on multiple levels till it premiered on the ABC television network in 1979 and I audio-taped it off of the family TV’s speaker (using my clunky audio-cassette recorder; this was before VCRS were truly affordable, and DVDs were 18 years away…).   I used to play that audio tape over and over again.   By the time my family owned JAWS on home video in the early ‘80s (on CED and laserdisc formats) I knew it by heart; even the sound FX and music cues.  The overlapping character interactions, Quint’s mesmerizing USS Indianapolis monologue, and John Williams’ pulse-pounding score.  Committed to memory, all of it.

^ Very similar to my own trusty audiotape recorder, circa 1979…

Funny thing is, JAWS works even without the visuals.   I would ‘watch’ the action unfold in my mind’s eye, almost like a radio play.   The characters were rich and interesting.   The ensemble of characters (as well as the action) eventually pares down to three men; Amity police chief Brody (the late Roy Scheider), ichthyologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) and salty seaman Quint (the late Robert Shaw) going ‘sharking’ aboard the Orca; a tiny, battered fishing vessel taking on a 25 ft. great white shark, to save the fictional summer resort town of Amity Island.   It’s near mythic.

Men on a mission: Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfus in JAWS (1975)

Later on, as I watched the various home video formats of JAWS through the decades, I began to appreciate Spielberg’s visuals as well; they are a deft, alternating mix of theatricality and realism.   The Oscar-winning music by soundtrack legend John Williams (Star Wars, Godfather, Superman) is both primal and sublime; and the film editing by ‘mother cutter’ (and fellow Oscar winner) Verna Fields is truly exceptional.

Yes, today the giant artificial shark in JAWS no doubt looks hokey and phony to modern audiences, but it had something no current CGI monster could ever compete with; it was there, on set, in the same frame with those actors and stuntmen.   It was physical.   And one must bear in mind that in 1975, we didn’t have hundreds of high-definition shark documentaries on the Discovery channel.   The general public barely knew what authentic great white sharks looked like in those days, let alone how they moved.   I remember some people mocking the film then, saying that great whites never jumped out of the water as the movie’s shark did (when it hurled itself onto the deck of the Orca).   Well, scores of ‘Air Jaws’ videos proved them wrong, and JAWS right.   Yes, the movie got a lot of things wrong about sharks and there are many ‘movie physics’ moments but, like Melville’s “Moby Dick” in the world of literature, Spielberg’s JAWS transcends those flaws to become modern popular mythology.   It was also one of the rare times when a movie adaptation actually surpassed its literary source for sheer power and depth.

The book JAWS, by the late Peter Benchley (who cameos as a reporter in the movie) is a good read but there are disappointments in relation the movie; there are extraneous subplots with the mob having influence with the mayor (his extra motive in keeping the beaches open) and a torrid affair between Mrs. Brody and Matt Hooper (who’s tall, blonde and handsome in the book; not quite the nerdy, bearded & bespectacled Richard Dreyfus…).   And most disappointing for me was the character of the shark fisherman Quint; who, in the book, is little more than a monosyllabic cruel asshole, and not the far more colorful, haunted USS Indianapolis survivor of the movie (and so memorably played by the late Robert Shaw).   I do remember the original cover of the hardback scaring the hell out of me, though.  The cover showed a semi-abstract image of a shark’s head against an inky black background; a background that my then-9 year old brain interpreted as an ocean at night.  But don’t judge a book by its cover;  JAWS the book is a good novel, but it pales in comparison to the more vital, powerful and arguably deeper movie adaptation (also penned by Benchley; along with writer/costar Carl Gottlieb).   If JAWS the movie never existed, the book would be a decent page-turner.  But luckily, we live in a universe where Benchley adapted his own novel into the far more effective and powerful juggernaut of a screenplay.  And director Steven Spielberg (through a lot of trial and error behind the scenes at Martha’s Vineyard) made a cinematic masterpiece.

JAWS is a near-perfect amalgam of suspense, action and character in exactly the right proportions to each other.   Spielberg would forever be a household name after JAWS, and for good reason.   IMO, it is still his best film.   Yes, “The Color Purple” and “Schindler’s List” are arguably more socially important films, but JAWS is still his most rawly entertaining.

 

II.  The sincerest form of flattery….

^ And neither of these men are Cornel Wilde or Yaphet Kotto…

There were also a few quickly-made JAWS wannabes in theaters afterward.  First up was “Shark’s Treasure” (1975) starring Cornel Wilde (“Naked Prey”) and Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN).  Some nonsense about deep sea treasure divers who get caught up with sharks and escaped cons (don’t ask; I barely remember the damn thing at all, let alone details…).

And there was “Mako: The Jaws of Death” (1976) starring a wide-eyed, suitably nutty-looking Richard Jaeckel as a creepy guy obsessed with Mako sharks; but in a less-Ahab, more fetishist way.   I remember seeing both (“Sharks’ Treasure” in cinema, and “Mako” on TV) and being amused enough for the time; especially with the genuinely kinky “Mako.”  JAWS knockoffs like these kept the waters nice and warm (much like urine) till the next real JAWS movie…

 

III.  “Just when you thought it was safe…”

JAWS 2 was the last one to feature most members of the original cast, sans Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw, and they are sorely missing.  Chief Brody examines film from a recovered camera on the ocean floor and finds that his sleepy little town of Amity has ‘another shark problem.’   Meanwhile, the Friday the 13th-esque ensemble of teenagers populating Amity Island are all sailboat crazy; and they use their boats for the sort of ‘cruising’ that kids in southern California might do with their cars.   And now they’re all tasty young targets for a big new shark that’s muscled its way into the waters off of Amity.   With the characters of Quint and Hooper respectively dead & unavailable (and a skeptical town leadership), police chief Martin Brody is on his own; becoming a bit of an Captain Ahab in the pursuit of his white shark.

For his troubles, he is fired by the town leadership and ultimately ‘goes rogue’ to save a group of stranded teenagers caught adrift between Amity and a remote, island-based cable junction that acts as a power relay to Amity Island.

JAWS 2 was directed by French-born director Jeannot Szwarc (“Night Gallery” TV series, “Somewhere In Time”), who does a decent job in maintaining the same universe established in Spielberg’s masterpiece.  Szwarc certainly keeps the lights on, at the very least.  JAWS 2 also sports some crisp, beautiful cinematography by Michael C. Butler (no apparent relation to JAWS cinematographer Bill Butler).   And legendary composer John Williams turns in a boldly different musical score, retaining just a few of his familiar beats from the first film.

Lead actor Roy Scheider (returning as police chief Martin Brody) does his best to lead the ensemble (according the the DVD bonus features, he was very bitter about his contractual obligation for the sequel, and was difficult to work with).   Other secondary characters from the first film return as well; Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody, who works as a real estate agent and becomes the temporary breadwinner of the Brody household when her husband is fired.  Also returning, in a reduced role, is the shifty mayor Larry Vaughn (once again played by the memorable Murray Hamilton) and dutiful deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer).

All of these characters, as well as the various teenagers in the cast (most of whom really were teenagers; unlike most other adult-cast ’teen’ movies), do their admirable best to fill the giant character void left by Dreyfus and Shaw; but sadly, they’re simply not enough.   No matter.  On its own merits, JAWS 2 is still a perfectly adequate action movie.   JAWS 2 was born in the days (1978) before every hit movie sequel had to automatically be 250 times bigger and more expensive than its predecessor.  Sequels in those days, with rare exceptions (“Godfather 2” “Empire Strikes Back”) were pretty much expected to be somewhat lesser.   That was okay.  And in that sense?  JAWS 2 is a perfectly serviceable (if not overwhelming) sequel to JAWS.   It was also the last JAWS movie to legitimately make that claim…

 

IV:  “Come on down and chum some of this s#!t….”

And then there’s JAWS 3 (1983).   JAWS 3 (originally presented in and known as JAWS 3-D) was directed by JAWS production designer Joe Alves and is simply terrible.  JAWS 3’s only connection to the prior movies is the inclusion of the two Brody boys, Mike and Sean, who seem to age and change faces/voices at an astonishing rate (maybe there’s some Time Lord in their bloodline?).   Mike (a pre-Right Stuff Dennis Quaid) now works as a wrangler in a Florida SeaWorld park (he even adopts the local drawl).  He has a girlfriend (Bess Armstrong) who is a dolphin trainer (I think?) and the two of them welcome Mike’s visiting nerdy brother Sean (John Putch, son of “All in the Family”’s late, brilliant Jean Stapelton).

A great white shark wanders into the open aquarium of the park through a breach, is captured, and soon dies.   Later a 35 ft. ‘mother’ shark (looking more like a whale) emerges to avenge her dead ‘baby’ shark.   The mothershark partakes in all kinds of murderous shenanigans, including properly f–king up a water-skiing stunt show.   Naturally a corrupt park manager (played by Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr [WTF?!?]) wants to find a way to exploit the unexpected visitor’s presence.   There is a bunch of nonsense about a glass observation tunnel that bursts (in 3D; with shards of glass flying off the screen),  and something about a plot to suffocate the shark by draining a large pipe where it was contained.   Dolphins somehow come to the rescue (I kid you not; too bad this wasn’t a “Flipper” sequel as well…two birds, one stone).

^ Must’ve just seen the reviews…

To be honest, I only saw this floating turd of a movie once, and that was more than enough.  It was completely forgettable, and an unworthy addition to the prior two JAWS movies.

But JAWS 3D was almost okay when compared to the huge, steaming pile of pure awful that was “JAWS: The Revenge” (1987), directed by otherwise competent director Joseph Sergeant (Star Trek “The Corbomite Maneuver” and the gritty ‘70s action classic, “The Taking of Pelham 123”).   JAWS 4 sees a widowed Ellen Brody (played by sole returning original JAWS cast member Lorraine Gary) flying to the Bahamas following the shark-related death of her younger son Sean.

Once in the Bahamas, Ellen (wearing a truly unflattering straight edge-haircut and linebacker-sized shoulder pads) tries to convince her ichthyologist son Mike (now played by “Last Starfighter” Lance Guest) to stop researching sharks, since sharks killed his brother and gave his old man a fatal offscreen heart attack (Scheider really lucked out of this one).

^ Nice try, but no… 

Mike has a family of his own; consisting of a deeply annoying wife, and a daughter who acts as though she’s auditioning for TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras.”   Mike also has a research partner buddy named Jake; a walking, talking Caribbean stereotype played by Mario van Peeples (who shouldn’t be judged based on this performance; he’s done better work both in front of, and behind the camera).

^ The man’s honest…

Michael Caine also shows up for this train wreck as well, playing islander rogue pilot “Hoagie.”  Shooting this bucket of fish guts disguised as a movie was, in fact, the reason Caine was unable to accept his Oscar (for “Hannah and Her Sisters”) at the 1987 Academy Awards.

Long story short (thank me later), Ellen goes out to sea to aid her son and confront the 30-odd ft. great white shark (which now looks only slightly more realistic than a bathtub toy).  Ellen flashes back to her husband’s quip from the first film, “Smile, you son of a bitch” and then (somehow?!?) the shark either explodes or is impaled on a boat’s prow (or some odd combination of both?).   30 years later, the JAWS franchise is still dead as a doornail thanks to this movie.   In other circumstances I’d be upset by this.    As it is?  I’m grateful.   JAWS is one of the greatest movies of all time, and these last two sequels REALLY took a dump in the punch bowl.

^ “Hey Beavis… huh, huh, huh…”

 

V.  “Joy to the fishes in the…”

“Deep Blue Sea” (1999), directed by Rennie Harlin (“Die Hard 2: Die Harder”).  DBS concerns a group of deep sea researchers, working on a remote oceanic outpost, searching for a cure for Alzheimers’ by tinkering with the brains of Mako sharks (?!).  The noble scientists, of course, ignore the fact that making the sharks exponentially more intelligent may also make them a touch more aggressive.  Samuel L. Jackson, playing a Mr. Money Bags financier character, helicopters out to the station to see how his money is being spent.   And, halfway into this otherwise forgettable movie (in the movie’s single BEST scene),  Jackson is swallowed whole by a Mako during an inspiring, ‘rallying-of-the-troops’ speech.   It’s the film’s only clever bit; the rest is utter tedium.

Only scene worth watching in the entire movie, right here (you’re welcome):

I remember my wife and I both remarking afterward that DBS looked and felt like a slightly more expensive made-for-cable TV movie (even in 1999, USA Network and SciFi/SyFy channel already cranked out a few just like this).

As we left the theater, I also remember seeing a huge line queuing up for M. Night Shyamalan’s runaway thriller “The Sixth Sense.”  A few months later, my wife and I rented “The Sixth Sense” on DVD, and we post-kicked ourselves a little bit for seeing “Deep Blue Sea” instead of what became the sleeper hit of that summer.

With the dawn of post-“Jurassic Park” CGI technology, shark movies began to evolve (or devolve?).   It was no longer necessary to limit production based on either using shark stock footage or unreliable, unwieldy physical props.   Now sharks could be conjured up in computers, much like the T-Rexes and velociraptors of Isla Nublar.   And while the sharks of “Deep Blue Sea” (1999) could do all kinds of incredible underwater (and above water) acrobatics, they didn’t look nearly as tactile or imposing as “Bruce” from the first JAWS.   There were closeups and insert shots where physical props used, but all of the full bodied ‘sharks-in-motion’ shots in DBS were CGI.   This was progress  I guess…?   DBS arguably started a steady ripple of lower-budgeted CGI shark movies that continues to this day…

 

VI.  Shooting fish in a barrel…

Initially, I wasn’t planning to tackle shark TV movies, since the SyFy channel has made about 37 million of them, with such “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-baiting entries as “Megalodon” (2002)“Sharktopus” (2009)“Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” (2009), and “Dinoshark” (2010).  If only their actual content were as entertaining as their titles, they’d be assured cult classic status.

There were even a recent few that tried to combine sharks with the supernatural and the occult; titles such as “Shark Exorcist” (2015) and “Ghost Shark” (2013).  The trailer of “Shark Exorcist” (that’s as far as I got) looks like something made by a naughty teenager using his parent’s camcorder.

And I’ve seen a few minutes of “Ghost Shark,” but it was enough to wonder what-in-the-actual-f–k were they thinking?  Neither scary nor clever enough to be subversively funny… it just existed.

 

VII.  “Alright fellas.  Let’s cut this ugly sombitch down before it stinks up the whole island…”

One of these sub-terrible, barely-qualifying-as-motion pictures magically took root and spawned a whole franchise (arguably thanks to Twitter) by combining fear of CGI sharks with the all-too-real concerns of climate change.   This winning combination would serve to excrete the SyFy channel’s “Sharknado” TV movie series, beginning with 2013’s original.

The first movie saw “Beverly Hills 90210” alum Ian Ziering as a bar owner/surfer named “Finn” (hardy har-har) who connects with his estranged wife (played by a seemingly mediated Tara Reid, of “American Pie”) and their teenaged daughter just as a deadly “sharknado” hits Los Angeles.  That first “Sharknado” movie almost looks like a genuine attempt at a motion picture when compared to its sequels: “Sharknado 2: The Other One” (2014), “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No” (2015), and “Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens” (2016).   A fifth entry (“Global Swarming”) is planned for August of this year.

^ Sharknado in Space… I s#!t you not.

The 2nd entry of this so-called series of movies quickly dropped any/all pretense at plot and/or story, and became a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ by adding literally dozens (if not hundreds) of onscreen celebrity cameos.   Most of these cameos were TV/movie has-beens, athletes, rap stars and even politicians (!) who (apparently?) wanted to be a part of the Sharknado phenomenon.    The last time my wife and watched an entry in the “Sharknado” series (3 was our last, I believe), we were too busy pointing out the swarm of meaningless cameos to even hear most of the bad puns and putrid jokes.

The once-quasi comedic franchise is now nothing more than a series of frenetic, frazzled, attention-deficient exercises in distraction.   Meaningless and exhausting, they’re entertaining only in the way that being drawn-and-quartered would be considered less-than-dull.

Calling the “Sharknado” movies ‘boring’ at this point would qualify as a legitimizing compliment.

 

VIII.  “Just keep swimming…”

Despite the utter exhaustion and aneurisms induced by hundreds of hours of waterlogged, straight-to-TV shark porn (including the increasingly dim-witted “Shark Week” specials on the once-stellar Discovery channel), shark movies in theaters are still a thing.

2016 saw an interesting, efficient little thriller called “The Shallows”, which starred Blake Lively (“Age of Adeline”) as med student Nancy Adams, who goes on a surfing holiday at a secluded Mexican beach (where her deceased pregnant mother used to surf before she was born).   Soon after she begins surfing, Nancy is injured by a monstrous great white and manages to find relative (and temporary) safety on a rock, far from shore.   Nancy’s sense of isolation and dread are palpable.  Think “Cast Away” meets “JAWS” but wrapped in tighter packaging.

Shot in Australia on crisp, gorgeous HD video, Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra does a surprisingly effective job moving things along in this taut, lean, 86-minute mini survival epic.  And Blake Lively impresses yet again, as she did with her understated performance in the intriguing-but-flawed “Age of Adeline” (2015).

Yes, there are a few seemingly obligatory bikini shots of the lovely Lively, but make no mistake; this is not Baywatch.   The camera doesn’t ogle; it tells a story.   And only in the climax does the otherwise-effectively rendered shark action become somewhat ridiculous and over-the-top (not too unlike JAWS’ own exploding shark).   Up until that point (and even afterward in the feel-good coda) everything about this effective little thriller truly works; especially when seen on a big screen.   A very pleasant surprise, indeed.   I watched it again only a couple of weeks ago (during exercise), and even on my 21” computer screen it still works.

 

Which brings me to this year’s entry in the Shark Movie sweepstakes; the far-less successful British made (?!) “47 Meters Down.”   A friend of mine and I saw this only yesterday, as my out-of-town wife had no intention of enduring this one with me, and I can’t say I blame her.

47MD is about two sisters “Lisa” (played by Mandy Moore), and “Kate” (played by Claire Holt) vacationing in Mexico.   Lisa is the older, less impulsive sister who is also recovering from a bad breakup.   Her more adventurous younger sibling talks her into going on a cage-diving shark tour in a creaky, rusted cage aboard a less-than-reputable boat, run by American expat Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine).   Well, this initially bad idea gets much as the two sisters slip into their diving gear (“does this outfit make my butt look cute?”).  They are then given quick, non-certifiable diving lessons and dropped into the cage in the water (as Quint would say, “You go inside the cage? Cage goes into the water…sharks in the water”).   Well sure enough, the winch line to the cage snaps and the whole kit and caboodle drops “47 meters down” to the ocean floor.   Seemingly whale-sized great white sharks are in the water now, and the sisters only have so much oxygen in their tanks; not to mention that their communication with the ship above is spotty at best.

This sounds like a great recipe for another “Shallows”-type thriller but it doesn’t work as well; neither of the two lead characters in 47MD aren’t particularly bright or interesting people (the whole motive for Lisa’s dive is to make her ex jealous).  And the pacing of the movie is uneven at best; despite a handful of decent ‘jump-out’ scares (a shot involving a crimson flare and a circling school of nearby sharks was particularly effective).  Dialogue throughout the film is clumsily filled with exposition, almost as if the characters are narrating the onscreen action for the sight-impaired.  It’s a MOVIE.   Show, don’t tell…

Lastly, there is a ’twist’ ending that was vaguely amusing, but on the whole?  The movie just left me feeling curiously nonplussed.   At 85 minutes, 47MD actually felt longer than the 86 minutes of “The Shallows.”

 

IX.  “Keep that chum line going, chief…”

So what is the future of summer shark movies?  If I had to speculate, I’d say to expect more tidy little low budget thrillers for the big screen; they’re quick, inexpensive, mildly fun, and tend to be profitable (as most low-budget thrillers are; just ask the producers of “Paranormal Activity”).  And (no doubt) we’ll see 57 more “Sharknado” efforts before that creatively bone-dry reservoir finally evaporates.

I also think that inevitably, unavoidably perhaps, in this age of remakes/reboots, someone will no doubt attempt a JAWS 2.0 of some kind.   And one of the biggest problems I have with that idea (beyond the utter hubris of the attempt) is that a modern day JAWS could (and probably would) show the shark onscreen for as much as possible; or at least far more than was technically achievable in Spielberg’s notoriously troubled classic.

Ironically, the younger Spielberg of 1974 wanted more shark footage, but to the film’s benefit, his clunky mechanical shark refused to cooperate for much of the time.   To get around this, Spielberg shot a few inserts with real sharks and scaled down cages off of Australia (courtesy of husband/wife shark-tographers Ron and Valerie Taylor).  He also employed a clever trick with Quint shooting bright yellow barrels into the shark’s hide.  When the shark was nearby?  A yellow barrel (or two, or three…) would surface.   It was actually much more effective than just showing the creature itself.   Very Hitchcockian, in fact.   Yet this idea came not via Spielberg’s auteur instincts, but through technical limitations and forced creative improvisation.

And that is why a new JAWS reboot arguably cannot be as successful.   These days, if the mechanical shark fails on set?  No worries.  You can add it in digitally in post-production.   A JAWS made today would be awash in crisp CGI shark footage; and the creature would quickly become familiar, and it would ultimately lose its ability to scare or spook audiences as effectively as it did back in 1975.   If you see a boogeyman in broad daylight, he’s no longer a boogeyman; just a creepy guy hanging out somewhere.

If JAWS were to be resurrected?  I would go against my usual instincts and suggest a prequel.   Not to the Brody family before they moved to Amity Island, or to Matt Hooper when he was applying to the Oceanographic Institute, but to a very young Quint as a sailor aboard the USS Indianapolis in the summer of 1945 during the waning days of World War 2.    That real-life tragic tale of the USS Indianapolis, much like the near-fatal disaster of “Apollo 13”, begs for the big screen treatment.

Sharks, sinking and the USS Indianapolis/CNN.com

A US naval warship successfully delivers the first atomic bomb to be dropped at Hiroshima, then is hit by a Japanese submarine’s torpedoes upon its return voyage and goes down in the shark infested waters of the Pacific.   The remaining crew (320 out of nearly 1200 men) survive for five days on the open ocean until rescue, as their comrades are picked off by sharks, starvation or dehydration.   The character of Quint recounts this tale (albeit with a couple of dates and figures wrong) in one of the most chilling and effective scenes  in all of JAWS:

^ That is my personal wish for a new JAWS movie, if such a thing were truly inevitable.   Normally I’m loathed to suggest prequels (I think they’re a bad idea more often than not), but I’ve had the images of Quint’s accounting in my head since I was a kid, and would love to see them brought to full, vivid life with modern filmmaking technology.   I wouldn’t envy a young actor trying to fill the late Robert Shaw’s fishing gloves and waders, but I’d be deeply curious to see what an ambitious and dedicated filmmaker could achieve.    Such a movie could be the JAWS franchise’s “Rogue One” (another prequel that shouldn’t have worked, but did…).

And, like Star Wars, JAWS inspired many filmmakers working today; for reference, take a look at the fan-made documentary on the JAWS blu ray, “The Shark Is Still Working” (2007).  

Those are my guesses and wishes for the future of the shark thriller sub-genre.  No doubt there will be some impressive newcomers, tired retreads and forgotten mediocrities; all swimming in the shadow of the greatest great white shark of them all…

 

 

 

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Bravo Sebastian! Now I am ready for summer.

    Liked by 1 person

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