Monday, January 9, 2012

Fish out of water: JAWS 3(1983)

In 1975 I was fortunate enough to see what I consider one of the great films made in the history of cinema in JAWS, directed by an up and coming fellow named Steven Spielberg and boasting an all star cast of actors in Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. I've never been one to be spooked by a movie easily but this film made me jump a few times while I watched it inside the Phipps Plaza theater located in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. This movie remains an all time favorite of mine and while I don't think the 1978 sequel called JAWS 2 is as good it's still solid with Roy Scheider reprising his role as Amity Police Chief Martin Brody. There would be two(2) more films in this franchise, 1983's "Jaws 3-D" and then a fourth and final installment called "Jaws: The Revenge". To say that I dislike the fourth "Jaws" film would be an understatement as I find it to be absolutely atrocious.

I'd like to expand on the third installment in the "Jaws" film franchise here: I saw it in a theater as well and it took me many years to warm up to this movie...but warm up I did.

JAWS 3, directed by Joe Alves, was released theatrically in the United States during the third week in July, 1983. The movies' estimated budget was just over $20,000,000 and it generated about $89,000,000 for a worldwide box office take, obviously not anywhere close to the colossal financial success of the '75 film(or more modest take of the '78 sequel) but still a nice profit for co producers Universal Pictures, Alan Landsburg Productions and MGM(Theatricals).

I'm not going to delve into the "3-D" aspect of Jaws 3(1983) because I don't think this aspect of the movie makes it any better or worse, at least to me.

The film's story: Michael "Mike" Brody(played by Dennis Quaid), the now adult son of Amity police chief Martin Brody, works at a Florida, water based theme park called Sea World with his girlfriend Dr. Kathryn Morgan(Bess Armstrong), the senior biologist at the ocean side facility. The two are very busy and seem very happy as well, especially Mike whose younger brother Sean has come to town to visit. In the meantime some strange things are going on at the theme park: a pair of dolphins trained by Dr. Morgan are acting jittery and one of Mike Brody's laborers has gone missing after diving into the parks' lagoon in scuba gear to perform a routine maintenance task. The cause is soon apparent: a ten foot great white shark has managed to enter Sea Worlds' lagoon. The theme parks' owner, a dapper looking and no nonsense entrepreneur named Calvin Bouchard(Louis Gossett, Jr.), looks to maximize his profits and media coverage by utilizing the services of two visiting Australian adventurers to capture the ten foot great white shark, which has understandably caused an uproar among Sea Worlds' staff. During a night operation in the park's lagoon the shark is tranquilized and quickly put in a wading pool for display but quickly perishes. Unbeknownst to the staff of the theme park this shark was only an infant and the creature's "mother", lurking in the waters of Sea World, begins looking for her "baby". The parent shark is a colossal, 35 foot long monster and the enormous creature decides to crash the theme parks' daytime attractions, including a team of acrobat water skiers. Not satisfied with dining on panicking and terrified park workers in the lagoon, the leviathan shark also attacks the underwater attractions of "Sea World" as well, jeopardizing the lives of scores of visitors trapped underwater in a tunnel of the parks' underwater aquarium. To that end Mike Brody, his biologist girlfriend and the pair of Aussie adventurers must work together to save those trapped in the underwater tube and kill the shark...(no spoilers).

Some general observations, some good and some not -

Thumbs up:

1. the various characters in this movie which is to say, I liked them. Mike Brody is a hard working, steady fellow and a good boss who obviously cares about his workers. His girlfriend, Dr. Kathryn Morgan, is a dedicated biologist who talks to her pair of dolphins, "Sandy" and "Cindy" as if they were her kids. Calvin Bouchard is the typical business owner, always concerned about the bottom line, seemingly always teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown and, at least to some degree, looking over the shoulders of those who work for him. I wasn't too enamored with the smug, cocksure Aussie adventurer/photographer "Philip Fitzroyce"(played by Simon MacCorkindale), who was portrayed as arrogant but he was still a fairly likable guy. There isn't a whole lot of character development going on in this movie but the "flow" of the movie does allow the viewer some worthwhile glimpses into the lives of the film's two main protagonists(Mike Brody and girlfriend Dr. Morgan)

2. the rendering of the adult shark: basic animatronics were used and while I wouldn't characterize the effects overall as great they were decent and fairly effective at projecting the colossal size of the creature

3. the gore effects and sequences: not used to excess but still those that are utilized are in my opinion a necessity given that a giant shark shark is swimming around inside a lagoon filled with potential human dinner fare

Thumbs down:

1. I didn't like the final solution to defeating the shark which was too similar to the '75 and '78 "Jaws" films

2. some of the "3-D" effects shots used in this movie IMO looked bad with or without the 3D glasses

3. while I liked the overall effects used to render the giant adult shark these effects were not without their drawbacks, in particular the swimming motion of the enormous shark underwater: the creature looked too slow as it passed through the water, this IMO undermining the realism of the creature.

4. science is routinely thrown out the proverbial window with the decision by the movie's producers to use thirty(35) feet as the length for the antagonist shark. Great white sharks can attain a length of twenty feet fairly frequently, even reaching lengths in the mid twenty foot range(like the shark in the '75 film) but never as long as the gigantic, slow moving leviathan creature in the '83 movie. I'm sure Universal Pictures banked on the everyday person not being privy to that kind of info.

Gone fishin: a 35 foot long great white shark attacks the underwater lagoon attraction at Sea World in JAWS 3

Fans of the "Jaws" film franchise will no doubt find Jaws 3(1983) hit or miss. This movie has received its fair share of criticism and I can roll with that. It is what it is, a summer popcorn flick and not the serious, epic feature like the '75 film. I think, judged as a summer "escape from reality" popcorn movie and not taken too seriously, Jaws 3(1983) is solid escapist entertainment for 99 minutes. The movie is readily available for sale on R1 DVD at Amazon starting at $4.99. To see the DVD for sale at Amazon click on the above DVD cover art image.

Here's a short theatrical trailer for the film: