You’d think that from all the shit I talk about animals on here and how awesome they are and how much it sucks that they’re constantly misrepresented, you’d think that I’d hate this movie. Maybe it’s because I’ve done hours upon hours of research that I know the events in the film are purely fiction, or maybe it’s because I’m an adult capable of rational thought that I know how goddamn ridiculous it is to think anything portrayed in the film could ever possibly happen in real life. Every time someone comes up to me and says, “I’m never going into the ocean because I saw Jaws,” they might as well be saying, “I’m never going into the jungle because I saw King Kong,” or, “I’m never getting onto a bus because I saw Speed.” All of these films have equally plausible events, so I find it to be an accurate comparison. Granted, I’m not trying to say Jaws is as good as Speed, but I’d be willing to bet you’re more likely to be stuck on a bus being driven by Sandra Bullock than you are to be attacked by a 25 foot long great white shark. Considering I can put all that bullshit about the vilification of sharks aside, I’ve recently come to learn that Jaws might be one of my favorite movies of all time.
Well then maybe it wasn’t a good idea to get drunk and go swimming, Chrissie Watkins!
After a night of drinking, a young woman decides to go skinny dipping, but she is torn apart and killed by an unseen force under the water. The police chief of the town where her body washes up is Brody (Roy Scheider), a city boy who wanted to watch out for a quieter town. Signs point to a shark attack, but this being Brody’s first shark-related death, calls in an expert for assistance. In the meantime, they mayor demands the beaches stay open, despite Brody’s warnings that this could happen again. When the expert, named Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives, he educates Brody on the size of the shark responsible and tries to warn him of the danger at hand. Brody realizes his only option is to take the offer of a veteran shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) and the three head out into the ocean in search of the monster. After many trials and tribulations at sea, the trio are able to find, and eventually kill the shark, but not without Quint getting killed in the process.
What kind of nerd loser idiot dork wears a denim jacket that’s the same color as their jeans?!
To try to put into one review the different reasons why this is considered a classic and the ways that this movie has influenced generations of filmmakers would be crazy to do, so I’m not going to. Thanks for stopping by!
Just kidding! But the point remains the same, there’s no way I can try to encompass everything so charming about this movie in one post, so I’m not going to even try. I’ve read Peter Benchley‘s book a few times so I think I might have an advantage as to where these characters were coming from over people who have only seen the movie, so forgive me if it sounds like there are leaps in describing these characters’ motives. For example, one BIG difference is that in the book, it’s Hooper who dies instead of Quint, which seems kind of crazy to imagine when you think about how likable Dreyfuss is in the movie. Another difference would be that leading up to his death, Hooper has an affair with Brody’s wife. Whoa! What the fuck, Richard Dreyfuss!? As hinted at with subtlety in the movie, Brody and his wife are transplants to the island, and it seems like they both regret the decision and keep trying to justify things to themselves. Especially Mrs. Brody, who doesn’t do anything with her life in their new home other than think of how great it was to be apart of the bourgeoisie class in New York. When she sees Hooper, a rich, handsome man who has flirted with her, she can’t help but be reminded of what her life used to be, and this relationship escalates to adultery. Once you learn this information, even though that relationship isn’t really explored in the movie, you never really look at Hooper the same way again.
Okay guys, I get it, Vertigo did this shot before Jaws did, BUT I’VE SEEN JAWS SO MANY MORE TIMES! IT’S THE JAWS SHOT!
This movie isn’t about the monster, this movie is about the men hunting the monster. These men are presented with a seemingly impossible task, and even though they all have the same goal, which is to destroy the monster, they’re really all trying to prove different things. Hooper is trying to prove that he has spent his time and money wisely, and that with enough money or education, it will be rational thinking and research that can ultimately defeat the beast. Quint believes the opposite, that no matter how many books you read or how many pieces of equipment you bring, the only thing that can catch the shark is world experience. Brody wants to show that despite his lack of experience, he can be the leader that this town needs, not just to prove it to the town and his wife, but also to himself. These motives couldn’t be any more clearly exemplified than in one of the most iconic scenes in all of film history, when Hooper, Brody, and Quint all share stories of the scars on their bodies.
Great shark hunter, TERRIBLE SHARK DOODLER.
After a hard day of shark hunting, and after a few drinks, Quint sees Brody checking out an injury from the day, and Quint lets him know that it won’t be a permanent scar. Quint then shows him something that is permanent, a bump on his head he got on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. Hooper then shows a scar he got from an animal, and the three compare their wounds and how they obtained them. It isn’t until Hooper points out a presumed scar on Quint that Quint reveals it’s an old tattoo he got in the Navy and that he was on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, one of the most notorious shark attacks in recorded history. Quint goes on to describe the horror of being stranded at sea, with no hope, and the experience of nature confronting man and him losing one friend after another. Luckily, the three are interrupted from this awkward story by some drunk singing and the shark going after the boat. This whole sequence shows that Quint has more experience with life, in all its manifestations, from nature to arm wrestling to getting drunk, than either Brody or Hooper could ever have. The only time Brody is referenced in this sequence is to show him lifting up his shirt to question whether or not the story about his appendix being removed warrants the time of Quint and Hooper, but instead just lowers his shirt and shuts up. There’s a reason why this scene is so memorable to so many people, because this is the core premise of the movie. When faced with an impossible situation, so you stand on the sidelines like Brody, do you use information that you’ve learned about in books like Hooper, or do you, like Quint, wrap a bandana around your head and strap in, knowing that the situation will at least give you a good story to tell.
Check out this scene from Jaws, featuring one of the most famous cinematic lines, “You’re going to need a bigger thing for me to climb just in this boat sinks and I have to climb on top of it.”
It might have a few jump scares that are pretty successful, but to hear anyone tell me that this movie is the reason they’re terrified of the ocean is laughable. The monster is barely shown, and when it is, it is typically underwater, up until the very end when it eats Quint. At that point, it’s almost silly to see a giant shark head chomping its robot head up and down as Robert Shaw slides into it. Violent, yes, but scary, not so much. And as far as this movie corrupting people’s vision of what sharks are all about, Hooper even says, “All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks,” which is something I find myself saying multiple times a week. For every person that now has an innate and irrational fear of sharks because of this movie, I’m willing to bet there’s a different person who has a newfound respect and curiosity with sharks because of their portrayal as living dinosaurs. This movie might have its horrific moments, but it’s more about the way three men choose to lead their lives, what’s important to them, and how they react when a giant fucking beast is trying to kill them.
Wolfman Moon Scale