Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The genius of Jaws 3

My illustration of Jaws 3 / What I'd like to see next time I visit the local aquarium.

Okay, maybe not the 'genius' of Jaws 3, more like the 'potential' of Jaws 3.  It's had a bad time of it, and seeing some Jaws 3 hating on Twitter (I guess it was on tv ) got me thinking about why I rate this film higher than the other Jaws sequels.
First of all, the original trailer is great, one of my favourite ever trailers:
'The third dimension is terror!'

The basic premise of the film is brilliant. A giant shark causing trouble in an aquarium. It pretty much writes itself. I don't know why this hasn't happened in more films / books / comics. The closest thing is probably Deep Blue Sea, but (unless you work in an undersea lab) it misses that all important element of familiarity.

Anyone who has visited an aquarium has probably thought at one point 'That glass could just crack...', (especially if you've seen the footage of the aquarium leak at the mall in Dubai.) Having gone diving with sharks in an aquarium and looking out from the sharky side at the people in the tube, I found it quite surreal that two such completely different worlds can be seperated by so little.

The Meg books got some mileage out of having a Megalodon in an aquarium. They made good use of scale and also there was a great sense of vulnerability for the divers who had to do maintenance. The game Jaws Unleashed (Xbox)had a fun water park section, allowing you to chomp your way through a variety of aquatic mammals, but they could've done more with it.

Really my point is that there's a lot that can be done with the story. Jaws 3 maybe isn't the greatest movie but I find it enjoyable, based mainly on how good it could be.

Reading through production interviews it sounds as though Jaws 3 started out as a pretty good film.
Initially there were no Brody family members in the story, it was a completely new film with no ties to the original other than a giant shark. There's a lot of classic monster movie references, most notably the similarity to Revenge of the Creature (1955) DVD, but apparently that was unintentional. Bizarrely, at the same time John Landis had pitched a Creature from the black lagoon 3-D remake but the studio decided to go with Jaws instead.

When it was originally released it was in 3-D, but it came out after a bunch of cheap schlocky 3-D releases so audiences were a bit sick of the gimmick by then and the backlash against 3-D has haunted it ever since. It still managed to be commercially successful, but the only reason that it seems to have been pushed it off it's recurring spot on 'worst movie' lists is because Jaws: The revenge was far worse. 

There are some lovely shots which are let down a bit by dated effects and the poor quality of the non -3D video version. It was directed by Joe Alves, who was the production designer on Jaws, so it was a very visually driven film. Jaws 3 boasts the largest of the Jaws sharks at about 30 - 35 feet. It also has the addition of a baby shark, and it's quite sad when it dies. Maybe not the most original of plot twists (and maybe a bit too similar to Orca the Killer Whale *) but at least it gives momma shark an actual motive, unlike Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge where we're expected to believe that some unkillable shark keeps regenerating to exact its revenge on one particular family. 
 At the time Jaws 3 was made it was believed that great white sharks couldn't be kept in captivity, Monterey Bay Aquarium has since managed to keep a few young great whites happy and healthy for limited periods in their facilities before releasing them back in to the wild.

 Although Jaws 3 set up the premise and had a lot of the elements in place for a great shark story / classic monster movie, it just didn't quite come together.

During the course of writing I think this blog post has become less about liking Jaws 3 and more about convincing myself to make a shark story set in an aquarium...



* A little side note about Orca - that's another one of those movies that people always dismiss thanks to 'worst movie' lists and the odd notion that it's a Jaws rip - off. I often find people who complain about it haven't ever actually watched it. Again, it's by no means a cinematic triumph, but it is a really crazy film that's worth a watch. And the bit with the baby whale is unexpectedly horrible.

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