With the arrival of summer, I thought I'd take a look at some of the great blockbusters of the past. For any real movie fan, there really is no better place to start than with the one that pretty much started it all. 'Jaws' is, without a doubt, one of the all-time greatest movies ever made for so many reasons. This is a title that doesn't necessarily land on my favourites list, but it also clearly deserves all the credit it gets when you really think about it. Being the first big summer blockbuster is only the beginning.
Based on Peter Benchley's book of the same name, the film portrays a great white shark who attacks the casual swimmers of a beach community. It starts with a skinny-dipper named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) and events continue to unfold as long as a stubborn mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) decides to keep the beach open for tourism and economical purposes. Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), working with oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) disagrees with the decision, especially with his wife, Ellen (Lorraine Gary) and son, Michael (Chris Rebello) to look out for. He is overruled, however, but puts a bounty of $10,000 on the shark, causing the townspeople to take on shark-hunting.
The hunt is believed to be ultimately successful, but Hooper knows the shark is still out there, as the captured shark simply doesn't have the right jaw span to match the killer shark's victims. This is proven soon enough with yet another big beach attack. Ultimately, it all leads to the real meat of the movie in just short of its second half. This involves Brody, Hooper, and badass shark-hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw) going for the great white shark hunt of their lives to end the shark's reign of terror once and for all (despite a few cash-grab sequels that follow). Of the films in the 'Jaws' series, this is really the only one that holds and "classic" value, unless you're looking for some crazy amount of cheese-tastic special effects to laugh at.
I think the most important takeaway from this is how much influence it has had on other movies. When you take 'Halloween' for example, there's something very Jaws-like about Michael Myers. In fact, 2018's 'Halloween' quoted 'Jaws' for being its most heavy influence. There's even things like Quint's speech about looking into a shark's eyes that's very reminiscent of Loomis' take on Michael Myers. It has influenced many others as far as summer blockbusters go too, and directors like Kevin Smith have a hell of a lot of fun with it (look for 'Jaws' references in almost all his movies. To top it all off, it's a favourite for many fans as well as a favourite for many filmmakers, who take it as their big influence.
Another solid thing to note here is that it's a fine example of how sometimes a seemingly catastrophic failure can be one hell of a happy accident. The story goes that there were big problems with the mechanical shark, so it became a seldom seen thing throughout the movie. As it turns out, our imaginations were able to do a good job at filling in the blanks, making things even more thrilling. This is a classic example of how less is more, and the fact that sometimes we really don't need to be spoon-fed everything. The shark shows up just enough to be scary, but its before the shark shows up that has us on the edge of our seats. Who can possibly forget the masterfully suspenseful "dun-un" theme that perfectly symbolizes the killer shark's approach. Again, less is more.
There's not a whole hell of a lot more I can say about 'Jaws' that hasn't been said in the past, though, so let's break it down to personal opinion. 'Jaws' is something I whole-heartedly respect, and certainly enjoy to some degree. For me, however, it has always been more of a piece of history than a cinematic favourite. I absolutely love pretty much everything here that involves the three leads, but the first half of the movie is something that has very busy (albeit very natural) dialogue, and it can get a bit messy. On the whole, this is great, but for me, it doesn't even hit my Top 10. It's one of those titles I can recommend to anyone as a cinematic legend, but newcomers might have trouble with some of it. Either way, this one has its place in the history books, and it's definitely worth checking out!