Geek Dave dips a cautionary toe back in the water...
You can see why Universal would want to make a sequel to Jaws, the mega-hit from 1975, but Steven Spielberg wisely stood firm and said no. So three years later they went ahead and did it without him. Who did Universal get to replace, arguably, the greatest film-maker of a generation? Jeannot Szwarc. The French director who would go on to be responsible for Supergirl, that's who.
Just like Spielberg, Roy Scheider really didn't want to return for a second film, but he was under an iron-clad contract to the studio and they gave him an absolute fortune. Scheider's really the one redeeming factor (actually, there is another, I'll get to that) in what is a very unnecessary sequel, because Jaws 2 is just a pale imitation of the first film. Another shark starts killing the people in the waters of Amity Island, just as before the mayor doesn't want to close the beaches and once again Chief Brody is forced to kill it himself.
I don't really have that much of an issue with the story though, after all if you're going to make a direct sequel in the same location with most of the same characters then there is not much more you can do with a man-eating shark, is there? I mean, it's not going to be land based now is it? Jaws 2: Death At The Drive Thru. The script itself is very weak, but the story isn't the problem. The main problem I have with Jaws 2 is its total lack of interesting characters, besides Scheider's reprisal as Brody.
Jaws was a great film, not just because of the shark, but because of its characters and how we cared for them. The dialogue, chemistry, and the acting between Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfus elevated that picture. In the last act when they are trapped at sea with a shark circling them, we're right there with them. We fear for them. The suspense is palpable.
Jaws 2 also has a trapped at sea moment. This time featuring the Brody boys and their friends, all of them undeveloped characters. We're not really there with them. We don't fear for them. The suspense isn't even registering.
I think had Spielberg been in the director's chair and the script been a bit more polished there's a chance that Jaws 2 could have been quite memorable. The scenario is pretty frightening, but thanks to the slack direction coupled with bad dialogue and poor acting, it plays out like a water based chapter from a teen horror franchise. Friday The 13th: Jason's A Shark!
On a certain level Scheider almost makes this film work, almost. His is the only character who has changed from his experiences from the first film. Brody is now bolder and far more paranoid, and I really like seeing this aspect come through in Scheider's performance. Of course we know a great white is terrorizing Amity again but I like the fact that Brody compounds the fears to new manic levels where we can see why Amity residents might think he's a little unhinged. This aspect could have been explored more as it would have added more psychological thrills to the story and it would've really given Scheider a stronger role to play with.
The other redeeming factor is that the shark does look better. Three years and several million dollars extra in the budget will do that though. But that's about it.
Jaws 2 is a flawed film, an unnecessary sequel that in the hands of someone else could've been worth the time and effort. Despite Scheider's best attempts he can't save everyone, and he certainly can't save Jaws 2.
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