I wanted to give a bit of a 30-year anniversary shout out to Jaws 3. Yes, in all seriousness, I actually enjoy this movie. This is a film that can be quite a fun little underwater adventure – you just have to forget that it exists in the Jaws universe. It’s not particularly effective or very logical. In fact, when there is mention of this film, most fans give a collective sigh, reflect upon the masterful first film and think, “What the hell happened”?
But still, for as maligned a film as Jaws 3 is, I’m quite fond of it. Now, before fans and cinephiles act like the titular shark and bite me in two, I should define my use of the word “enjoy” here: this is a movie that I would not turn off but wouldn’t necessarily seek out either.
Actually, let me be more succinct: I love the feeling of freshly laundered jeans but living in NYC, I just hate packing them up, going outside and across the block to the Laundromat. That’s how I feel about this film – it’s nice and all but is it worth all the work that you have to put into it?
Now the biggest problem we face here is the fact that I just related Jaws 3 to having clean jeans. But that is the crux of it all – the film simply exists; it never really gets out of its own way. Like the clunky 35 foot great white that is trying to get past shoddy 3D effects and into the audience, Jaws 3 forgets to provide the thrills, chills and heart-pounding suspense that are expected of it; despite the promotional slogan that “the third dimension is terror”!
After Jaws 2, it was apparent that if another sequel were to materialize, having the same police chief dealing with the same predator in the same town would be… uninspired. When the idea of turning the film into a comedy, a National Lampoon spoof entitled Jaws 3, People 0 fizzled out, the creative team turned to more familiar waters – a giant shark eating people. But their stroke of genius was the concept – having said shark getting trapped in Sea World and wreaking havoc upon the staff and aquatic inhabitants of the park.
Unfortunately, by 1983, the Motion Picture Association of America was starting to crack down on what a PG-rated film could get away with. Let’s face it, the first Jaws movie saw a woman, a 9 year-old boy and a dog killed within the first 20 minutes! By the end of the film, the body count was through the roof and yet, only a simple “May be too intense for younger children” was added to the film’s advertisements! As if that going to make it any easier for a child to get through that movie!
So Jaws 3 ends up being a supposed horror movie containing a few “blink and you will miss it” kill scenes and a subplot that spends way too much time trying to capture a baby great white. After an eternity, the mother shark, who was hiding in a ventilation shaft – how I wish I were saying these words in jest – escapes to swim around the park in a threatening manner. Note to film makers – sharks are not maternal creatures that travel in cute little family units!
The idea of a Jaws film in 3D was another empty promise which went unfilled. For the most part, the underwater scenes were so dark and murky, that any detail was gone. I can’t imagine how bad this must have looked through 3D specs! And this was 1983 3D technology not the modern Real 3D! So to get any real jolt of the 3D effect, random objects get thrust out at the screen – for no reason. It is amazing how much time is lost while the camera is completely fixated on something like a severed grouper’s head!
The most infamous scene of the film is the final battle where the shark swims through the main underwater window of the main control hub. What could have been a cool scene ends up being utterly laughable as the shark swims towards the window without moving! Like a Boeing 747 with teeth, the creature slowly glides through the water in slow motion. And the actors sit there and watch it coming. And then they scream. And then the massive, heavy underwater glass breaks with a little more than a “pop” and hey, there is a shark in the room! It is even worse than I described and must be seen to be believed:
And despite all of this – I like the film!
Nostalgia really is the root of my problem. When it was first announced, I was beyond excited for this film as this would be the first Jaws film that I would actually be able to go see in the theater. I was only three years old when the first film was released so that was out of the question. By the time the second film swam into theaters in 1978, I was six and fascinated with sharks. But I wasn’t allowed to go. As a bit of compensation for this injustice my older sister bought me home a very cool Jaws 2 movie program – which I still have!
By 1983 I was eleven years old and primed for my first theatrical Jaws experience. In 3D no less! But that didn’t happen either as the film wasn’t the blockbuster that had been hoped for and living in a small town, that usually meant that the local theaters would not even get the movie. To add insult to injury, I sat through repeated viewings of the televised promo documentary, The Making of Jaws 3 – Sharks Don’t Die, and was beside myself in anticipation for this next installment of “shark porn”. How could you not want to see this movie and being amped up like that? Hey, we didn’t have Shark Week back then!
And of course, there was that brilliant teaser trailer from 1982 which I spoke of recently.
While Jaws 3 may have only done moderate business at the box office, Universal gave it an unprecedented push for the home video market. When I finished watching the film for the first time, I remember turning to my friends and saying, “hey want to go swimming?” You see, just not scary.
Jaws 3 may not be a good movie but there is some consolation in the fact that with the release of the fourth film, Jaws: The Revenge, things only got worse – much worse.
** I have initially called this film by its theatrical title, Jaws 3-D, but I stuck to the more common home video name of Jaws 3 for the duration of the article. Since I never saw the film in the theater, I can only allow myself to call it Jaws 3 – or even Jaws III. If you saw this movie in the theater, than by all means, you can call it Jaws 3-D – you’ve earned it.
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