An unequal sequel

Jaws 2

1978 116 min

Jeannot Szwarc

Early in Jaws 2, a great white shark chases down a water skier then bursts through the side of a boat trying to attack the driver. This sets the tone for the nonsense to follow. A great white shark is capable of reaching water skier speeds in very, very short bursts. But it could not chase down a water skier even if it thought to do so, which it would not. This is where Jaws 2 departs from the original and dedicates itself to the future of the shark attack subgenre of horror films. Jaws was a creature feature driven by human characters and intrigue, Jaws 2 is a creature feature driven by shark monstrosity.

Roy Sheider resuscitates his role as Brody, police chief for the Nantucket stand-in of Amity Island. Murray Hamilton also brings back his character of Mayor Vaughn who somehow politically survived the consequences of his awful decisions in the first film. Once again Chief Brody is convinced there is a dangerous shark out there and once again the mayor and city council refuse to act. There is passing reference to a new beachfront development the island government needs to protect from the image of sharks but this is mostly left unexplored in favor of a Man vs. Shark tale of masculinity against monstrosity.

Compared to the first Jaws, Jaws 2 suffers from zero character development, a much worse script and mediocre direction. It is also even sillier. The killer shark destroys several boats, sinks a flying helicopter and eats its own bodyweight over a few days. The being that does this isn’t a shark of any species because sharks cannot do any of the things the shark in this movie does. Except swim. Sharks do swim. Just not as fast enough to chase down a water skier. As I’ve written elsewhere, this is part of creating a monster where in reality there is only a shark. The idea of being even non-fatally bitten by any shark seems unsettling enough to me. Why is it necessary instead to have sharks that are basically a supervillain version of the fish? Surely a 16-foot massive creature with big pointy teeth is enough to develop drama around. Not in Jaws 2 it isn’t.

Jaws 2 is neither the worst shark attack movie nor the worst one in the Jaws franchise. But it’s not good either. There is a brief montage about forty minutes into the film of folks just hanging out, playing, exploring and enjoying themselves at the beach. It’s full of life, joy, emotion and play and is better than the entire rest of the film.