Jaws (1975)

Requested by: Nat

IMDb places the horror tag on Jaws, but its other two tags are more suiting: Jaws is really an adventure thriller.

Although Jaws runs for over 2 hours, it feels like a brisk movie. It probably takes an hour or so to finally see this great white shark unmasked by the murky waters, but the suspense leading up to this villain’s reveal is more than enough to keep us in our seats. Just as George Lucas created the iconic Darth Vadar and Christopher Nolan put a smile on the Joker’s face, Steven Spielberg makes this aquatic animal as intimidating and menacing as any human villain put to screen. And since this is 1975 and computer generated imaging was very expensive and limited in functionality, there is no CGI! Yes, an action movie with no CGI. And you know what? It looks better.


Spielberg said in an interview, “Today, I would probably shoot a Jaws movie with CGI, but you know something? The audience can tell the difference… I think one of the reasons Jaws was so effective was because it was authentic.” I couldn’t agree more. And it’s not just that Spielberg had the money to recreate this shark in life-sized, robotic form. It’s how Spielberg utilizes his shark to concoct fear. Like I said, it takes an entire hour to introduce the villain, but having the shark lurk in the shadows, leaving only mutilated victims behind, was beyond scary. It was engrossing. Before I knew it, I was inches away from falling out of my seat. I think this is the best trademark of Spielberg. He once said, “The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time.” My emotions were at the whims of Spielberg’s storytelling talents.


Unfortunately, once the great white shark is revealed, much of the thrill is emptied. Fortunately, the adventure is still enjoyable, even if it felt contrived at times. There is this one politician character who is so insistent about keeping the beaches open that it borders mean stereotyping. I like how Spielberg’s characters consider the most logical actions to deal with the problem at hand, but such considerations demanded more out of the plot than this cartoonish politician for its source of conflict. Once the source of conflict shifts into a three-man survival test against the shark in the film’s second half, Jaws immediately sacrifices its scaring powers for a more uplifting and adventurous tone, a tone which felt too abrupt for my personal taste.


Still, what works in Jaws is too good to ignore. Jaws is, at all times, an enjoyable movie. There is even a splash of internal turmoil within the characters at the beginning, when the police officer protagonist feels guilty about the death of a kid he convinces he is responsible for. Jaws was what put Spielberg on the map, and for good reason. Although it isn’t Spielberg’s best work, I think it showcases what is unique about Spielberg’s films. Spielberg is a master at getting everybody to clap at the same time, to laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time.

Final Grade: B (87%)–Dun nun… dun nun… dun nun dun nun dun nun


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