It looks like September is Shark Month on Netflix as they just added all 4 Jaws movies and Deep Blue Sea. Sharknado 1-4 have been mainstays on Netflix, so I guess sharks are a big deal. Everyone and their mother has seen Jaws, so there’s nothing I can add to that conversation. The movie is a masterpiece and still the best shark movie ever made. So naturally, I decided to start by watching the craptastic Jaws 3-D. The only question I have is if it’s worse than your average shark-monster movies playing on Syfy Saturday nights. Let’s dip our toes in the water, shall we?
JAWS 3-D (1983)
I’m going to make a controversial statement here and suggest that Joe Alves is not as good a director as Steven Spielberg. I know, I know. I’m going to be grilled on Twitter for that. The movie is terribly paced, terribly acted, and there are zero thrills. Apparently the film started in development as a spoof called Jaws 3, Humans 0. The producers thought THAT was a horrible idea so they opted to make this piece of crap instead. It was just the first of a series of horrible decisions. The next was to shoot the thing in 3-D. Unless you rushed out to see the movie that summer, the vast majority of us have only seen it in washed out, soft focus 2-D. What I am watching is a murky movie where the shoddy special effects are clearly exposed .
So onto the good stuff. The premise is pretty great. A shark gets loose in Seaworld. Terrific. Jurassic Park showed what could be done with an amusement park gone to mayhem. Of course, that movie was directed by Big Steve again and this was not. They also have “soon to be famous” actors like Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Simon “Manimal” McCorkindale, and a young, vivacious Lea Thompson. Okay, that’s it for the good stuff. Now back to the garbage that doesn’t work.
Did I mention this movie is terribly directed? I know I’m not watching it on the big screen, but I don’t see how this movie was ever scary. The original Jaws is still scary. This movie starts horribly with some stock footage of fish. The producers must’ve got a good deal on fish footage because there’s a ton of it in the movie. Fish and dolphins. So anyways, the camera is slowly moving along the sea floor when an animated red blur attacks a fish. Not an amazing fish like a marlin or another shark, or a killer whale. No, just a fish. And just to show how edgy and hi-tech this movie is, the decapitated, death-spasming fish head hovers in front of the camera, a remnant of the 3-D filming. Shocking, a fish was eaten by an unseen shark. That is “terrifying.” And the film-makers thought that was the humdinger attack they needed to open this water-logged dud.
There’s another terrible scene where a dude goes down to fix the underwater gates to Seaworld. He fiddles with a bicycle lock for what feels like an hour. The music churns away at a frantic pace to try to give the impression that something thrilling is happening. Then the diver senses something approaching, so he turns around… and it’s Jacques Cousteau era stock footage of a fish. Then he turns around again and it’s stock footage of a different fish. Then we get the attack, a POV shot from within an animatronic shark’s mouth. Wow was that crappy. At one point in the movie, the sad prop just keels over. So yeah, I guess that’s why Alves doesn’t show it more.
So this movie is kind of like Airplane in reverse. Where in Airplane they took a serious script and made it hilarious by adding jokes, this movie starts with a ridiculous script and takes out all the jokes, thereby making it unintentionally hilarious. I laughed a lot at it, not with it. Like in Megashark Vs. Giant Crawdad or Syfy movies that wish they could be as funny as that one that I just made up. At one point after barely escaping Jaws, Quaid exclaims, “What the hell was that?” It was a damn shark, you moron, don’t you work in an aquarium? And there’s also the hysterical scene where Dennis Quaid is rushing to save his idiot brother being menaced by the shark. Quaid runs through a hula show and steals a popcorn cart, Grand Theft Auto style, throwing the driver out of the golf buggy as he goes whizzing off. Then he drives over a bush and flips the cart. You’re a real bad-ass, Dennis.
This movie is hilarious in all new ways that the average Syfy movies never are. And I didn’t even mention when the real Jaws, a different unimpressive rubber prop, shows up and has many astonishingly bad scenes, each more stupid than the last. The thing is, there’s something awe-inspiring and horrifying about snorkeling under the water and some dark, ominous shadow looms out of the depths. That primal fear is at the root of all shark movies. In every scene with aquariums in the background or divers swimming around, you keep looking off into the distance for that damned shark. It’s spooky. Just by doing nothing but holding on a shot of fish in a tank, it’s scary. Only a total goof can take that awesome power and ruin it by trying to direct a shark attack. Any time Alves sets up an attack sequence, it fails horribly. Jaws moves agonizingly slow and seems disinterested in making teeth to flesh contact with anybody. Despite being chomped by the shark, Lea Thompson is pulled out of danger with only a wimpy scratch on her leg. And a Flipper Vs. Jaws scene is a sight to behold. So obviously, you need to check this one out immediately.