Jaws: A Study In How To Destroy A Franchise

Jaws 45th Anniversary

Jaws has its 45th Anniversary this week. When Jaws was released 45 years ago, the future of movies was changed forever, becoming the first summer blockbuster. Jaws was the box office king until a little movie called Star Wars came out two years later. Star Wars cemented the new summer blockbuster formula, but it’s hard to argue things began with Jaws. It’s easy to use the Jaws 45th Anniversary to wax lyrical and gush about what a great movie it is.

Personally, Jaws is in my all-time top 5, and probably always will be. Movies now can’t have the impact that the likes of Jaws and Star Wars had on me as a child. Both Jaws and Star Wars had smashed the box office before I was born, though not many years prior. However, both of these movies, and their sequels are a huge part of what makes me, well, me. To give you an example, when I first watched Jaws as a child, probably around 4 years old, I cried at the end.

My Jaws


I remember little but have been told I was pleading with my parents that the shark did nothing wrong. Why didn’t the mayor just close the beaches? So began a lifelong fascination and respect for sharks, one that almost saw me study marine biology. Just like one of my movie heroes, Hooper. Instead, I chose stories, writing, and film as my passion. But I still love sharks and know a hell of a lot about them. Especially the Great White, or Carcharadon Carcharias, if you prefer.

Yeah, it would be easy to talk about all the great scenes in Jaws. The Jaws music, the way the movie was shot, the relationships between the main characters. Or, we could talk about how Jaws‘ script was rewritten on the fly to feel more natural? The Jaws‘ production was a bit of a disaster. But, all those problems, and the solutions that were found for them, are what helped Jaws to become a classic.

Instead, I’m going to be looking at the franchise as a whole. When we compare Jaws to other blockbuster franchises, it has become a joke. So how did Jaws go from being the biggest movie of all time to an absolute joke franchise that probably will never be seen again?

Jaws 2


Jaws 2 was released three years after Jaws in theaters. In hindsight, the rush to get a sequel out there quickly was a mistake. Jeannot Swarc was brought in to helm the movie after the original director of Jaws 2 was deemed unsuitable. Roy Scheider only agreed to star in the movie to settle a dispute with Universal Studios. Roy Scheider and Jeannot Swarc had heated exchanges on set and clashed about many details. Ultimately, Jaws 2 was a rush job, and it shows. However, Jaws 2 was the highest-grossing sequel of all time, until Rocky II a year later.

Jaws 2 proves that it was Steven Spielberg, and the characters who made Jaws a classic. Using the same formula with less skilled hands produced a very average movie. Honestly, the Jaws 2 legacy is probably having one of the best taglines in cinema history. ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water!’ Unfortunately, that’s as good as Jaws 2 ever got. If we explore the plot of Jaws 2, we can certainly start to see some very common sequel problems. I.e. it Jaws 2 is the same movie as Jaws, but not as good. It is extremely rare for a sequel to be as good as the original. Only a handful of times has a sequel been considered a better film than the original.

The Shark Has No Bite


Jaws 2 simply doesn’t have any of the charm that the first movie did. With Quint out the picture, you have a problem right up front, but no Hooper was a real issue. Clearly Richard Dreyfuss had no intention of coming back, and Scheider was only there because he had to be. The shark was just as bad as it was in the first movie. However, none of Spielberg’s skills in building tension were there to compensate.

Jaws 2, was designed with one goal in mind by Universal Studios. Make a quick buck by rushing out a sequel to Jaws while it was still hot. Ultimately, Universal got exactly what they wanted from Jaws 2, because the idea of franchises hadn’t yet been invented. The Empire Strikes Back, commonly regarded by fans as a better movie than Star Wars was about to change things again.

Jaws 3D


These days, we just call the third Jaws movie, Jaws 3. However, it was originally Jaws 3D, because, well it was shown in 3D in theaters. Jaws 3 came out in 1983, but it did not hit my shores in the UK till 1984. I was there, as a 6-year-old watching Jaws with my crappy red and green 3D specs on. Honestly, even then, in 1983, the 3D was horrible, and some of the shots that were designed to take advantage of the 3D look very silly now. However, despite the horrible 3D effects, I actually retain a soft spot for Jaws 3. I was young, as said above, and at that time I definitely preferred Jaws 3 over Jaws 2. I had Jaws 3 on video and I would watch it, a lot.

The basic plot of Jaws 3 isn’t actually that bad. A new massive Sea World type park is opening, with its own privately sectioned off corner of the Ocean. They have the full undersea experience here with tunnels going pretty deep underwater. Even if you have never seen the movie, I bet you can work out what happens next in Jaws 3? Yep, a shark makes it through the gate, and as you’d imagine starts to kill some people, or does it?

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The (actually decent) cast formulate a plan to capture this Great White shark, as it would be a great coup for the new park. Of course, there has to be Brody’s right? Mike Brody has aged like Walter Donavan somehow between 1975 and 1983. I went from -3 to 5 in that period, and Mike Brody went from around 8-26. Sean equally has been drinking from a poorly chosen cup, because he has aged from around 4/5 – early ’20s. Did it have to be about the Brody’s to be a Jaws movie?

The relationships between Mike, Sean and their partners Kay and Kelly (played by soon to be Back to the Future star Lea Thompson) were very real, and well written. There is even a message in Jaws 3 that I can get behind. The battle between marine preservation as championed by Kay, and of exploitation of the marine world, as championed by park owner Calvin, played by Louis Gossett, Jr.

Calvin isn’t a bad man, but he is in this venture for the glory and the money, whereas Kay is there for the science. Kay warns against killing animals and wants to save the shark if possible, alas, before the shark was ready Calvin orders it out on show and the shark passes away soon after. It’s really rather sad and poignant (remember I’m the kid who cried at the end of Jaws) and up till this point in the movie, and ignoring some of the silly 3D shots, Jaws 3 isn’t bad.

Landing The Ending


But then, things start to get silly. Kay discovers that this immature White Shark could not have killed the people whose remains were found, Instead, she works out that a 35-foot mother shark must have been the culprit and is therefore also in the park.

Ok, so let me start by saying that Jaws the novel used a 20 foot Great White. The reason author Peter Benchley used this was because sharks at or around 20 feet long are realistic. So then in Jaws the movie they add on another 5 foot for Hollywood, so we now have a 25 foot Great White shark, which would be a record holder. Then, we have Jaws 3 deciding that their shark is going to be 35 feet long, I mean, why?

If a Great White of any size goes into full-on hunt mode against a human, it’s ‘farewell an adieu to you fair Spanish ladies’. Where has this shark been? Oh, it’s been hiding in some filtration tube, which makes it as if the massive shark is constantly swimming on the spot by the turbines. Oh and this shark has simply stayed there, without feeding for days swimming on the spot?

Of course, the filters get turned off and mama shark starts to explore. This massive shark decides to attack only humans for the rest of the movie, showing no interest in the other countless marine life that surrounds it. Not only that, but crashes through a (presumably reinforced) underground observation window. Where the shark has human bodies in its mouth that it for some reason cannot be bothered to eat, so they just hang there. Luckily, one of those hands is holding a grenade and Robert’s your father’s brother, boom. That’s what makes Jaws 3 so annoying, they almost had a decent movie, but they made the ending real, real silly.

Jaws: The Revenge

Wow! Jaws: The Revenge might be one of the very worst movies ever made and was (I think) a template for the kind of absolute garbage I hate now. Would we have ever got Sharknado, if it wasn’t for Jaws: The Revenge proving that you can make a film in ten minutes and someone will still buy it? Universal literally threw Jaws: The Revenge together in record time

Associate producer on the movie Frank Baur said. “This (Revenge) will be the fastest I have ever seen a major film planned and executed in all of my 35 years as a production manager.

To give you some context each Jaws movie previously had taken around two years to make. They made Jaws: The Revenge in less than nine months, and you can tell that just by watching the movie.

The plot is laughable and I do wonder what writer Michael de Guzman was smoking when he wrote this movie? Clearly the de Guzman, nor any of the team at Universal knew mujch about sharks. So we have a plot where for some reason a Great White shark has suddenly developed a sense of self-awareness and decided to go out for revenge. However, this shark does not go after the many fishermen who killed his or her species by the boatload for years. No, this shark decides to go after members of the Brody family for reasons that may never become clear in all of human history.

From Bad to Worse

So anytime a Brody touches the water, this shark is somehow able to sense it and goes out to eat them….right! They brought back the matriarch of the Brody family and said old Chief Brody had died of fear of the shark. Oh and after being an engineer dating a marine biologist in Jaws 3, Mike Brody is now a marine biologist himself. Mike’s wife is now the one who uses a welding torch in her day to day work while Mike takes samples and gathers data. The best part of Jaws: The Revenge is Michael Cain wooing Mrs. Brody, and yet this is one of Caine’s worst roles from when no one was giving him any solid work. That’ just Caine for you, he is somehow magnetic and at times makes you forget you are watching a train wreck of a movie.

Jaws: The Revenge was rightly panned by critics, but it did make a profit, if modest. The cast were doing their best here, but with 35 reviews on RT, Jaws: The Revenge has a 0% score. This is a movie where a Great White swims from Amity Island to the Bahama’s in less than three days. Not to mention the fact that the water around the Bahamas doesn’t suit White Sharks because the water is too warm and there are not many food items they can eat. Then we add the fact that Ellen Brody has flashbacks to events she was not present for. Or what about the shark knowing where they are and roaring like a Lion at one point?

This film was so bad, that you could even see some of the rigging used for supporting the shark in shots. This was Universal flinging 20 million Dollars at a movie with no care about what the results would be. This was about getting one last return on a franchise Universal had ground into the dirt. That was the last Jaws film. In 1987 the franchise was finally put out of its misery, and allowed to die.

45 Years Later

So here we are on the week that commemorates the Jaws 45th Anniversary. It’ somehow easier to remember Jaws as being just one movie. It helps with the mental gymnastics that are required to think of this as a true franchise. In fact, we almost consider nay shark movie to be a part of Jaws, after all, every one of those movies would have used the name if they were legally allowed. The name of Jaws, and that famous classic John Williams soundtrack will live forever. However, what came after, was a series of movies designed to cash in on the Jaws brand as quickly as possible before it went stale. Universal didn’t seem to realise it was their decisions that were making the Jaws brand stale to begin with.

So while we celebrate the Jaws 45th Anniversary because it was a classic, the other movies we just ignore and it’s because they were bad movies. Would anyone get excited or even care if Universal announced they were making a fifth movie? Probably only myself and some of the other stupidly loyal fan base, the average person would laugh and move on. Could a fifth flick be written that was not a total joke?

I think the answer to that is yes, but I’m not sure it would be the movie that fans would expect. I’ve discussed Jaws 5 stories with other fans over the years and the ideas I had were far more serious movies that removed a lot of the established shark tropes. The problem I think, is that I realise that’s not necessarily a film that Universal are going to pay for, Fans would expect a generic massive shark monster movie. Jaws was a monster movie, but the real monsters were the humans and their love of profit. In the film, the ‘monster’ was a simple force of nature, not some evil threat to be defeated by the hero.

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As for what some other fans wanted to see, well you’ve already seen it if you’ve watched The Meg. The most popular place for Jaws 5 to go was always to use the Great White’s ancestor the Carcharadon Megaladon. However, all this does I compound the issues we saw in the previous Jaws sequels. Bigger sharks and more death whilst completely ignoring the fact that a shark that size would never feed on tiny humans when there are whales to eat. Never mind ignoring the fact that Meg’s have been extinct for at least 2 million years. As I said, if you want to see what the most popular choice for a Jaws 5 was, go watch The Meg. It’s probably better than Jaws: The Revenge, but that isn’t saying much.

This is how Universal Studios turned Jaws, the former biggest movie all-time into a joke. What do you think, will Universal studios ever a fifth film?  Leave any thoughts you have in the usual place below.

Oh and remember some advice from my 5-year-old self watching Jaws movies. If you keep your feet on the couch, the shark can’t eat your toes. It definitely saved me over the years.

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Campbell Clark

Cam is Senior Editor at LRM Online, and has a passion for all things geeky, including sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies.

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