Saturday, July 15, 2023

JAWS 2, My Favorite Sequel to the Scariest Movie Ever Made

"You have to give people more of what they had the first time around, without being relentless, without being repetitive. It's not humanly possible for us to catch the impact of the first film... you're talking about a sequel to the biggest success the movies ever saw. That's a big pair of shoes to step into".--Director Jeannot Szwarc in 1977
Back in 2012 I wrote an article about JAWS being the scariest movie ever made and why I loved it (you can read it HERE). There's never been another film that has tapped into mankind's fear of not only the water and what we cannot see beneath it, but the isolation of being alone or cut off from society with nothing around you but ocean waves for as far as the eye can see. 
Steven Spielberg's movie was absolute brilliance in its building of tension and horror, much of which was due to the lack of a visible shark for an hour of the film's running time; Spielberg keeping it largely in the dark till its closeup 81 minutes in after Brody asks Hooper to "come on down and chum some of this shit". Something else key to the film's longevity was its interactions between three men with very different personalities played by Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw. 
With the end result being a surprise smash hit upon its June 20th release in 1975, it was a given that the first $100 million grosser would quickly attract another Great White Shark to the waters off Amity Island.
"There's a natural curiosity, a public thirst, but this time the shark has to be a 747 compared to our old 707. He's a new generation, his repertoire refined and expanded."--Co-producer David Brown in 1977
The shocking success of JAWS was as unexpected on the filmmakers as the difficulties they experienced making it 12 miles out on the open sea. It would not only change the way movies were made, marketed and distributed, but it inspired domestic and foreign film industries into producing a slew of imitations; most of which substituted imagination for a quick buck. As for JAWS 2, any filmmaker brave enough to take on the project would be knowingly traversing inhospitable waters in attempting to match Spielberg's masterpiece of horror. The producers, on the other hand, were determined to surpass it.

This article is about my affection for this underrated sequel, what I like about it, my first time seeing it, the film's origins, comparisons to the script for the Hancock and Szwarc versions, and other odds and ends. We begin with the trouble at sea JAWS 2 found itself in before Jeannot Szwarc took it over and, against numerous obstacles, turned it into the memorably entertaining sequel we know today.

JAWS 2 (1978) celebrated its 45th anniversary on June 16th, 2023. Over the course of the 4+ decades since its release, Jeannot Szwarc's movie has undergone an evolution of sorts--gaining appreciation over the years since Roger Ebert called it "pure trash"  back in 1978. It's one of those movies that had many detractors despite being the biggest moneymaking sequel at the time. Spielberg's movie was such a masterstroke of cinema that it was near impossible for a sequel to attain a fraction of its respectability no matter how good it was. Even today, there are many articles that take good-natured shots at the picture; and in unison, remark how it could never be that good because the first movie was such a hard act to follow.
Spielberg was, at one point, interested in directing the notoriously temperamental man-eater for a second time; and to bring Hooper back to Amity. But his need to complete CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) contributed to that not happening.
After at least two windows of opportunity were closed for Spielberg to return (who wasn't all that enthused about doing a sequel in the first place), writer and diving expert Howard Sackler recommended the project be handed over to director John D. Hancock. Unfortunately, Hancock's version charted a course that was entirely different than what had been previously plotted.
"The first day I arrived on that island I felt something missing. I could tell from the attitude of the crew, from the attitude of the director toward the actors, from the atmosphere of no electricity, that the movie was in trouble. The script wasn't discussed, there was no banter going on. We never got into it. I never went to rushes there. I didn't look at them because I knew we weren't going to use them anyway. I didn't see one frame in three weeks. I knew it was over."--Roy Scheider in 1977 on JAWS 2 under John Hancock's direction.

When Sackler was asked to pen the script for the sequel, he wanted to go back to the Indianapolis speech he helped write on the first movie. Zanuck and Brown seemed briefly intrigued by this direction, but--along with input from Universal's president Sidney Sheinberg--quickly decided the best course of action was to return to Amity. Audiences around the world knew those people and liked them. America alone paid $270+ million to watch them and it seemed logical that audiences would want to see those characters again.
Sheinberg reportedly made the suggestion to Sackler to place an emphasis on teens in peril for his script. His work in this area largely ended up on screen but minus Quint's son; a character that was removed when filming began under John Hancock in June of 1977. The writer himself was tapped to play a scuba diver in the movie before he vacated the movie.
"I read the first script they had--Howard Sackler had written it--and was intrigued with the challenge of doing a sequel to this enormous-grossing picture. I had liked the first film a lot, and I was impressed when the producers told me they were trying to top it."--original director of JAWS 2, John D. Hancock, in May of 1977.

Approximately two weeks before filming began on June 6th, 1977, Hancock stated in an interview that producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck saw his drama BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1973) and wanted him to direct the sequel to the biggest movie of all time. They hoped lightning would strike twice by going with a similarly inexperienced director. Even so, Spielberg's DUEL (1971) showed the young filmmaker's masterful hand at guiding not just suspense, but intense action; so he had that in his favor.
Moviemaking is like gambling, so Universal execs rolled the dice on a new director with a new vision.

"The Tristan script was either short on character or its emphasis was misplaced. I had to make people's behavior recognizably human, to make them real".--Writer, Carl Gottlieb in 1977 when he was brought in to rewrite the script
Personally, looking at the bigger picture, Universal made the right decision in replacing original director John D. Hancock whose wife Dorothy Tristan shared a co-writing credit with Howard Sackler. It was a very different type of story from what came before and what was eventually shot. Tristan added stronger sexual themes, a darker tone with more explicit shark attacks, and made Ellen Brody a much bigger part of the movie, on top of other additions. Sackler, who had a hand in getting Hancock the job, had a falling out with the husband and wife duo over the direction they were going and left the picture. Problems were exacerbated from there.

There was foreshadowing of trouble ahead a few months before filming even began. Right after everything was set in stone, Hancock reportedly ruffled feathers by heading off to Los Angeles to direct a play his wife was starring in. He was expected to begin preparatory work on what was to be his biggest job yet, JAWS 2.
Hancock had previously directed the cult horror favorite LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971). His vision for JAWS 2 was treading familiar, foreboding waters but looked nothing like the original movie. As it were, his version would've packed the picture with political nonsense, mafia characters (featured in Benchley's novel), and a town that was boarded up and in its death throes from the shark attacks three years earlier. In reality there are shark attacks every year; it's not an unnatural occurrence. What doesn't happen is towns being economically devastated by them. Far-fetched? No. Improbable, yes. It's a shark, not a politician.

"A lot of my friends keep asking me 'what's the premise?' and that's embarrassing, because we don't have a premise."--original director of JAWS 2, John D. Hancock, in May of 1977.
Since Hancock wanted Amity to look like a ghost town, many residents were as happy about it as he and his wife were on Sackler's script. Residents grew frustrated with the lengthy shoot on the first movie as well, but there was no plan to alter their small businesses. 
The town's businesses didn't like their windows being boarded up, and the director had little patience for handling scenes with lots of extras and dealing with the residents of Edgartown in Martha's Vineyard. He complained about the difficulties of filming there, that people had too much money, and lamented the journey to Florida and how much worse it would be filming at Navarre Beach. Much like Spielberg, it seemed Hancock wasn't prepared for the stress of such a large production; but unlike Spielberg, he was unable to pull it off. If Hancock was having problems handling the filming on land, the trouble would only increase once he began shooting major sequences on the water. Spielberg told Hancock prior to filming that the shark would be his greatest challenge to shoot.

As documented in Ray Loynd's 'The Jaws 2 Log', the last scene Hancock filmed after 18 days on the picture before he was let go was a scene between Lorraine Gary and one of her on-screen sons. Upon viewing the footage Hancock had shot, studio execs became alarmed and held a meeting where it was decided a new man was needed at the helm. Hancock would go on to blame studio politics for the reasoning behind his firing. 
Meanwhile, unnamed members of the cast and crew said Hancock was incapable of controlling the movie, had filmed a lot of unusable footage, and wasn't fit for such a large-scale action picture.
Hancock's movie would've been an easy R rating if shot as written. The script he was working from had 8 deaths. When Carl Gottlieb took over, it became 11 deaths. This was later shaved down to 5 then grew to 7 by the time Jeannot Szwarc came aboard. Szwarc's movie almost received an R rating itself; particularly the death of Marge proving to be hugely problematic as scripted. Compared to what Hancock's movie might've been, Szwarc's version is a far more believable, and adventurous horror film with a few really good jump scare moments. JAWS 2 also has the highest body count of the series with 7 deaths.
As for director Hancock, two scenes he shot remain in the release version--one is near the beginning, an ominous scene where we see the shark's dorsal fin break the surface of the water in Amity harbor. This shot occurs much later in the script. The second is parasailing footage where the shark narrowly misses an afternoon meal.
It's difficult to think about "what could have been" and not be curious to see the footage Hancock had shot, or ponder how his version would have turned out; but it doubtlessly wouldn't have resembled the original in any way. JAWS was veritable perfection and unlike anything seen at the time. Any radical detour from what came before would likely have been widely rejected. As it were, keeping familiarity with Spielberg's work was going to be harshly judged as well.

Among the many differences in what was to be Hancock's version was the attack on the skier and boat about 20 minutes into the movie; it differs in major ways. One of these is the element of speed. The original version was more vicious with a start and stop rhythm. The biggest alteration is in the physical action. It's two couples: two skiers and two in the boat. The woman skier is bitten repeatedly while her husband--the other skier--tries to hold onto her. She dies from massive blood loss and he's flung away, gets tied up in the line, and drowns. Meanwhile, the other couple in the boat frantically try to get the shark away from their friends. They toss a lit gasoline can that explodes when it hits the shark's face. The shark rams the boat and the boat explodes. Afterward, the corpse of the drowned husband is found but nothing else.
The scene as it plays in the movie is streamlined and reduced to two females--a skier and boat driver. It plays much better, and makes more sense logistically. There's some great editing using real shark footage for the moment it latches onto the skier. The attack on the boat is a powerful moment ending with a huge explosion that leaves the shark with a new, scarier visage bearing burn scars.
Another alteration in the aborted script involved the dead Orca. In the Sackler-Tristan version, the dead Orca is spotted out at sea. Brody goes out on his patrol boat and takes pictures and measures some of the bite marks. The scene following it took place inside a laboratory where  Brody talks about vengeance-seeking sharks while Dr. Elkins lectures Chief Brody on how sharks may save human lives due to their antibodies that protect them from cancer. Below is an example of the differences in dialog for this sequence and what was possibly the genesis of JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987). The first exchange is from the aborted script and the second is what was filmed:

Brody: "That [shark] I killed... how do we know it didn't communicate with other sharks before it died. Maybe it had a mate or something. Maybe I left a trace in the water, a smell-or maybe they just sense me in some way you don't know about yet. They never go for revenge or anything like that do they?"

Dr. Elkins: (grinning) "Sharks, Mr. Brody, never take anything personally".

Brody: "I know dolphins communicate, they send signals... you don't think if a shark was destroyed that another shark could, could in... "

Dr. Elkins: "Sharks don't take things personally, Mr. Brody".
The sequence as it plays out in the movie is the superior one. It removes a few scenes and melds them into one while creating an element of impending dread. The audience knowing Brody's intuition is correct versus Elkins reluctance to accept his fears makes for better banter. Further, Killer Whales are known to hunt and eat Great Whites; because of that, this sequence makes the shark in the movie even more fearsome. 
On a side note, the year prior, Dino De Laurentiis's production of ORCA (1977) featured an opening sequence where a killer whale saves Robert Carradine from being eaten by a Great White Shark. The highly intelligent mammal ramming it so hard it sends the big fish out of the water, into the air, and crashing down into the sea and dying. The De Laurentiis production is basically taking a shot at JAWS (1975). So in JAWS 2, a dead Orca washes up on the beaches of Amity having been fatally wounded by a Great White in what feels like a defensive jab at the JAWS inspired, MOBY DICK-ish ORCA. 
"When Conan Doyle wrote the first Sherlock Holmes and everyone screamed for more I don't think he felt like a professional hack. I see nothing wrong with bringing back a story that gives people a terrific time."--Roy Scheider on JAWS 2 in 1977

The ending of the movie as written in the Sackler-Tristan script takes place at night and differs in some key ways. For one, the destruction of the chopper occurs at the end. The pilot is killed by the shark when he tries to swim to the pile of wrecked sailboats that become engulfed in flames after the helicopter explodes. The teens end up underwater attempting to breathe from air pockets below the catamaran's as they burn. Sideburns (who was later changed to Bob) is bitten in half as Brody tries to pull him in. Brody then stabs the shark in the eye with a dragging rake. From there, the death of the shark mirrors the movie except Sean is in the rubber raft with his father.

As shot, it's difficult to imagine a better finale than the one director Szwarc delivered. The helicopter sequence is separated and moved a bit earlier. John Williams soaring cue for the electrifying finish packs as big a wallop as the first movie. Brody has another close encounter with this film's big fish, and the scene is a bit busier in that he's trying to bring the shark towards him while it tries to feast on his youngest son and actress Donna Wilkes, Screaming Champion of 1978.
There's that fantastic shot of the camera behind Brody as the shark approaches. The enormity of the beast and the wide breaking of the waves leave an intimidating impression. As the shark burns, there's a great shot of smoke pouring from its eye just before the charred man-eater descends for the last time. It's basically the same ending and tempo as the first movie but with more participants and a power line replacing the air tank.


Spielberg and Szwarc had something in common in that they both worked on Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY series. And while both their killer shark pictures are tonally different, they share kinship in other ways. 
Director Szwarc mimics Spielberg's style to the point that some scenes feel like he directed them. The manic interactions between Brody and the townsfolk are identical in the performances and the dialog. In JAWS, Ellen Brody asks Martin if he wants to "get drunk and fool around". In JAWS 2, Ellen asks Martin at the unveiling of the new resort if he wants to leave and "fool around". This can also be a shared contribution with screenwriter Carl Gottlieb. He wrote the script for JAWS and was brought back (at high expense) to rewrite the Dorothy Tristan version. With Tristan gone, Gottlieb now shared co-writing credit with Howard Sackler.

There are a few jump scares scattered throughout, one of which is the 'Ben Gardner'  moment of JAWS 2. In it, a group of divers go down for lobsters. John Williams beautiful underwater cue is playing while one diver strays from the group. He is about to enter a patch of underwater fauna when the scarred shark suddenly enters the frame, mouth wide open. What's startling about this scene is there's no warning. The soothing music plays, never silencing to alert the audience that something is going to happen, it just does--interrupting the music and jarring the viewer who isn't expecting anything at that given moment.

Whether it was intended or not, Spielberg's approach was to not show much of the shark and that greatly contributed to the lasting power of his film. Ironically, the director allegedly intended to show a lot more of it had the mechanical contraption worked more frequently. Filming out on the open sea aboard a flotilla of over a dozen boats with shifting currents, a fickle sun, and the salt water damaging the shark's mechanisms worked remarkably well in the film's favor.
For the sequel, Szwarc knew going in that it would be impossible to recapture that same level of fear and terror since everybody had already seen the shark the first time around. So his approach was to devise new ways of showing the man-eater swimming and eating (but not making little sharks as Hooper told Mayor Vaughn in the first movie). There's so much shark action in J2 you probably see the beast more than all the other films combined. That meant there were more opportunities for the shark to take a lot of breaks, as it were. Even with improvements to the complicated mecha-shark, it broke down just as often.

This same approach occurred in 1979 with Ridley Scott's ALIEN. That movie was a horror-SciFi picture that was essentially a haunted house in space story with a terrifying monster waiting in the wings. In its first sequel, ALIENS (1986), James Cameron upped the ante like J2 did and went for action-horror.

From filming on the back of the mechanical shark to get those amazing shots, to designing new ways of showing victims being consumed, director Szwarc succeeded admirably. One of these was the rescue of Mike Brody after he's knocked unconscious and ends up in the water with the shark somewhere nearby. 
In the Sackler-Tristan script, he's pulled out without threat. But in Gottlieb's revision, it becomes one of the movie's most memorable moments. Actors John Dukakis and G. Thomas Dunlop pull him in just as the shark nearly shaves his legs off. Despite getting a quick glimpse of the hydraulics inside the shark's mouth, the scene is an amazing example of editing to create an intense moment of action. At the top you can see how the scene looked in the movie; and in the insert image, you can see how they filmed it.

Another of these showstopper sequences is Marge's death; one of the most frightening moments in the picture. Marge desperately tries to climb onto the flipped over boat. Behind her, the shark comes into frame, ascending till its jaws are in view. The shark emerges and swallows her whole. We don't see the act since the camera is behind the shark, but we know what has transpired once the shark descends and Marge is gone. This occurs right after the helicopter attack. 
At first, there was concern this sequence was going to pole-vault the movie into the land of the R rating. It was changed a few times and at one point, it was going to be that the pilot, trapped inside the up-ended chopper, had an oxygen mask and was able to rescue Marge. The two would swim away to safety unbeknownst to the others.
That shot of the shark coming up to the surface to eat Marge gave me chills back then. You're in the water and suddenly this shark appears without warning. You can't see it till it's too late. The image is still potent all these years later. 
In the Sackler-Tristan script, the teens encounter the coast guard chopper before the shark does. The first time the pilot orders them to return to port. The second time the helicopter is sent out to get them the pilot isn't so lucky, and suffers a more explicit demise than the one implied in the movie. I'll discuss it in more detail later in the article.
Speaking of the helicopter pilot, that scene is the one many people remember the most. It's easily the wildest moment in the movie. Nobody was expecting it despite the fact you knew something was going to happen. When J2 arrived on television, I remember being surprised when I saw extra footage of the pilot being attacked underwater while trying to escape the up-ended helicopter and wondering why it wasn't left in the theatrical version. You never see him being killed, but presumably he drowns before the shark gets to him. The helicopter attack obviously made an impression on other filmmakers. 
The scene was copied for Enzo G. Castellari's utterly awful JAWS clone, THE LAST SHARK (1981), briefly released here in 1982 as GREAT WHITE. It was copied again for Cirio H. Santiago's bland 1987 monster flick DEMON OF PARADISE wherein an ancient lizard leaps out of the water and pulls a helicopter into the water. That same year, the shark in JAWS: THE REVENGE would take Michael Caine's airplane below the depths.

One of the death's that was shot but cut from the release version was Bob's gruesome end at the teeth of Bruce II. Bob was killed a few different ways--the goriest was being bitten in half. Played by Billy Van Zandt, he was originally cast as Quint's son as written in Howard Sackler's script. When that character was dropped by Dorothy Tristan, he became the character of Sideburns and then just Bob under Carl Gottlieb. Since this gory fatality put the movie into the realm of the R-rating, it was eventually decided Bob would live. He must've appreciated the change as his last words in the movie are "thank you, thank you, thank you".
"They sent me scripts for films I didn't want to do until it became time to do JAWS 2. They arranged it so I refused almost everything. So they got me into a situation where I either did this or crap. That's the business, the way it works. Two other bad pictures could've been the end of my career. And if I were running the studio, I would've done the same thing."--Roy Scheider in 1977, The Jaws 2 Log.
Roy Scheider famously didn't want to do the sequel. He is the strongest link in the chain connecting it to the first movie. Because of his participation--in addition to Szwarc's recreating some of Spielberg's style--JAWS 2 feels like an expansion pack to the original. Scheider felt if he hadn't done the movie, they would've went with somebody else and made it anyway. In this writer's opinion, JAWS 2 wouldn't have been even half as good as it is without him.

Unlike Hancock, Szwarc bonded with the cast quickly. A much publicized altercation between Szwarc and Roy Scheider inside a Holiday Inn was said to be the actor's intent to create on-set tension he needed for his performance that was lacking with the previous director. Scheider himself stated in 1977, "Everyone starts pushing their weight around, their power around, and usually what results is good stuff, the electricity of tension... You need argument. We had that on the first JAWS... usually what happens is something better comes out of that struggle". Afterward, everything was fine between the two men and Scheider delivered one helluva encore as Chief Martin Brody.
My mom took me to see JAWS 2 when it first swam into theaters back in 1978. I didn't see the first movie till some time later. The sequel was the first movie theater experience I vividly remember. I was so taken with the picture that whenever we stopped at a local convenience store I'd ask my mom to buy me some JAWS 2 trading cards from Topps. They'd always be at the register. I recall we were in a Waldenbooks around the same time and she bought me the J2 novelization. I likely just pointed at it and said "Jaws" and she got it for me. Something else, JAWS 2 made such a great impression on me, it led to an interest in sharks that rivaled my interest in dinosaurs.
In a related story the following year, MOONRAKER came out. My mom wanted to go see it and took me. Before we went I must've been hesitant at first because I didn't know who James Bond was, so she told me, "Jaws is in it."  Naturally I had to see MOONRAKER now. The movie starts and there's this giant man with metal teeth on a plane and I ask who the guy with the steel chompers is and she says, "That's Jaws."  Needless to say I was confused by this revelation but ended up enjoying MOONRAKER a lot; so JAWS subterfuge led to my first James Bond theatrical experience.
As with JAWS 2, I saw JAWS 3D in the theater with my mom. I was 8 years old in 1983 and hoped this second sequel would be good. I was a bit disappointed there was no Chief Brody and the setting was no longer Amity, but a Sea World style underwater theme park. It was a great plot for a sequel but not executed nearly as well as JAWS 2. The tone and feel of the movie was entirely new. By this point, a new direction seemed the next logical step. There's mention of Scheider's character and the Brody boys return--this time played by Dennis Quaid (as Mike) and John Putch (as Sean). I remember enjoying the 3D as a kid, and the packed theater reacted how the filmmakers intended for them to. 
The shark in JAWS 3D is possibly the best of the quartet in terms of its operation and movements; it's certainly the biggest of the series at 35 feet in length, you just don't see much of it. Unlike the two previous movies, you never see the shark break the surface of the water, just its dorsal fin. The shark hunter character played by Simon MacCorkindale is memorable. Aside from having the biggest shark, JAWS 3D is the goriest of the four films with five deaths. Production designer and 2nd unit director from the previous two movies, Joe Alves directed for the first time and never did again after JAWS 3D.

As with JAWS 2 and 3, I saw JAWS: THE REVENGE with my mom in 1987. I remember at the time of the film's release, Universal wouldn't allow any photos of the shark prior to it hitting theaters. This seemed odd till the studio secrecy was revealed on the screen in what is the worst shark of the four films. There are some good shots of the beast, but for the most part, the shark looks like a freshly painted float. The film briefly goes back to Amity and puts the focus on Lorraine Gary's Ms. Brody, now widowed. The opening Amity sequence is quite good, beginning with an impressive shark attack that takes the arm, then the life, of now deputy Sean Brody. From there, JAWS 4 becomes a drama-love story where Ellen Brody tries to get her life back together and finds the way via a charismatic airplane pilot played by Michael Caine. JAWS 4 would work better as a love story. You don't see the shark much so if you removed the few scenes it's in, you'd have a better movie; and there's only two deaths. 

The ending of the movie when it played theaters, though, gave the impression of THREE deaths--the third being Mario Van Peebles' character of Jake. The shark is killed when it's impaled on the prow of the boat, breaking it off and sinking below the depths and taking the vessel with it. When the movie hit home video, I remember seeing this blurb up in the corner of the video box: "Contains new footage not seen in US theaters". I rented it and the new footage was a new ending. Jake somehow survives, but the stupidest new addition is a new death for the shark. As soon as we see it impaled there's a quick edit to a toy boat in a bathtub that breaks apart in what is supposed to be an explosion. It then cuts to footage of the headless shark from JAWS (1975) sinking to the bottom of the sea. For whatever reason, all US home releases on DVD/Blu-ray have this moronic alternate ending while the original is a deleted scene. One of the few things JAWS: THE REVENGE did that was good--the ending--was sabotaged AFTER the movie came out. Former actor Joseph Sargent was a highly respected director but seemed like a fish out of water when it came to doing a JAWS movie.
"It's a very tough picture. Nothing works all the time, the boats, the sharks. It's punishment out there. It must be the most difficult picture ever attempted. Things work and then break down; that's how it's going to be all the time... we're doing things never done in the first JAWS... the shark shots have to be more exciting and there has to be more shark... whenever we see the shark and the shark does something it has to be spectacular, otherwise it is better to suggest".--Director Jeannot Szwarc in 1977, The Jaws 2 Log

I'd always been struck by the shot of the bent and broken boats all crunched together; their miserable cargo awaiting death as the crippled mass tediously floats to an island off in the distance. As explained by Carl Gottlieb on the 'Making Of' documentary on the DVD/Blu-ray release, that image was based on a painting,'The Raft of the Medusa'  by Theodore Gericault.
Another comparison between the two movies is that both productions were deeply troublesome to finish. The sequel was even more problematic in that it was nearly canceled barely a month into the shoot. When Szwarc was given the job of saving the picture, he had a reported three week time-frame to do ten months of preparatory work. With its mountainous problems, JAWS 2 ended up being Universal's most expensive movie at the time at $30 million dollars.
Oftentimes when movies encounter near derailment, it shows in the finished product. In the case of JAWS 2, the end result was a slick 2 hours of good performances; a return to a familiar town of memorable characters; a variety of impressive shark attacks; lots more shark; and an amazing score by returning composer, John Williams.

The score for JAWS (1975) is arguably the most recognizable movie music ever conceived. It's easily the most effective music in spite of its simplicity. The cues are largely horror-oriented with a heightened sense of intensity. The rest has a seafaring quality about it. For the sequel, John Williams amplified everything; even the most famous 2-note theme for the Great White. Regardless of whether or not the crew equaled or even surpassed Spielberg's original, John Williams score for the sequel exceeds his work on the first picture.

Like the music, the tagline for JAWS 2 is one of the most famous ever written. It has to be the most imitated and parodied. "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..."  One of the movies influenced by JAWS was BLOOD BEACH (1980). Its tagline was "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... you can't get to it".
Spielberg made a comment about using the word "shit"  in JAWS. He remarked how you didn't hear it much at the time. Too many expletives can affect a film rating and they're frequently uttered in JAWS 2. 'Shit' is said seven times, 'bullshit' three times, 'ass' and 'goddamnit' are spoken once each.

From an entertainment perspective, I am possibly the only person on Earth who likes JAWS 2 slightly better than the first movie. The nostalgia has a lot to do with it, as does the fact that I saw it first before seeing Spielberg's achievement. One is a deeply primal, terrifyingly visceral motion picture; the other is more focused on building tension through action for entertainment purposes only. Szwarc's movie should be viewed as an achievement, too. He saved the picture basically at the last minute. Other than Zanuck and Brown, there were no preconceptions on Jeannot's part to surpass what Spielberg had done; just to make a movie audiences would want to see and have a good time seeing it. In my opinion, he certainly succeeded. Where JAWS retains its power to scare the hell out of you, JAWS 2 only wants to entertain you in the most thrilling way possible, in the hopes you'll return to the water--over and over again.

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