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Jaws: The Revenge -- How Scary Are Sharks The FOURTH Time Around?
Matt - 3/22/01

Before we begin, I must confess:

I've stayed out of the ocean for over a decade because of Jaws. No, really.

I don't know how or exactly when it all started, I never saw any of the movies in the theatres, none of my older brothers ever tormented me with stories of impending shark doom, and generally, the east coast waters are typically so shallow that no large shark could ever get close to the swimmers. Still, I've avoided the water as if it contains the same radioactive waste that created Octaman, for years upon years. Now, this isn't a passing fear, or some sort of crutch excuse because I don't want to go in the ocean anyway. I'm a big fan of pools, and lakes if they don't have any Loch Ness Monsters, but to this day, I can't get within a foot of the ocean without feeling uneasy. And its all because of Jaws.

Statistically, there's a higher chance that you'll be struck by lightning than eaten by a shark. Still, for 50 dollars, I'd go running around in the rain wielding lightning rods and plugged-in toasters. So why do these sharks have such a profound impact on a great many of us? Well, I've got a few theories. The Jaws series did so well because it played up on man's most basic fears, the ones that simply can't be avoided. You know, there's scientists who say that we are born with only two fears: loud noises, and falling. But I'm willing to bet we're also born with the fear of being eaten by animals five times our size who have hundreds of 2" teeth. Call it a hunch. Not all waters are as clear as the mouthwash-like Bahamas...around these parts, you can't see if you're stepping on a syringe needle in 5" of water. Once you go out a bit further, there's no telling what could be out there. And while the human race has domesticated the better part of our planet, the oceans remain the only realm of which we just have no control.

And in a sea of mystery and the unknown, there's no scarier thought than being devoured by its most storied and heinous predator, the great white shark.

In that respect, Jaws was one of the most well-versed psychological thrillers of all time. You didn't have to give a damn about Richard Dreyfuss,all you had to do was put yourself in his situation - not a big stretch - and suddenly, you're overwhelmed with terror. In today's cinema, most of the thrillers are 'thinking' thrillers, and there's a much stronger emphasis on the provacative, the hidden meanings, and the impossible. Take a lesson from Jaws: the biggest thrills and chills are the ones that hit closest to home. We're not all sailors or even frequent swimmers...but most of us have been close enough to the potential danger mark to lie in complete understanding - and revulsion - of Benchley's famous killer shark.

All that said, I'm a huge fan of the movie series. Much in the same way I hated to love Arachnophobia, the greatest fears are those we're familiar with. I'm not scared of a ghost turning up, or of aliens coming here just to blow up the White House...but if you make things like fish and spiders scary, you'll nail me every time. Today, we're gonna take a look at the final installment (to date) of the Jaws series, which unfortunately forces me to switch gears from a shark fear theorization to an all-and-out insult fest, because the movie was undeniably poor. Notice I didn't go with my usual adjective of 'bad' for this one...uh uh, its a poor ass flick, with some glimmers of hope. Now, I know you're used to my reviewing motives, but believe me, I really wanted to enjoy this flick. In a way, I did: I saw this one a long time ago, and while I remembered how awful the plot holes were, I totally forgot how charming some of the performances were. Putting it another way: had this movie been about something other than a killer shark, it may very well have been a neat flick. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and everytime the damn shark gets involved, everything falls to pieces. get to that in a couple of minutes. Its somewhat true - if you've seen one shark movie, you've seen 'em all. And while the Jaws movies can at times be very unique from each other, they're just not different enough to warrant future reviews. (unless the day is particularly rainy, and your humble narrator is really bored) So, I've decided, since its the middle of the night and there's no one around for me to pester, I'm going to stretch this article out to the point where its longer than it has any right to be, and give you a brief review of the first three Jaws flicks before delving deep into the soul of Jaws The Revenge.

Jaws: Mr. Spielberg, if I can convince my sister to sleep with you, will you please direct the next Star Wars film? Jaws is an *unbelievable* classic...whatever hype its achieved, its all well-deserved. The movie that taught us that there's more to scares than attack scenes and blood. By the end of the movie, we care about the characters so much that they might as well be blood relatives...and if one of 'em gets chomped, that's one less present to buy at Christmas. If only every horror/monster/suspense movie could attain actors this good and such an inderivative script. Virgins to the Jaws series, needless to say, should start with #1. And let's face it, they should probably stop there.

Jaws 2: Good, or bad, depending on your opinion. Good, because the first movie will make you so hot for shark action that two more hours of mayhem with the same main star and the same shark villain is the perfect way to satiate your saltwater thirst. Bad, because its simply a watered-down version of the first movie. We've seen it all before, and this time, the supporting cast is far less interesting. All in all, an entertaining watch, but director Jeannot Szwarc seemed to have trouble deciding whether they were making a sequel to Jaws or a shark movie instead geared solely towards the teeny-bopper crowd. Luckily, the shark doesn't seem to care who he's eating. Nice to know some things never change.

Jaws 3: My sentimental fave. This movie was originally going to be a spoof of the previous in the end, the kept the 3-D aspect, but went at it straight. A critic who knows his movies will tell you that this movie is pretty bad, but I loved it. Its set in a Sea World-type atmosphere, an aquarium actually in the ocean. So instead of the shark having to find the few idiots who waddle out into the middle of the ocean, he's got a whole bunch of them trapped. What's more? The shark in this movie, since the effects were comming along swimmingly by , seems much larger and more fluid than we're used to. Plus, we get a pair of heroic dolphins! Also known as the Jaws movie where everyone totally disregarded any scientific facts about what sharks can and can't do. But that's another rant entirely.

And that leaves us with today's movie, the finale, Jaws The Revenge. Hoooo boy. Okay, here's the background check: a LONG time ago, I was with my family vacationing in Florida. We may have been staying at one of the Disney hotels, but I don't remember coming home with a ton of plastic keychains, and had this been a Disney hotel, the brunt of my vacation time would be spent in their gift shop. Instead, we stayed at some clinically boring place which painfully was over 90 minutes from Disneyworld, which of course was the only thing in Florida I had any interest in. So, I spent most of my time alone in the hotel room watching PPV. Yes, my general vegetable state dates back pretty far. Anyway, it was here where I got my first taste of the fourth Jaws movie. I was young, but I wasn't stupid. I knew I had just wasted money on this PPV within a few minutes of ordering it, but since it wasn't mine, I didn't care. Spiting myself, I sat through the whole thing, which is odd since the movie seems to be more like a romance for the middle-aged than a horror flick for a eight-year-old.

It sucked then, and it still kinda sucks now. I've got to admit though, I was expecting a lot worse. First, let's knock out the primary plot of Jaws IV, so for the hopefully many of you who haven't wasted your time, you'll know what I'm talking about. God damn, this movie was about three steps away from being good. The first trimester of the film is pretty mundane, so I slapped together this graphical montage to explain it off quickly before getting to the good stuff.

I must admit, I'm pretty proud of my shoddy Jaws IV plotline montage. Aesthetics aside, it does wonders for examining a part of the movie that drags worse than a Mama's Family marathon. Here's the deal: Ellen Brody still lives in Cape Cod. Yes, this is the wife of Martin from the first two films, back again for more shark action. Only this time, Martin's dead from a heart attack. Oh well. But it serves as a perfect excuse for Ellen to devise one of the stranger conspiracy theories I've ever heard.

See, Ellen decides that the great white shark is out for revenge - it wants to eat the entire Brody clan. Obviously, this is preposterous. For soooo many reasons: number one, it ain't the same shark. The other sharks are DEAD. If this is a relative of those sharks, so be it...but they still don't have thoughts of revenge. But okay, suspension of belief for the sake of entertainment, I know the drill. Unfortunately, things get weirder. Ellen's only living son shows up and makes her come stay with them at their house at the Bahamas. Within three days, the same exact shark shows up. Huh? Great whites are pretty fast, but they're not propelled by rocket jets, nor can they teleport to different hemispheres at a whim. I'm not the only critic who's pointed this out. Actually, if I overlooked this, I'd be the only critic who didn't. Stupid twists aside, that's your general plot: the shark IS out to kill the Brody family, hellbent on revenge because the ghost of one of its relatives told it that Martin Brody shot it in the head. My god, Michael Caine missed the opportunity to accept his only Golden Globe award to film this? Poor guy.

The real problem is that the shark, simply, couldn't get to the Bahamas in anywhere near the time he could. This might not seem like a huge oversight, but believe me, once you watch the movie, it jumps right out at you. Sharks with super-speed? Not likely - there's only two ways to potentially explain off how the shark swam down the whole east coast, from pillar to post, in under three days:

Reason 1 -- Jaws can fly: the shark could've certainly made it from Cape Cod to the Bahamas in three days with a pilot's license. Hell, he'd have time to spare. Problem is, sharks can't sustain life out of water even for the few hours it would take to fly there - and let's face it, cockpits aren't big enough for sharks. Now, before you go all CRAZY and suggest that Jaws fashioned a plane large enough for one with his stature, I should remind you than an interesting thing happens to great white sharks if their bodies aren't in constant movement: they die. Sorry guys, this one ain't flyin'.

Reason 2 -- Jaws entered a sort-of alter-universe, where the regular laws of space and time do not apply: now, here's a better way to explain it off. Jaws isn't only the first shark with the ability to stand on its tail out of the water for 10-second intervals, he's the first shark who's learned the intricate tricks of the inter-dimensional travel trade.

I could've supplied other plausible reasons, such as giant shark catapults, movie connections to Star Trek, or director stupidity, but in cases like these, I've always felt its best to leave it up to the viewer. So guys, you come up with your own reasoning. Let's get on with the movie already. Now, the shark doesn't attack often, but when it does: somebody's gonna die. There's a whole lotta fodder over in the Bahamas, so Jaws gets a number of chances to show off his whites and delight movie-goers everywhere who lived under the false assumption that this movie was going to be, primarily, about a killer shark. Unfortunately, we've got another pretty major problem on our hands. Any Jaws sequel would pull it money, but by the fourth time, its just not quite the commodity it used to be. In other words, we're not working with any huge budget here. But its not Ellen Brody or Michael Caine who suffer because of it - its the shark itself.

I don't know about you, but this sorry sack of plywood and grey paint isn't exactly leaving me moist with terror. The shark's obviously been hit hardest by the budget cuts. In this flick, the shark doesn't look vaguely realistic, it simply looks vaguely like a shark. Problem is, the animatronics are so fucked up that its doing things that sharks would never do, such as what looks to be a classic dance of the Charleston, not to mention having the ability to walk around on top of the water using its tail fin. Guess all those extra bucks spent on getting such an esteemed actor as Mario Van Peebles to co-star really took a big chunk out of the shark fund. Oh well, maybe next time. Its still workable, but nowhere near the level of realistic terror the first movie had. Ironically, that seems to be the steadfast theme of this entire movie. But it does have a few strong points...let's go through them real quick. Actually, quick is the only way to go through 'em. They're not incredibly numerous.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the movie was Lorraine Gary's memorable performance. I don't know, I've always been a sucker for the maternal, middle-aged woman being hunted by sea monsters. Lorraine doesn't phone it in here, which would have been a more than understandable way of going about things. Instead, she gives what's undeniably a great job on the acting side - if a little out of place. She's solemn and depressed over her son's death one minute, giddy and happy the next while being wooed by Michael Caine, her love interest in the film, and an all-around good guy. Gary's stuck in an impossible postion here - Jaws IV is a bad movie, and no matter how well she plays Ellen Brody, it doesn't make a different. If Christ himself walked down from the heavens to take on this shark, even that wouldn't save it.

Ellen Brody herself is quite the interesting little number. There's this whole subtle subplot where she's convinced she's too ugly for Michael Caine. I'm not kidding - they actually played out the ugly duckling angle with the all-time queen of the aqua-movie scene. Example: Michael Caine asks if he can kiss her, and Ellen responds that he must 'need glasses'. The weirdness doesn't end there. She also likes to get loaded in the middle of the night with her son, not to mention trying to take on 30' great white sharks on a boat, alone, in the middle of the ocean, completely and totally unarmed. Way to go, Ellen!

Because everyone starring in this movie needs to go out of their way to put themselves in front of the shark, Ellen's other son is a marine biologist. Just another example of this movie's flawed logic. Michael, her son, invited Ellen down to the Bahamas to take her mind off her other son - who was just viciously murdered in the ocean by a killer shark. I guess nobody told him she might be a little upset that he goes deep-sea diving every weekday from 9-5, or that his daughter likes to float on banana rafts with no adults in sight, or, best yet, that their freaking house is right on the shore. What's worse? Michael's little kid is one of the most annoying creatures on the planet, obviously the archetype model for the Pepsi Girl, who manages to bring up her dead uncle in every single conversation with grandma, whether its about dinner or skin rashes. This obviously wasn't the best place to go to forget her troubles, but we can just thank god Michael Caine was there to swipe her off her feet and make her forget she even has a dead son. Martin Brody would be rolling over in his grave. Roy Scheider, on the other hand, just thanked God for the intuition not to get involved with this mess.

Oh, for those interested, here's a chart detailing everyone the shark attacks in the film. Don't ask, I'm just in a chart-making mood today. Later on I'll try to figure out the exact point in time where Bartman t-shirts went out of fashion. Izzal in the numbers, you see.

Amazingly enough, Van Peebles does survive the attack, despite a clear scene where we see the shark drag his bloody carcass under water, torso in his jaws. Oh well, maybe we weren't really supposed to see that. Kind of like when you overhear a priest saying an obsentity, or talking about how he has a crush on your son. In any event, Van Peebles had no right surviving, since it forces us to actually forget that we just saw him get eaten by the shark - but since he's such a crazyman, we'll let it slide. By the way, as shitty as the movie was, I'm telling you, the performances save it. These guys probably just figured they were making a shitty movie, but they were getting paid to do it, so it looks like they had a lot of fun. And you know...even if I was the most esteemed actor on the planet, and according to my mother I am, I'm not so sure I could turn down the opportunity to be in a real Jaws movie, even if I knew it'd be a black mark on the resume. If watching this again would get me a spot as an extra in the next movie, I'm willing to go through that torment. After all, who doesn't want to have a stake in a franchise like this? This is sharks we're talking about here.

I guess its time to wrap up this little dog and pony show, which as much as it pains me, means I have to explain the ending. I don't know how many of you read the Internet Movie Database, but suffice to say, its *THE* site for the movie fan. I've spent entire nights combing through the place. Anyway, they have links for external reviews of flicks, and in every review I've read of Jaws IV, there's one defining factor: the ending sucks and makes absolutely no sense. It just pops up out of nowhere, as if the director finally realized that this sham and shame of a movie had gone on long enough, and decided that the shark needed to die as soon as possible, at the expense of giving us any explanation as to how he died. I'd do another graph to explain this, but I think my usual movie review method of 3" lined-up pics better suits the purpose.

Ellen gets this silly idea in her head that she can take on the shark by herself, but fortunately, everyone else flies a plane to her hijacked ship to help out. Needless to say, she needs all the help she can get, because this is no normal shark. Aside from being between 30-40' long, this Jaws is able to survive out of water for extended periods of time, is an accomplished gymnast, and is able to eat entire chunks of the boat with ease. So, Ellen decides that if she pulls the front of the boat close enough to the shark, he'll explode into a thousand pieces.

And she's right!! Actually, thanks to frame-by-frame animation, I can sorta guess at what they were trying to do here. They're suggesting that if you spear the shark with a small broken pole, it'll explode like a neutron bomb. Hey, whatever works. We've already seen him die from bombs and gunshot wounds in the other movies, at least this is something new.

Overall: Jaws IV is a dissapointment for anyone looking for a good movie...but I went in expecting a bad movie, so I was somewhat pleasantly surprised. There aren't many shark movies out there, and I've got a pretty odd passion about the stupid fish, so even with all the ridiculous plot holes, this one can stay. There's a certain charm about this flick that the other movies lack...somehow, this one seems to end on a happier note, because as a result of all the ocean chicanery, Ellen Brody gets hooked up with millionaire playboy Michael Caine. If that ain't a happy ending, I don't know what is. Reccomended for people who don't expect too much.

Best part is, Jaws IV finally answers the eternal question: is anything more embarassing to wear than a New Kids on the Block hat?

To Purchase Jaws: The Revenge: Click Here. (only 9.99 on DVD!)
More X-E Jaws Mania: Jaws III Trading Cards!

And, to close my beginning story: no, I still don't go in the ocean. Those sharks, they scare me. A few years back I went against my primal instincts with the desire to impress my then-girlfriend by overcoming my fears and going waverunning. I was actually doing pretty well, that is, until I made a sharp turn to avoid one of those stupid floating things, fell off the waverunner, and had to swim about 90' to it in the middle of the ocean. When I got back to shore, I was in shock for around three hours. I told my girlfriend that the next time I wanted to impress her, I'd just recite every line from Earth Girls Are Easy. Jaws, you fucked me up.

- Matt