Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jaws 3-D

Similar to what we’re experiencing these days at the theaters, the 80s saw an eruption of 3D films being released.  As my formative years took place in that decade, I took advantage of the time by going to see quite a few movies and was able to see three of those films in 3D.  Two were memorable and one was very forgettable—so forgettable that I had to look up the list of 3D films from the 1980s to see what was the name of that movie (it was Treasure of the Four Crowns, a Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off that put me to sleep when I watched it).  But the two films I’d enjoyed during that wave of 3D releases was Friday the 13th Part III and Jaws 3-D.

As I’d mentioned, Friday the 13th Part III was in 3D and, for the most part, had terrible three-dimensional scenes.  I remember just getting a headache from the glasses as it seemed that everything was out of whack.  When a year went by, however, and Jaws 3-D was released to theaters, I was amazed by the 3D effects and still remember, to this day, how the audience reacted to the film—I even recalled the two girls that happened to be sitting in front of me and how they screamed at some parts and reached out towards the screen in others. 

However, just like today, the film was shot in 3D so we wouldn’t notice how bad the movie really was.  It was a gimmick and a pretty good one (I still remember that opening shot where the fish head floated towards the audience—I could’ve sworn that thing was right in front of me!), so much so that I didn’t even notice how bad the movie had been (Avatar anybody?). 

Well, before I get into it too much, let me synopsize the story for you.

Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), son of Amity Island police chief, Martin Brody, is all grown up now and is the chief engineer of Seaworld in Florida, working alongside his girlfriend, Kay Morgan (Bess Armstrong), who
is the senior biologist of the park.  Just like in Amity Island all those years ago, a Great White shark—this one, 35 feet in length—is able to get into the park’s lagoon and wreak havoc within the park.  With the waterski entertainers at risk and park patrons stuck in an underwater observatory, Mike and Kay must try and stop the unrelenting threat.

You know, it wasn’t until years later, when I was able to purchase this film on home media, that I discovered how mediocre this entry had been.  I guess I was carried away as a 12-year-old to see such a spectacle, with the 3D effects being very well done and in your face.  Now, when popping in this DVD, I find myself bored at times, looking at my phone for sports scores or checking social media sites rather than paying full attention to the film.  It’s one thing when you’re sitting in a dark movie theater with 3D glasses on, having everything seeming to float in front of you, and another to watch this two-dimensionally on your television at home during the day.

Now, there are pros and cons about this film, having some merits here and there, but then having those qualities becoming meaningless by the flaws of the film. 

I guess it was a good choice to bring the characters of Mike Brody and his younger brother, Sean (John Putch), into the story.  It was a nice tie to the first two films, but paper-thin at best.  The whole plot of a shark getting into the lagoon of an ocean-based amusement park was pretty ingenious, even adding the underwater attraction for added danger and eerie views of the shark.  Although the film being shot in 3D was most definitely a gimmick, it was a nice touch to give the audience a sense of how it’d be like swimming around in the depths of the ocean.

Unfortunately, this film hasn’t aged well, especially with the special effects.  The use of a mechanical shark in the water doesn’t seem to be the preferred method of displaying the creature in this film.  Instead, it appears they used one in front of a blue screen and superimposed it onto oceanic scenes.  The same goes for the underwater observatory, dubbed the “Undersea Kingdom,” where it looks like some bad blue screen was utilized to get those shots as well.  Finally, the shark doesn’t seem that menacing at all, shown to swim around very slowly and baring its teeth at times—it appears that most people in danger could easily outswim the beast if they really wanted to.  One scene, in particular, shows Bouchard’s friend, the well-known hunter, Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale), swimming ahead of the shark very slowly and taking photos of it when they’re trapping it in a pump tunnel.  The shark just floats forward at a fraction of a knot or so with FitzRoyce easily pulling himself along by his lifeline.  When the rope breaks free, he panics and practically swims into the shark’s mouth.

I understand certain shots needed to be filmed the way they were in order to have the 3D effects stand out, but Friday the 13th Part III did a better job of it even though their three-dimensional filming was worse.
As for any character development, you would think there’d be quite a bit.  Now that I’m older and appreciate the drama between the human characters of the first film—as well as a little of the second—it would’ve been nice to have a little exchange between the brothers, Mike and Sean.  It’s touched upon a little of how Sean is afraid of the water—especially the ocean—and that was a chance for the filmmakers to maybe have a little exposition between them, having them talk about what they’d gone through in the second film.  How much better would Sean’s character have been if we saw how scarred he still was?  If he would’ve expressed his fear of the water by talking out his near-death experience, explaining the psychological trauma of being on those wrecked sail boats and seeing a couple of people killed by a shark.  Instead, he mentions it—as well as Mike—but then it’s soon forgotten.

Without getting too much further into this review, let me give you my final “bit” on Jaws 3-D.

In comparison to the first two films of the franchise, this film is a cheesy dud, worth a watch but maybe with
some buddies over to laugh it out.  The story was a novel idea but executed poorly, surrounded by stupid plotlines and characters you really don’t care about.  The acting was horrible by some cast members (Louis Gossett Jr. always gets on my nerves in this one when I hear his phony Louisiana drawl), yet some weren’t so bad.

But I’ll leave you with a couple of things to note...

First, Jaws 3-D looks like a masterpiece when comparing it to the final sequel, Jaws: The Revenge—stay away from that stinker.  I’m not even going to attempt to review that one since I’ve only seen it once—and believe me…once was more than enough.

Second, the movie was actually pitched as a comedy, sort of a spoof on the Jaws saga, with National Lampoon being involved.  The title is actually pretty funny—Jaws 3, People 0.  Some items of note to be involved in the story was author Peter Benchley being eaten in his pool by a shark and Bo Derek running around naked.  After seeing how the movie actually turned out, I would’ve preferred the National Lampoon version.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the movies!

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