Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the cinema. Forty years ago, Steven Spielberg brought us the first summer blockbuster: Jaws. But now even the progenitor has fallen victim to the machine of Hollywood sequels, prequels, and reboots. Jaws 19 (aka “Jawsome”, “Rise of the Return of Jaws” and “Jaws Bites Back”) is the most recent addition to the franchise that has been floundering and swimming on-and-off since the second movie. The nineteenth movie comes with eye-popping, mind-blowing 3D effects that literally jump off the screen thanks to the advanced holofilm technology developed in recent years. The film was directed, produced, written, filmed, edited, and partially-composed by Max Spielberg, who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps literally after a one-off stint where he aided in the development of Carrie 2: The Rage. Quite the leap. But the bite has been lost from this once great landmark of a franchise, so let’s go shark hunting for what went wrong.
Let’s face it, ever since the first film, everyone has tried to do their own “killer animal” films and they’ve all failed. But as recently discovered, it turned out every shark movie released in the last forty years regardless of quality were all quietly, privately funded by the producers of the first movie to keep the spirit of Jaws alive. Talk about commitment. So, even though there have only been nineteen films considered canon, you could say that there have been over forty Jaws movies. But only one has been great. The sequels themselves are a mixed bag of shark guts, each getting worse and worse. We all know the second, third, and fourth are all regarded as cult classics nowadays, but each one that followed tried to go with the popular trends or reinvent the iconic shark. The fifth one was purely for profit, while most people try to forget the horrendousness that was Jaws 6. That’s what you get for hiring Tommy Wiseau as director. Who tries to make sharks look attractive?
J.A.W.S. 7 and Jaws 8 struck fear into the hearts of the 90s generation with Cyber Jaws and Robo Jaws, and then Jaws 9 saw Chief Brody’s grandson form a badass team of shark hunters to take down the brute for good, only for Jaws 10 to introduce new enemies like the dreaded giant octopus Claws in the deathmatch of the year. Then things went downhill again with Jaws in Space, the prequel Jaws: First Blood Parts 1 and 2, and the family sitcom Jaws 14: Son of Jaws. Jaws then went to Russia in the fifteenth movie where he went tooth to tooth with his Russian rival Ivan Sharkovski, took a bite out of New York in the sixteenth movie, and even found a newfound love for humanity in Jaws: Fifty Scales of Grey.
But then the producers did the unthinkable and rebooted the entire franchise, introducing a new continuity in the shape of Jaws: Origins, being a remake of the original, starring Channing Tatum as Chief Brody, Dwayne Johnson as Quint, and a reimagined female version of Hooper played by Bryce Dallas Howard. The film cherry picked the highlights from the original movie, and fashioned the shark completely via crude computer effects. And yet, for all of its faults, it did well at the box office, and here we are with the nineteenth installment. And for all of the garbage Jaws has been through, this has got to be worst.
So to the story. The film is a sequel to Jaws: Origins, but set many years into the future. Well, they haven’t done that yet. Global warming has finally kicked in and many places like Amity Island have been taken by the seas. Not that it matters since humanity have built underwater cities including the Amity Hub, which was cleverly created by taking shots of actual cities and green-screening an aquatic background in it.
The city is protected by a giant glass dome that is destined to be smashed apart, and a crazy old marinebiologist played by Richard Dreyfuss who is called “Mr. Hooper” warns them that the old shark of legend will come to retake his domain. Yeah, the reboot’s sequel has already messed up its timeline. And surprise, surprise, our favourite shark returns from the depths to chow down on the unwitting citizens, who face both death by drowning and death by Jaws, who comes accompanied by a gang of other sharks that happen to escape the city’s giant aquarium.
What can I say that hasn’t been said before? It is what you’d expect of a sequel made with no care. The characters are paper thin and simply there to be eaten like this is a slasher flick, the plot makes no sense, and the special effects beyond the occasional use of puppetry and animatronics are abysmal. The film makes constant references to the original movie and events of both it and Jaws: Origins, like the tiger shark skeleton on display in a museum, two pranksters surprising people with a fake shark fin, and the climax which starts off good when the sharks all turn on each other quickly becomes stale when they abandon the fight in favour of paying homage to the classic line at the end of the original movie.
Seriously, this movie feels more like another remake of Jaws but set in the far future. The police chief is Brody’s descendant, the mayor is a slimy gold digger, and Dreyfuss’ character is so obviously meant to be the same one from 1975 they might as well hold a giant sign above his head. To balance this out, there are some minor positives. The sharks all teaming up to hunt down prey are kinda cool, the music is decent, and the scenes actually shot underwater with all the marine life is like something out of a nature documentary. But they cannot save this movie alone, or this franchise.
Jaws 19 is a mess and a half, but it seems just like everyone else, the studio already knows it will make big bucks and have already circulated rumours of up to six more Jaws movies including Jaws: The Musical. Frankly speaking, this film series should’ve started and finished back in 1975.
Oh, and the shark still looks fake.
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