Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Jaws - Film Review

Complete with an unforgettable score and terrifying jump scares, Steven Spielberg's 1974 film Jaws really is a monstrous titan of cinema that has made quite the name for itself. The film follows the story of a quaint American beach town, Amity, as it falls victim to the evil doings of a terrorising great white shark who has taken up residency in their bays. After a series of horrendous shark attacks, where there seems to be only one possible outcome, head of police Martin Brody (Rob Scheider) takes it upon himself to stand up for his community and rid the town of this monster. Brody soon acquires the welcome assistance of Oceanographer and all round shark enthusiast, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), who's character not only brings a vast amount of aquatic knowledge to the film, but also a more light hearted and comedic presence that helps shape Jaws into the type of film Spielberg clearly wanted to create. After another wave of attacks, Brody and Hooper soon start to make assumptions as to what type of creature they could be dealing with and decide that outside assistance is needed, which leads them to the obvious choice of known shark killer and all round hard man, Quint (Robert Shaw). Now working as a complete trio of heroic shark hunters, the group set out into the ocean to track and hunt this aquatic assassin, and put an end to the nightmares it has been causing the town. After a short stint hunting the beast, a welcome reminder of the fact that Jaws isn't a horror film shows itself in the form of a light hearted and well written conversation between the three men, involving the group comparing different wounds and scars, which seems to be Spielberg's way of giving the audience one last piece of developed character arch to cling on to before he delivers the final blow. The film now sets in motion one of the most memorable finale sequences to ever grace the big screen, as the monster finally fully shows himself to the audience and destroys the boat, killing Quint in the process and leaving Brody to fend for himself as Hooper is stuck below the waves hiding. Just as there seems to be no way out for the likely hero, he finds a lifeline in the form of a gas canister which ultimately eradicates the bay of the menace and leaves the ocean littered with little pieces of great white, leaving audiences to revel in the monster movie masterpiece they have just witnessed.


Fig 1: Jaws, Movie Poster

To many, Jaws feels as if it serves one purpose alone, to petrify audiences around the world and eradicate any desire a viewer had to ever go swimming again. However to some, Jaws feels as if it is screaming out to be personified and turned into one giant man eating metaphor. In the past, Jaws has been taken to mean different things to different audiences, with the shark taking on different roles, Kermode states that "As a film, it has been variously interpreted as everything from a depiction of masculinity in crisis to a post-Watergate paranoid parable about corrupt authority figures." (Kermode, 2015), this shows just how many different ways the themes in Jaws can be taken. It almost feels as if the shark itself embodies an individual's own personal fear, for Brody it was the idea of something coming into his life and unhinging his family, for Hooper it was the idea that his greatest finding to date could slip from his grasp right before his eyes, and to Quint it was the idea that a beast of nature could out do and better his hunting skills. It feels as if the idea of nature overpowering man is something that Spielberg had intended to come across when viewing Jaws. We see this notion of foreign beings destroying modern civilisations lives reappear countless times in Spielberg's future work, whether it be through the role of director or producer, in films such as Jurassic Park and Gremlins, which both show man kind trying desperately to deal with creatures and motives outside of their every day lives. This begins to suggest ideas that Spielberg may have had himself, when not just creating jaws, but throughout most of his directing career. It seems that Spielberg  enjoyed showing his audience how mundane and ill equipped modern day civilisations have become when faced with issues outside of the norm.


Fig 2: Jaws, Screenshot

Throughout the majority of Jaws, it seems fairly obvious what kind of tale Spielberg is trying to tell, the horrific story of a monster terrorising an innocent town, a theme that audiences have seen play out countless times in the horror genre. However toward the half way point of the film, Spielberg begins to really develop the main characters back story, making the audience feel genuine emotion for the main trio and their stories, which almost forces Jaws out of the horror genre and helps bombard its way into the action/adventure side of cinema, as it proves to be extremely rare for a viewer to find themselves feeling any kind of sympathy for characters in horror films who's only job seems to be to serve as cannon fodder. The fact that Spielberg spent time developing these characters and their motives really is a testament to just how hard the director worked, considering the three could of easily been disposal pieces of the film, as the real selling point will always be the shark. Others have stated that "As a trio, their chemistry is superb" (Chilton, 2015), this group of characters may well have been the piece of Jaws that helped this icon of cinema become the legend it now is, whether Spielberg intended it or not. Looking into Spielberg's filmography really helps to suggest which part of cinema Spielberg wants the majority of his work to fall into, with the likes of E.TJurassic Park and The Goonies to his name, there is no doubt that the legendary director had his heart set on creating films that a huge variety of audience could enjoy, which has certainly helped craft Spielberg into a cherished piece of filmic history. At first glance, Jaws doesn't necessarily come across as film for all audiences, as it could prove a touch to gory for some, however with the comedic edge of Hooper and the all round liveability of Brody, Jaws almost becomes and 'Indiana' style adventure piece.
Fig 3: Jaws, Screenshot


Fit with one of the most memorable scores of all time, courtesy of John Williams, Jaws has truly landed a well deserved spot in the history of cinema by gouging out the hole for future blockbusters to fill. Like most people who have seen the film, Ebert states that Jaws is "one hell of a good story, brilliantly told." (Ebert, 1975), which is interesting as more often than not in modern cinema, audiences are forced to watch a brilliant story being poorly told, something that lets too many films down now a days, but with films such as Poltergeist and Duel in his resume, this is definitely not something that has let any of Spielberg's work down. When making Jaws, it is widely known that Spielberg and his team had faced a few issues whilst filming, including a malfunctioning robot shark. However even with all these technical difficulties, Spielberg managed to create one of the most widely recognised films of all time, along with an iconic movie villain audiences would fear for an eternity.

Bibliography

Ebert, Roger, 1975, Jaws, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jaws-1975, Accessed on 09/02/16

Chilton, Martin, 2015, Jaws, review: 'brilliant and terrifying', http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/jaws/review/, Accessed on 09/02/16

Kermode, Mark, 2015, Jaws, 40 years on: ‘One of the truly great and lasting classics of American cinema’, http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/31/jaws-40-years-on-truly-great-lasting-classics-of-america-cinema, Accessed on 09/02/16

Illustration List

Fig 1: Movie Poster, Jaws, http://www.slashfilm.com/original-jaws-poster-art-missing/, Accessed on 09/02/16

Fig 2: Screenshot, Jaws, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/29/entertainment/gallery/jaws-40th-anniversary/index.html, Accessed on 09/02/16

Fig 3: Screenshot, Jaws, http://gizmodo.com/40-years-of-bad-science-how-jaws-got-everything-wrong-1712384448, Accessed on 09/02/16




4 comments:

  1. A lovely enthused and enthusing review - makes me want to watch it again! Just a side note: Spielberg produced The Goonies, Gremlins and Poltergeist - he didn't direct them - but his influence looms large in all those movies.

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    1. Thanks Phil! Oh I'll change that then!

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