Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jaws - Social Darwinism at its best?

My first movie for this blog is 1975’s Jaws. Starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws tells the story of a New York beach town that is met by doom when a great white shark moves to town and starts committing premeditated homicide on fat Americans. I chose this film because it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I figured I would pay homage. Jaws was made from a novel by Peter Benchley, which was inspired by a true story of a shark attack in a New Jersey lake.

When I told people I would be watching this movie for the blog, a lot of people told me it was a “perfect” movie. I guess I can see how people would say that, but for me it fell just a little flat. I enjoyed it overall, but I don’t think it’s perfect.

The movie wasted no time on the action, with the first victim dying less than 3 minutes in. I really liked that it didn’t take long to get right into the story- I’m not a fan of a ton of long, drawn out exposition in a movie. Right off the bat, though, I got angry at most of the characters.

It was really frustrating to me how political the town was – the character of Chief Brody was trying really hard to keep these people safe, and it was more about money and not disturbing the fun holiday weekend for everyone. Although it was making me mental to watch the attitudes of all these people, it hit me that it was probably very realistic. That is probably exactly what would happen in real life. And that made me very sad.

The thing I hated about this movie is that everyone was annoying. I had no empathy for any of the characters in this film, which was hard to deal with. They were all stereotypical selfish, lazy stupid Americans who cared more about their own leisure than human life. So when people started dying, I felt like they deserved it. Even when the kids died I didn't feel bad- their parents' pain seemed startlingly deserved to me. Almost as if the shark was performing his own natural selection.

Hooper, clearly, was the best character in the film. That didn’t surprise me – he was great. I loved how matter-of-fact he was about the whole thing- it was just “I can help you, or you all can die. Your choice.” He and the Chief were the only ones who made any sense throughout the whole movie.

The scenes with the shark were fun – watching it for the first time almost 35 years after it was made obviously makes me biased toward special effects. It clearly was not the best quality

My favorite part about the whole film was the score. I absolutely LOVED the music, and I thought it was one part about the movie that was truly perfect. It was dark and moody, then all of a sudden it was uplifting and jolly, and it kind of catches you off guard.

Overall, I did like this movie. It got to my emotions, but not in the way I expected. It wasn’t scary and I didn’t connect with the characters, but it pissed me off and I found myself caring about what happened even if I didn’t care about the people.

I give Jaws 3.5 out of 5.


  1. The thing you have to remember is that most of the town didn't really know about the shark until the Kitner boy got killed. The mayor wouldn't let the info out. Even when the news got out, he sold the first shark they caught as "the one" to keep people coming to the beach. Mind you, the people were willing to believe it, but people are a simple lot.

  2. For me it was one of the biggest strengths of the movie that the villain was not the shark. The Mayor and the townspeople were the villains and the chief the reluctant hero.

    The special effects were bad and that's why we almost never see the shark. But the sense of dread when the story and the score tell you the shark is around works so well for me that I don't want to see the shark.

  3. I saw Peter Benchley speak at neaq (after Jaws, he learned a lot about sharks and got involved with shark conservation -- one of the things he'd talk about was how unrealistic the shark was). But there was an interesting bit where he talked about some of the interpretations of his novel. Apparently Fidel Castro loved it, and believed it was an allegory about the horrors of capitalism. But Benchley was like, yeah I just thought it would be interesting to write about a shark.