After Jaws 2 hit theatres and was the highest-grossing sequel up to that point in time, producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck were interested in making the third installment a send-up of the previous two films, entitled Jaws 3, People 0. They went so far as to hire the producer of National Lampoon’s Animal House to oversee the production, but alas the studio told Zanuck and Brown that they didn’t want to be seen as “Fouling in our own nest” so the parody idea was shelved and a more “serious” version was put in the works.
Now in the 80s, there was a resurgence of 3D movies, mainly in the horror genre with the likes of Friday the 13th 3D and Amityville 3D, so the studio thought Jaws 3D was the obvious way to go. sigh If only we lived in a world where the spoof version existed and not this “new dimension in terror.”
Jaws 3D went through many drafts, with the likes of Richard Matheson working on early drafts, and at one point the shark in this movie would have been the burn-scarred shark from Jaws 2. Give the shark a hockey mask and they’d have been on their way to making the parody they’d shitcanned earlier. Matheson was also forced to include the two Brody sons, even though he thought the idea was dumb, and so the “Curse of the Brody Family” really starts to take hold. We learn that Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) has become an engineer and is currently working at a new Sea World park, while his younger brother Sean (John Putch) is visiting from Colorado. Mike informs his girlfriend Kay Morgan (Bess Armstrong), who is the park’s head of marine biology, that his brother chose the University of Colorado so as to get as far away from water as possible. Then Sean meets water skier Kelly Bukowski (Lea Thompson) and the lure of sex gets him into the water, with the expected results.
The original script by Matheson had the central premise being a Great White Shark swimming upstream and becoming trapped in a lake, but several script doctors later and it’s now taking place in a newly constructed Sea World owned by Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr.), which to fair this idea could have worked if the aforementioned script doctors weren’t obviously doing all the cocaine they could get their hands on.
The basic plot of Jaws 3-D is that a Great White Shark has followed a group of water skiers into the park, it eats one of Mike’s subordinates before it makes itself known, and then it is captured by Kay and visiting nature photographer Phillip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale). Because Bouchard is your standard movie capitalist he ignores Kay’s advice and moves the Great White into an exhibit tank before it has a chance to properly recover from being drugged, and it dies. Things get a bit tense when the chewed up corpse of Mike’s worker floats in front of some tourists that were walking through the Undersea Kingdom, and then the tension ratchets up even more when Kay sees the bite marks on the body and realizes that there is a much bigger shark out there and that what they had captured was its baby.
If that plot sounds vaguely familiar that would be because it’s kind of the plot to the giant monster movie Gorgo. In that film, a large prehistoric monster is captured and put on exhibit, but then the scientists discover that the creature they have is just an infant, right in time for the colossal mother shows up and trash London. That this 1961 British monster movie has a more credible story than this shark movie is one of life’s cruel ironies.
The amount of things wrong with Jaws 3-D is staggering, but first and foremost are the visual effects and the shark itself. The optical work and the barely movable shark prop would have been considered crap if they’d shown up in a Roger Corman film in the 60s, but certainly not what you’d expect from a major studio.
Now I’ve seen my fair share of poorly-written shark movies but what sets this one apart is of course is the 3D element, now if you do get a chance to see the new 3D Bluray release I do advise it as the 3D stuff is actually quite fun, but if you watch it in 2D you may be left wondering why there are all these endless shots of objects just pointing at the camera.
At the studio’s request, the filmmakers were forced to add more “Coming at ya!” gimmicks than were originally intended and every time they appear they stop any momentum a scene had cold. The greatest detractor is in any of the dark scenes as then the screen becomes murky and almost unwatchable at times, add an optical layer to these shots and they become twice as bad. Some of the 3D underwater sequences are quite good, but once again the second an optical effect floats on to screen it becomes laughably bad.
Even the 1969 Captain Nemo and the Underwater City had better effects than this
The film is directed by Joe Alves, the man who was the production designer for the previous two Jaws films, and learning that this was his one and only time in the director’s chair did not surprise me. He may be a helluva production designer but he had no business being behind the camera. He was criticized by some for failing to “linger long enough on the Great White” but if you’ve seen the mechanical travesty he was stuck working with I’d say cutting down on shots of the shark is one thing I can’t blame him for.
The classic Jaws theme does return for this outing but not composer John Williams, this time it falls to composer Alan Parker who does his best with the subject matter, but one can only polish a turd so much. In fact, I’d say using the original Jaws theme hurt the film more than it helped as all it did was remind us of that much better film. That this movie wasn’t the last in the series is the true mystery here. The critical response was universally negative and the box office returns for Jaws 3-D were $120 million less than the total lifetime gross of Jaws 2 and $400 million less than the original Jaws. Still, it did manage to be number one at the Box Office when it was released back in 1983 so I guess Jaws: The Revenge was inevitable.
Further Jaws 3-D Observations:
• Sean Brody is the king of the bar game “Stand-Off” Was this game ever an actual thing?
• Sharks continue to growl in this series.
• People continue to talk while having scuba regulators in their mouths.
• The shark is constantly seen swimming backwards even though it’s physically impossible for them to do so.
• Kate rubs her bare around back and forth across the sick shark. This would result in the shark’s abrasive skin flaying the skin off Kate’s hand.
• Why is a world-renowned nature photographer taking pictures in a park?
• The Undersea Kingdom exhibit seems designed to trap and kill guests if anything goes wrong.
• FitzRoyce is swallowed whole by the shark, but for some reason stays in the shark’s mouth even after it has eaten another park employee.
• The shark is able to bend a steel restraining bar by just waving its tail back and forth.
• Our heroes are in an enclosed flooded room when a grenade goes off and suffer no after-effects such as death or at least ruptured eardrums.
• The park’s dolphins distract the shark so that the humans can get away, but in reality, dolphins are notorious for killing sharks. They should have been the film’s heroes.
• And finally, what and the hell kind of accent was Louis Gossett Jr. trying to pull off?
Jaws 3-D (1983)
This film illustrates the Hollywood laws of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels; the script was ludicrous, the acting downright terrible and the 3D gimmick wasn’t enough to overcome some of the worst visual effects ever put to film.