No movie series epitomizes the Hollywood sequel machine and the “Law of Diminishing Returns” more than the Jaws series. In 1975 Steven Spielberg unleashed a summer blockbuster that terrified audiences around the world with his seminal film Jaws, then in 1987 they attempted to scare us with “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Water” in Jaws 2, then adding a new dimension in terror we got Jaws 3D which married a moronic script with some of the worst special effects ever put to screen, and finally we got Jaws: The Revenge a film whose premise was beyond laughable, a movie so bad that it’s one of the few to have ever achieved 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
With the disaster that was Jaws 3D, it’s not surprising that for Jaws: The Revenge the studio would pretend that film never happened. No longer is the older Brody kid an engineer building water parks, now Michael Brody (Lance Guest) is a marine biologist working on his doctorate by studying the migration habits of sea snails. In Jaws 3D, the youngest Brody went to school in Colorado to get as far away from the water as possible, but now Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson) is following in his late father’s footsteps and works for the Amity Island police department. The movie opens with a horrific shark attack on Sean when he is sent out to clear a log that has jammed up against a channel marker. The scene is so poorly edited, with many cuts lasting less than an eighth of a second, that you can’t really tell what’s going on and clearly done to hide how shitty-looking the shark looks.
It’s with the death of Sean that the film’s tagline of “This time it’s personal” comes into play as Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) is sure the shark is targeting her family. Back in Jaws 2 Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) asked an expert if a shark could have heard about the death of one of their own and come seeking revenge, and he was told, “Sharks don’t take things personally, Mister Brody.” So what evidence does Ellen Brody have to refute this? Well according to her the shark had killed her husband and now one of her sons. How could one possibly rebut that piece of scientific correlation? When Michael points out that his dad died of a heart attack she responds with, “He died from fear. The fear of it killed him.” This has me imagining that over the years the shark was constantly phoning up Martin Brody and breathing heavily on the line.
Ellen demands that Michael quit his job and no longer work in the water. Being that Michael is a marine biologist this is a pretty crazy demand, but later when we see how Michael actually does his job I’d say she may have been on to something. He kind of sucks. He does try to reassure her that Great White Sharks do not like warm water, so he is completely safe in the waters of the Bahamas, and he even invites her to come and stay with him and his wife and kid for Christmas. She reluctantly agrees, and then over the course of the picture, she is proven right.
Note: This is the world’s fastest shark as it travelled approximately 1,250 miles from Amity Island to the Bahamas in less than three days. Unless this shark is different than the one that killed Sean and that the Brody’s are on some kind of ocean-wide “Kill List” among sharks.
It’s while working with his partner Jake (Mario Van Peebles), in their attempts to get their doctorate studying sea snails, that they encounter the latest shark menace. Jake immediately wants to abandon their current research for the sexier work of studying a Great White Shark. That they are working on government-supplied grant money doesn’t seem to bother him, and Michael goes along with this only stipulating to Jake that, “You can’t tell my mom about the shark.” Let’s take a moment to unpack this.
• Michael has just returned from a funeral for a brother who had just been eaten by a shark.
• Michael’s mother is obsessed with the idea that the shark is out to get them.
• Michael doesn’t want his mom to know about the shark because she would worry.
• Jake wants it kept secret so that the local fisherman won’t hunt and kill it.
• Michael and Jake abandon the job they were being paid to do so as to study something countless scientists have studied.
Are we supposed to like these guys? Not only are Michael and Jake being callous by keeping the appearance of this shark from a person who thinks she’s going a bit nuts, what with her “Shark Vengeance” obsession, and this would go a long way in vindicating her, but they are also endangering the public by keeping this secret. Great White Sharks in the warm waters of the Bahamas are rare, so maybe giving the authorities a heads up that one of these killers from the deep is in the vicinity would be a good idea.
Not only are Michael’s actions reprehensible for the danger it causes regarding the shark, but he’s also shows what a shitty husband he is. His wife Carla (Karen Young) is a local artist and she’s been working on a sculpture for the city, something she says will be a big step forward for her career, but during the big unveiling Michael is too obsessed with the shark to bother showing up for his wife’s big moment. While he’s chasing the shark with Jake, and missing his wife’s art show, their daughter almost becomes shark bait. Carla does freak out when she learns that Michael knew about the shark being in these waters prior to the Banana Boat attack, but I’m thinking divorce proceedings should have been in the works instead of just a lot of yelling. A Brody-fixated shark was in the vicinity and you let your daughter go in the water. What an asshole.
Speaking of obsession; Ellen Brody was right, a shark was tracking down and trying to murder her family so her obsession was justified, that this is actually the plot of a Jaws movie is not. If sharks had some murderous plans for the Brodys they are incredibly bad at their jobs. If Martin Brody blowing up the first shark in the original Jaws is what created this personal vendetta then they really haven’t had much luck carrying it out. In Jaws 2 several people get eaten but in the final score it still ends up with Brodies 2 and Sharks 0 and if you were to include Jaws 3D that would be another win for the Brody Clan. It’s not until the beginning of Jaws: The Revenge that a Brody finally falls to the razor-sharp jaws of the shark (I refuse to include Martin Brody’s heart attack), but then the shark proceeds to fail at eating Michael or any of his family numerous times. Even when it attacks Michael’s little girl on the Banana Boat the shark ends up grabbing the wrong person.
Now let’s talk psychic abilities; not only is Ellen Brody sure that the shark has it in for her family she is psychically sure. When she is out on a date with local pilot Hoagie (Michael Caine) she senses the shark trying to eat her son. How is this possible? We’ve never seen Ellen display such powers in the first two movies. In an early draft of the movie, the “Revenge” aspect of the title was to refer to a Witch Doctor who had used voodoo to send the sharks against the Brody family. Having read neither that early draft nor the novelization that also includes this aspect I have to assume that at some point Sheriff Brody gave a visiting witch doctor a parking ticket, and that dude took it badly. If ever there was a case of “Jumping the Shark” in this series it’s the addition of a mystic component that does it. And sensing danger isn’t Ellen’s only gift; she gets vision in the form of sepia-tone flashbacks.
The movie reaches its idiotic conclusion when Ellen leaps into action, after the failed attack on her granddaughter, by her stealing Michael and Jake’s boat Neptune’s Folly and racing off to face the shark. What is her plan you ask? No fucking clue, she wasn’t even packing her late husband’s gun. So unless her plan revolved around her defeating it in a game of Mah-jong, and it leaving in embarrassment, then I’m not sure how she expected this to turn out. Later when Michael asks her why she took the boat she hysterically answers, “I had to do it. There was nothing else to do.” Well, I guess that clears that mystery up. She’s crazy as a shit house rat. This leaves it up to Michael, Jake, and the adorable Hoagie to save her. Using Hoagie’s plane they are able to locate her but once they spot the shark hot on her tail their only option is to ditch the plane and swim to her aid.
Somehow Michael, Jake and Hoagie managed to swim to Neptune’s Folly without the shark getting so much as a nibble out of anybody, and Hoagie is even able to do so while remaining completely dry as the continuity girl was on break at the time. Jake and Michael managed to cobble together a device that if tossed into the maw of the shark would drive it insane by remotely controlled electrical impulses. I’m not sure how an insane shark is better than a regular killer shark, but I’m willing to go with it. Things seem to be going according to plan until the shark gets a hold of Jake.
Don’t worry, test audiences didn’t like this ending so the filmmakers forced the cast to return for re-shoots and thus we get an ending where Jake inexplicably survives being chewed on by a Great White. I’m just curious as to where they found test audiences that wanted to see Jake live. His cheesy Jamaican accent was so annoying that I’d have volunteered to throw him at the shark myself. The bigger crime here is that Michael Caine was to finally win an Academy Award, for Hannah and Her Sisters, but he couldn’t attend the ceremonies because of these re-shoots for Jaws: The Revenge.
While Lance Guest is sorrowfully yelling, “Jake!” and Michael Caine is calling his agent to find out when the next flight out of the Bahamas is, Lorraine Gary finally gets her big moment as she drives the bowsprit of the boat into the shark.
Apparently, sharks are full of compressed air and if pierced in the right way they will totally explode. This is information you’d clearly know if you watched The Discovery Channel while tripping on LSD. That makes sharks dying by exploding occur in three out of four movies in the Jaws franchise, which is not winning you any points for originality. Now the explodey shark wasn’t part of the original ending; in the cut where Jake died the shark just gushed blood and then sank to the bottom of the ocean, but if you don’t have the villainous shark “Blow up reeeal good!” I guess audiences aren’t going to be happy.
Director Joseph Sargent proceeded over the end of the Jaws franchise with this film and even though this movie ended with a bang one cannot deny that the series itself ended with a whimper. The characters were all unlikable, even Michael Caine was barely tolerable in this film and that’s got to take some effort to achieve, The shark itself gave Jaws 3D a run for its money in the ludicrously looking category, it barely moved and looked to have been dragged through the shot towards whatever actor was supposed to be in peril at the time. Jaws: The Revenge is one of the worst shark movies ever made and I include Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! in that statement.
Note: When asked about Jaws: The Revenge Michael Caine is famously noted as saying “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific!“
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Movie Rank - 4/10
In a franchise killing entry Jaws: The Revenge is a movie that should only be watched with a group of bad movie lovers and liberal quantities of alcohol. Our only real worry is how long will it be until Universal reboots this series.