Jaws is an instant classic. Steven Spielberg's amazing 1975 film not only started the summer blockbuster that would later be cemented by Star Wars in 1977, it also broke the age-old rule that books are usually better than their film adaptations. Although Peter Benchleys novel was good it does definitely feel like a padded story with many different subplots including dealings with the mafia and a love affair between marine biologist Matt Hooper and Ellen Brody, chief Brodys wife. The movie keeps it nice and simple. Shark in the water, swimmers are being eaten, we have to do something about it. The simplicity works to the films advantage on many levels because your film will get through to a wider audience. The characters in the film have a lot more charisma than their mean spirited book counterparts. After reading the book Spielberg admitted that he actually wanted the shark to win because the characters were so unlikable. The movie fixes that issue due to good writing and a great cast.
Roy Scheider plays the ideal everyman with his portrayal of Chief Martin Brody. He just wants to do the right thing during this sticky situation but hes limited by the higher ups of Amity Island especially the greedy mayor Vaughn. You really feel for Brody especially in the scene where a grieving Mrs.Kintner blames him for the death of her son, Alex, even though it isnít his fault. If anything it was the mayors fault. Speaking of which, Murray Hamilton plays such a naﶥ mayor its comedic. Hes the character everyone loves to hate because he refuses to close the beaches. Matt Hooper is probably my favorite character because not only is Richard Dreyfuss performance incredibly charming, I also relate to his love for sharks. Quint is everyones favorite and its easy to see why. Robert Shaws acting throughout the film is very versatile. One moment hes funny, the next minute hes a jerk and then when he gets serious, its absolutely chilling. The famous U.S.S. Indianapolis speech he gives is haunting and the amazing thing is, it was all improv but he acts it out so amazingly that you wouldnít even notice. The words flow so well from his mouth and his delivery feels so real. This monologue is so good its practically Shakespearian.
The most important character is he shark since it drives the whole story. The special effects still look good to this day but you have to give Spielberg a lot of credit since the animatronic was constantly breaking down and delaying shooting so he figured they might as well shoot the swimming scenes in first person through the point of view of the shark and in the end thats what made the movie so terrifying. Throughout the first half of the movie it was all up to your imagination. Making the audience use their imagination is way more effective than any jump scare you can dish out, granted the jump scare they did in this movie at the bottom of Ben Gardeners boat did work and still gets me every time I see it. Another great example of making the audience use their imagination is the yellow barrels they shoot into the shark. This technique is effective because although you donít see the shark, when those barrels pop out of the water you know things are going to go down and when they shoot the third barrel into it and the shark still goes under water, you really get a sense of how unstoppable this great white force of nature is. When the boat, The Orca sinks, you get a sense of helplessness and the tension is immense.
This movie is great at mixing genres. The first half can be described as a horror or suspense movie while the second half when theyre hunting the shark on the boat can be considered more of an adventure movie but all around the board it is a thriller. The music is one of, if not THE most important thing about the movie. John Williams classic score conveys a sense of dread and mystery while also demonstrating the childlike whimsy Spielbergs films are known for. The Jaws theme has since become the first song people think of when something strange happens in the water much like how some people like to hum the theme to The Twilight Zone when something out of the ordinary occurs.
A significant change is how the shark dies. In the book the shark dies of blood loss and the intense scene that led up to that made the sharks death seem anti-climactic. Although the shark exploding at the end of the film is unrealistic, it literally ends the movie with a bang and when chief Brody cheers, I feel like cheering. His cheer is the most jovial sounding cheer Iíve ever heard.
I can go on and on about this film, its so good its almost perfect but in conclusion all I can say is the movie has all the things Spielberg would later be known for in his future films. Action, adventure, suspense, scares and heart. Jaws is such a good movie its practically perfection. Its not flawless but it sure feels like it when Youíre watching it and by the end when the credits start rolling and John Williams music plays us out I canít help but applaud. Jaws IS my favorite movie of all time.