Jaws 3 (1983) / Horror-Adventure
aka Jaws 3-D
aka Jaws III
MPAA Rated: PG for some gore, sensuality, and language
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Louis Gossett Jr., Simon MacCorkindale, John Putch, Lea Thompson
Director: Joe Alves
Screenplay: Carl Gottlieb, Michael Kane, Richard Matheson
Jaws 3 sees the sons of Sheriff Brody (from the first two films) now in Florida (apparently afflicted with accelerated aging), as eldest son Mike (Quaid, Breaking Away) has laid the foundations for a two-year project to bring an underwater structure in the lagoon at Sea World to life. The younger brother, Sean (Putch, Camp Nowhere) is also visiting, although he is still suffering from a strong phobia about getting in the water, brought about from his harrowing near-death experiences with sharks from his youth. He has reason to fear, as it appears that a young Great White shark has entered the lagoon and is terrorizing the pre-opening day adjustments, having gotten through the filtration system, and begins snacking on whatever it can find. However, when one of the crew ends up viciously chomped, it appears that a much larger shark must have been responsible, as they shudder to realize that the young shark's mother, a massive 35-foot long Great White, has also passed into the park, hungry for the taste of human flesh and underwater Sea World structures.
What made the original Jaws so effective was the vision and talent of its prodigious director, Steven Spielberg, who utilized his fantastic skills and eye for cinema to create one of the best horror-adventure films of all-time. Jaws 2 was a considerable step down, mostly because director Jeannot Szwarc didn't have that same level of vision and talent, but at least he came in with a knowledge of how to construct a workable film and other fundamental techniques. With Jaws 3, the producers mystifyingly hand over the reigns to Joe Alves, the production designer and second unit director for the first two films, having no prior directorial experience before (or since) in his career. The thinking must have been that with Alves' experience working on the prequels, as well as his talent in the creation of the lifelike sharks, he surely must know this project as well as anyone. Why not give Alves a shot?
This error in judgment on the part of the producers proves to be fatal, as Alves is clearly in over his head when it comes to the subtleties of building adequate tension, terror, or even simple presentation. The shark attacks no longer have an element of suspense to them, now replaced by cheap attempts at shock and gore. Alves also didn't understand that the terror of a shark attack comes from what you can't see more so than what you can, as the shark's face is often featured quite prominently whenever it makes an appearance, and the scares are diminished by the familiarity.
What Jaws 3 also lacks is a sense of style, as scenes lumber by with no visual panache or moments of general interest, merely establishing the thinly defined characters and premise, interspersed by random acts of teethed-fish mayhem. The only unique developments in the visuals comes from the way some shots are presented. This is because Jaws 3 was a 3-D movie when it was released into theaters, so there are many moments when things comes shooting at the camera, or just floating by. While these things might seem cool when you're watching on a giant theater screen with your 3-D glasses on, watching this as a regular 2-D movie makes most of these shots and scenes seem awkward at best, or just downright bad filmmaking. The 3-D process also diminished the overall picture quality of the film, as Jaws 3 is marred by a murky presentation, seemingly out of focus on the edges, with excessive grain, spots, and shoddy colors. This is one truly ugly and unappealing movie in so many ways.
Even the sound components of the film are substandard. Gone is the classic John Williams score (except for little bits and pieces), replaced by a very unmemorable one done by Alan Parker (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, American Gothic), his first ever work in a film, having only ever done music for television series. None of the music evokes a sense of terror, dread or suspense in the slightest. Compounding this, the sound effects are just as out of place, as they have now added a low-pitched snarl to the shark that would seem more appropriate for a T-Rex or Brontosaurus rather than a fish.
Campy performances, cheesy special effects, and downright awful dialogue all contribute to making Jaws 3 a truly dismal experience for just about everyone. It's not only hard to believe that a sequel this downright abominable didn't kill the franchise, but that it actually would be followed by a movie that was arguably worse -- Jaws: the Revenge.
©2006 Vince Leo