A double feature.
Hey gang, time once again for a Best Of post, seeing as how I've slacked on the reviewage again. I'm partially through the review of Angel & Faith, issue 16. But, you can see by how I haven't posted in a week that I'm a bit distracted at the moment.
Life is hard.
But, let's focus on this post: We're going to be taking a look back at our main characters in both JAWS and JAWS 2, today. JAWS is the tale... perhaps The Tale... of a killer shark off the coast of an island community and is defined by tense and scary scenes of nothing more than a POV moving through water, a theme song that manages to do the job it set out to do to highten tension and well drawn and exceptionally acted characters you care about.
JAWS 2 then throws that all away by filling our time with half-assed character arcs that go nowhere, characters that are only sketched in, poorly thought out "conflicts" that - again - go nowhere, and sucking the tension out of the shark scenes by showing the prop way too much and filming it at awful angles.
I'm already worried about how exactly I can define "main protagonist" in a way that will allow me to include more than Chief Brody alone in the sequel...
But, for now, let's dig into the awesome characters of our original.
JAWS will include the following:
Chief Martin Brody: Loving father and husband, and a man who loathes the ocean but lives on an island. Unsurprisingly, he'll have to go out on the ocean in order to save his town from a rampaging rogue beastie.
Ellen Brody: Wife to Martin, mother to their two kids, and his rock when things get hairy.
Mayor Vaughn: Practically the prototype for the oblivious official who gets people killed by putting economics over lives. Unlike his cinematic followers, however, he isn't evil so much as unbelieving that a shark patrols the waters off Amity Island. And, he comes around rather easily after he realizes his own children were put in danger.
Fisherman & Sharker Quint: The old seadog wants to help out his town... for a price. He's crude, he's short tempered, he's not shy about being a jerk... but damned if he isn't strong and determined. And what's more... he's an actual person rather than a shorthand stereotype to get his comeuppance to audience cheers later.
Marine Biologist Matt Hooper: He drops in to help Brody catch a shark, not realizing just how dangerous this particular beast is, or just how close he's going to come to being eaten alive.
JAWS 2, on the other hand, will give us:
Chief Martin Brody: Prickly father who thinks that he sees a pattern in some disappearances off Amity Island. He's so sure that the town has another shark problem, that he's willing to shoot at a school of blue fish on a public beach with cyanide tipped bullets. He also sweatily rants and raves for good measure... and then is appalled when his bosses won't believe him.
Ellen Brody: Ellen's now gotten involved in the real estate market with a smarmy boss. You almost think that she has a character arc coming, but then you realize you're a fool -- no one has a character arc in this movie.
Mayor Vaughn: Somehow, Amity Island forgave the Mayor for his past inaction that caused a July 4th panic during the last great shark attack. Good for him! The bad memories... and the fact that his son is out on the water everyday... doesn't stop him from doubting Martin this time, though. Of course, perhaps if Martin wasn't raving and shooting up public beaches...?
I suppose, I'll include three of our "teen"-wonders, since we spend so much [largely empty] time with them:
Mike Brody: His watching a man killed by a giant shark in "safe" waters has not stopped him from being a boating enthusiast. Good for him! Don't be misled into thinking he's going to impact the final battle against this shark, though.
Sean Brody: Pre-teen brother and pain in the ass to Mike -- as brothers should be. He's threatened by the shark, but despite being Martin's son, is pretty forgettable.
Andy Nicholas: Mike's jokester friend and the only teen with a defined sense of personality. Somehow has more to do than Chief Brody's eldest son. I know, right?? How does that even happen?
In JAWS, Our Heroes Rise!
Martin: Well, clearly Brody's shining moment is overcoming his sheer panic at being in the water with a giant shark to make a once in a lifetime shot across the ocean's surface and into an air canister that (in defiance of real world physics) manages to explode, killing our beast. KUDO!
Ellen: Ellen doesn't get any moments worthy of a kudo. I care not. I love her, anyway.
Vaughn: Mayor Vaughn also doesn't get a kudo. But, he does end up much more human than his cinematic followers in the really bad scripts to come.
Quint: I'm going to issue the fisherman and sharker a Half-Kudo for his ability to remain calm in a crisis. After the shark hits the boat in the middle of the night, and a fire breaks out onboard, he calmly has Brody deal with the fire, while he and Hooper tend to driving the shark away and repairing the damage. Nerves of steel were certainly helpful... for awhile....
Hooper: Matt is getting a huge KUDO for going into the water with the shark after S.S. Orca is disabled. Even though the options for killing the shark were few, considering it wasn't leaving them alone, it still took huge balls to volunteer to go into the shark cage [which was already clearly going to be inadequate due to the size of the shark].
In JAWS, Our Heroes Sink:
Martin: Well, the only thing I'm going to knock Brody for - and it isn't about standing up to the Mayor, because I can understand that, as I explained in the review - is stopping everything after Quint tells Brody to start the engines so they can keep an eye on where the shark is going. They've got the barrels on it by now... instead of following orders, Martin risks losing the shark again to try to make a radio call to shore. It feels like really bad timing for that, so I'll issue a Half-Demerit.
Ellen: I don't think Ellen deserves any demerits.
Vaughn: The Mayor -- oh, the Mayor. Three separate reported incidents of fatal shark attacks off Amity Island, and he's still clinging to the notion that they don't have a problem - right up to encouraging people to swim, and taking his own kids to the beach. And when Matt tries to point out how dumb that is, he insults him as a glory-hound. DEMERIT.
Quint: Quint loses it out on the ocean and destroys the only means of radioing for help when the Orca is damaged and threatening to flounder. DEMERIT.
Hooper: I'm going to give Matt a Half-Demerit just for his salt&vinegar personality -- he has zero diplomatic skill when it comes to trying to convince anyone that he is correct and that the town is in more trouble than they are recognizing.
I'm also issuing a special DEMERIT to the medical examiner for changing an official report of Chrissie's death from clear Shark-Attack, to "maybe a boat propeller", even as you can tell by his demeanor that he knows he's full of shit.
And, while I want to be sympathetic... I must give a Half-Demerit to the woman with the kid in her arms who stands in chest high water, screaming and waiting for a hideous death. It's just lucky for her that the "attack" turned out to be two kids playing a really not funny prank.
In JAWS 2, Our Heroes Are Aces!
Brody: Martin plays the hero again, despite informing the mayor and council in no uncertain term that he "isn't going to go through that hell again!" and is able to kill the shark with a dangerous maneuver at the end. KUDO
Ellen: Ellen remains a good character, but she doesn't do anything for kudos.
Vaughn: Vaughn shares in the group-kudo for firing Martin after his out-of-control behavior.
Mike Brody: No kudos go to the eldest Brody child.
Sean Brody: No kudos go to the youngest Brody child.
Andy Nichols: I'm giving Andy a Half-Kudo for being the only "teen" who keeps his shit together in order to try to survive.
I'm also issuing a special KUDO to the town council for firing Martin after his public discharging of his weapon on a crowded beach, followed by his behavior at the special council meeting. They were right, Martin was wrong and the director was an idiot for trying to make us side with Brody, just because.
I give a special KUDO to Annie, who dies saving Sean from being a shark-victim.
In JAWS2, Our Heroes Are Zeroes!
Chief Brody: Oh, god, what they did to Martin's character! For his worst moment in a film with several, I'm gonna have to issue a DEMERIT for firing his gun with poisoned bullets on a crowded beach over panicked sunbathers' heads in a wasted effort to shoot a shark at distance and before the "dark shape" can be identified. It turns out, by the way, to just be a school of bluefish on top of it.
Real Estate Saleswoman Ellen Brody: Ellen doesn't do anything to earn a demerit.
Repeat-Mayor Larry Vaughn: The mayor, shockingly, doesn't earn a demerit; he's fully justified in not buying Brody's shark rant.
Rebellious Teen Mike Brody: Mike mildly rebels, but that is hardly demerit worthy.
Tagalong Kid Sean Brody: Sean is a bit of an ass-pain to his older brother, but not demerit worthy.
Joke-a-lot Teen Andy Nichols: Andy somehow skirts odious -- no demerit.
I'm issuing a special DEMERIT for the combined directing fails to Jeannot Szwarc. Seriously, there are some shots - perhaps the worst of which would be allowing us a clear view of the mechanical prop's innards - that are spectacularly incompetent.
Another special Half-Demerit to Screeching-Mimi, who does nothing useful at any time but is somehow able to continue screaming at the top of her voice, constantly, without running out of voice. And, we spend a lot of film time with her!