A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 523 – Jaws 3

Jaws 3 – August 5th, 2011

This movie was bought for a very specific reason: I have semi-traumatic childhood memories of it. I say semi-traumatic because while I remember being terrified of it as a kid, it didn’t carry over into my adulthood. I have no lingering fear of underwater tunnels or sharks or drowning. Just the memory of what happened while the movie was on. And looking back on it, it’s so clearly silly. So we bought the movie and I was remembering it correctly, but I’d also clearly glossed over quite a bit in my memories. Or maybe I was just hiding under the blankets for the rest of the movie. I can’t be entirely sure.

I’m not sure how old I was when I first saw this. I was younger than I should have been, that’s for certain. Maybe six? Maybe seven? My parents had gone to a wedding and were going to be out late and my regular babysitter’s parents were friends of my family so they offered to let me stay at their house until my parents got in. My babysitter could look after me for the evening, but not have to stay out that late herself. So when I arrived I was sent down to the rec room in the basement, where my babysitter and her older brother were watching movies. And this is what they were watching. I distinctly remember the older brother playing shark attack while I hid under the blankets on the couch after the shark attacks the Sea World underwater tunnels. I have no idea if I was terrified or thrilled. I do remember him coming at me with a red vinyl beanbag chair during the next movie (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes). Fond memories now, but at the time I remember wondering if a shark could really do that.

The Mythbusters crew did do a Jaws episode with all sorts of shark stuff, including ramming a boat with a shark stand-in, but I don’t think they’ve done this one. I suspect it’s a little out of their range, but hey, they could prove me wrong. Not that it matters. This movie isn’t going for realism anyhow. It’s going for a twist on the original premise of the series, which is more than I can say for the second movie. This one takes place some time later, with Mike Brody, Chief Brody’s eldest son, working at Sea World along with his wife or girlfriend (I didn’t note whether it was mentioned and it doesn’t really matter). Younger brother Sean shows up for a visit and it quickly becomes clear that Sean was traumatised by his childhood experience in the second movie and avoids the water whenever he can. And you know, I like that bit of continuity. It at least makes it clear that someone involved in the script was keeping track of the characters.

Of course there’s a shark to be dealt with here. In this case it’s a pair of great whites, a mother and baby, who end up inside the SeaWorld lagoon where the park has recently built a revolutionary new system of underwater tunnels that explore different areas of the lagoon like a man-made wreck. Guides lead guests through the tunnels, telling them about the animals they’ll see. Now, the baby shark gets captured, but it dies in captivity because the director of the park is obsessed with money and puts it on display well before it was safe to do so. This is a common theme in these movies, with someone in control doing something risky or refusing to do something safe because it will hurt their bottom line. I suppose it’s an easy way to go. I mean, we need some reason for the shark to start attacking and we need some reason for people to not be warned. After all, what do we do now when a shark shows up? We close the damn beaches.

So anyhow, the mama shark is pretty pissed that her baby got captured and then died, so she does what you’d expect. Well, she does what you’d expect if you know you’re watching a shark attack movie: She rams the tunnels, then the control room window. And I will now take this moment to talk about the 3D aspect to this movie. See, we don’t have a 3D version. Andy tried, but failed to get one, so we watched a regular 2D version but in places it was very much like watching a 3D version without the glasses on. Certain images would be popped out on the screen, clearly meant to look as if they were floating in front of it, reaching out towards us. When the shark attacks the control room there’s one of those and without the 3D it is so very distracting. The image quality of the whole movie suffers from being processed for 3D but not being viewed in 3D. It’s a pity, because it feels like the 3D thing is really this movie’s major reason for existing.

Anyhow, the shark attacks, people panic and the tunnels seal off, trapping a tour group inside. So really, a good chunk of the rest of the movie revolves around how to rescue the tour group while a giant shark is lurking in the water nearby. And let me say, that tour leader? Deserves a damn raise for keeping the group calm and relatively safe throughout the entire ordeal. I honestly don’t recall much in the way of specifics for the rest of the movie. People scream and the shark tries to kill people and the dolphins Mike’s wife/girlfriend/fiancee has been training help out and neither of the Brodys get chomped on so it’s all cool.

Overall this movie isn’t anything particularly special. It was meant to be a 3D scarefest, with shark bits exploding out into the theater and people jumping in their seats. It does try to do something new with the concept, which I appreciate after the snooze that was the second movie. But overall it’s just not that interesting. I wish I’d been able to see it in 3D, but I’ll live without it and besides, when I was a kid, watching the shark smash up the underwater tunnels, I wasn’t wearing any 3D glasses and it was terrifying enough. I’ve got those memories intact, so I can’t hate on this movie too much.

August 5, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Jaws 3

August 5, 2011

Jaws 3

The version of this movie that we own is not in 3-D, as it was so clearly meant to be. I wanted to find a 3-D version because that was the way I first saw the movie, but there doesn’t seem to be one out there, or at least none I could find on short enough notice for it to be part of this year’s Shark Week.

The first time I saw this movie was as part of a 3-D evening of television on channel 38 back in the Eighties. They showed a whole bunch of stuff in anaglyph red/blue 3-D including a Three Stooges short and this movie and you had to get your glasses from the local paper. (I didn’t have 3-D glasses so I stuck red and blue see-through colorforms on my glasses, which worked just as well, but looked kind of nerdy.) Even way back then I was a fan of 3-D, and although I had no fondness for horror movies I couldn’t resist watching this. Really this movie needs to be seen in 3-D. It’s full of things that are obviously meant to be popping out of the screen at you from the opening credits to the grand finale. Besides that, the version we’re watching tonight on DVD has several bits where there process used to tint the film red and blue has not been completely reversed, leaving eye-watering edges on the characters and backgrounds.

Without stuff popping out of the screen this is only a mediocre cheesy shark movie with less than spectacular special effects. In this movie it is not Captain Martin Brody that is menaced by a giant shark – it is his sons. Mike is working as foreman doing construction on the new Seaworld undersea lagoon attraction in Florida and his brother Sean (who is deathly afraid of the water and has been going to college far from the ocean) is visiting. Of course on the eve of the opening of the new Seaworld a shark gets into the lagoon and terrorises the staff, until it is captured by Mike’s marine biologist girlfriend. It’s a relatively small ten-footer and all seems well until it becomes apparent that one of the staff members was in fact killed by a much larger shark. She’s about thirty-five feet long, she’s the mother of the shark they’ve captured (which died in captivity) and she’s pissed.

This movie is a sort of transition for the Jaws franchise from serious horror film to cheesy fantasy. The location alone is the stuff of seventies disaster movies like towering inferno. The undersea complex is an advanced technological marvel with a high-tech control room at its heart from which the park manager can monitor things all over and react to any situation. Of course when the big shark gets loose a bunch of people get trapped inside and so it’s a rush to get them out before they suffocate.

There are a couple things that puzzle me about this movie. One is how on Earth the film makers convinced the executives at Sea World to allow them to set their shark monster movie there. I suppose that Universal owns Sea World (and half of Orlando besides, with Disney owning the other half) but just because you CAN get the rights to set a monster movie in your theme park doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Did this movie work as some kind of strange promotion for the park? Would people who had seen a movie about tourists trapped in a park attraction actually be inclined to visit that park? I don’t know.

The other thing that puzzles me is the star power attached to this movie. Sure Lea Thompson wasn’t a big name at the time (this was her film debut I guess) and maybe Dennis Quaid hadn’t quite arrived, but they have Louis Gossett Jr., hot off of his Oscar from An Officer and a Gentleman, appearing as the street-talking big wheeling park owner Calvin Bouchard. I suppose there must have been an air of legitimacy to the Jaws franchise – or maybe he just wanted to appear in something campy and silly. Certainly his performance is a strange one. He’s the ever cool and in command corporate bigwig, but Gossett plays him with a hip sort of jive which seems strange for the character’s social standing. Maybe it’s an Eighties thing. Maybe it’s just that this entire movie is packed to the gills with accented stereotypes and Gossett preferred to fit in.

And oh, are the accents thick on the ground here. Most of the locals are played as down-south hicks such as I would expect to see in a seventies trucker movie. Then there’s the foppish British photographer and globetrotting adventurer Philip FitzRoyce and his Australian manservant. There is a sense that the people involved in this movie knew that it was turning the corner from serious film to camp. What else could a 3-D shark attack movie set in Sea World be? It is movies like this one, much more so than films like Jaws, that are the progenitors of that whole delightful genre of “Roger Corman Presents” cheesy monster movies. I didn’t mind watching it again. Amanda and I had fun laughing at the poorly processed special effects, the bits that were clearly meant to jump out at us, and the giant rubber shark. As long as you aren’t expecting a serious movie you can pretty much relax and enjoy this.

Tomorrow: The Revenge! I’m looking forward to that, I must say since I’ve only seen the very end of it before.

August 5, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment