My five year old has been obsessed with Jaws the past few months. I have You Tube to thank for that one. I have to take some of the blame, too. The movie has been on a regular rotation on Showtime and whenever I catch it, I leave it on until he realizes that it's Jaws. He constantly freaks out and laughs at me. The kid taunts me, telling me that he's watching the movie.
Jaws is a true classic. The father of the summer blockbuster and a true thriller. I've studied the dynamics of this movie since I was a young lad, watching it regularly on WPIX. Whether it was planned, or because the shark never truly worked, hiding the shark was an act of genius. If you want a lesson in how to captivate your audience by letting their imagination fun wild, watch what Jaws does. The shark appears at key moments, disappearing for some time. Sometimes it returns a ruins someone's day. Other times it doesn't. You need to stay on your toes. That alone makes this movie fiercely frightening (quality alliteration).
The thing you need to remember when studying Jaws is the dynamic of the cast. If you just look at the shark, you're only looking at one aspect of the film. It's a big aspect of the movie, and it definitely makes you stand on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen. The thing is, as I sit here thinking about this, I realize that the shark isn't necessarily what makes this movie great.
Think about the cast of characters presented in this movie. We have the head of the police who has one mission, keep the town and tourists safe throughout the summer season. The way the shark consumes him is mesmerizing. He becomes obsessed with this creature in a way many might consider unhealthy. As he studies sharks, he learns how vicious they could be, and he fights a hopeless battle against the town mayor. By the time you get to the fourth movie, you learn the severity of this obsession.
The mayor is another great character. His goal is simple, keep the tourists flowing so the residents can survive for another year. The townsfolk depend on the few summer months to keep their businesses afloat. It's unreasonable to close the one thing that these tourists come to this small island for. Being a resident of an island with many beach communities, I get it. He's painted as a villain, but always acts in the best interests of the town.
Then you have a scientist who arrives because of the news of the shark. This guy is amazing. He is a voice of reason. Although that reason comes off as an, "I told you so," type of phrase. He seems to be able to predict the actions of the shark. You might take him as arrogant, but he just knows more about this creature than anyone else in the town. As far as character development goes, he seems to change the least from his introduction until the end. However, he does give a ton of respect to the crazy fisherman.
Speaking of the crazy fisherman. Isn't he the best character in the film. He's the only one capable of truly killing the beast that will eventually destroy the town. Of course, he won't be doing that for free. When you think about how much he wants in order to kill the shark ... let's just say I'd laugh him out of the building too. The fisherman is the mentor to our hero. He is vital to getting the main players to understand the world of shark hunting. Like a true mentor, he has to leave us before the hero can save the day. Oh, what a killer death it was too.
The shark is a captivating element in Jaws. He's a terrifying villain that scared me out of the water as a kid. Something that sticks with me to this day. I truly believe the shark doesn't keep people coming back to this movie all these years later. It's the characters that we can all relate to.
As for my 5 year old. He'll watch this movie one day. I honestly can't wait to sit with him and watch the movie. I don't want to scare him out of the water yet.
On an entirely separate note, I only found out this movie was rated PG a few months ago. Who knew opening with a skinny dipping scene and ripping bodies into a bloody mess only earned you a PG.
Until next time.