Producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck saw the potential to strike while the iron was still steaming on Jaws and very early on had their hearts set on a sequel. Very early on, there was talk of mining Quint's story of the sinking USS Indianapolis and going for a sort of prequel (which, for my money, would still be a viable and entertaining story. Get on it Universal! - Ed). When that idea was rejected though, John D. Hancock was brought in as director and, working from a script by his wife Dorothy Tristan, started fleshing out a very different Jaws 2, one where Amity had become a ghost town that had been financially crippled by the events of the first film. There was also an expansion of a subplot from one of Peter Benchley's original novel, in which organized crime and unpaid debts weaved themselves through Amity officials. Of course, all this was happening while another shark terrorized the town!
What we ended up with for Jaws 2, instead, is what I like to call "a Slasher movie with a Great White Shark". Co-written by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, Jaws 2 focuses on the now-teenaged Mike Brody and his group of friends as they go cruising in their sailboats on the open ocean -- it's a not subtle variation on teenagers showing off their tricked out hotrods along the Sunset Strip. This, of course, happens after two divers go missing and their undeveloped camera roll points to another large Carcharodon Carcharias. In an interesting bit of continuity, the two divers are thrill-seekers who are checking out the sunken wreckage of the Orca, trying to secure bragging rights by taking photos where the original film ended.
|Just some kids, havin' some fun.|
|I'm only smiling because money!|
Once again as Chief Martin Brody, Roy Scheider leads a returning roster of actors such as Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Moscalo, and Jeffrey Kramer. It's worth noting that, despite not really wanting to be there (he was notoriously difficult on-set and his clashes with Szwarc were legendary), Scheider does give the role his all, proving himself invaluable to the franchise (as the next two sequels would find out the hard way).
Among the cast of "kids", almost every archetype that would later be explored/copied in the Slasher films of the 80s is present: the hunky hero in Mike (played by Mark Gruner), the Constantly Screaming/Crying Girl, the Spoiled Rich Kid Whose Dad Is Important, the Jock Best Friend, and even the Lovable Nerd (played by Christine's Keith Gordon). Though they may seem a bit stereotypical, the young actors give enough to their performances to make you root for them and care as they're stalked by the shark -- except for Donna Wilkes' Jackie, who sobs and screams her way through the 2nd half of the film, causing many a fan to beg the shark to eat her!
|Dear God, make her stop. Just. Stop. Already.|
|Keith Gordon is great in anything.|
Of course, the main star of the film is the shark itself; designed by Special mechanical effects supervisor Robert Mattey and Roy Arbogast, Bruce 2 featured a brand new head design and overall improved mechanics. Throw in that killer burn scar on the right side of its face, and Jaws 2 has one memorable movie monster!
|Bruce 2 cut himself shaving.|
|Apparently, Bruce 2 ate some hydraulics!|
When viewed along side the classic original, Jaws 2 is certainly an inferior film, however it makes the most of what it has going for it -- that being an incredibly large shadow -- and delivers a fun, energetic follow-up. As it stands it is, hands down, the best of the three sequels as well, given that there seemed to be a desire for legitimacy and story, rather than just box office receipts.
One final cool piece about Jaws 2 is its famous tagline of "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..."; parodied to death in the ensuing years, this is one of the best and coolest horror taglines ever! It's also worth noting that, with Jaws 2, the franchise continued the tradition of having incredible artwork for its posters (despite the quality of the films themselves). Even though I've yet to have a Jaws poster in my own collection (likely a reprint since originals are extremely expensive), I do have US one-sheets for Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D, as well a Danish version of Jaws 2!