*. After Jaws rewrote the rules and the record books for box office a sequel was assured. Producer David Brown admits it’s a cliché, but called it “obligatory.” His co-producer Richard Zanuck, however, says that sequels weren’t yet a thing in Hollywood, with the only example he could think of being the Planet of the Apes movies. So maybe, as they had with Jaws, they were still blazing a trail for everyone else to follow.
*. However obligatory, inevitable, or groundbreaking a sequel was, the fact is it was ordered up as soon as Universal knew they had a hit property. Filming began two years after the release of Jaws, in Florida this time (though the setting is still Amity; in Jaws 3 they would relocate). The initial director didn’t work out and Jeannot Szwarc came in on short notice as a replacement. Roy Scheider was brought back almost literally kicking and screaming, joined by Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, and Jeffrey Kramer (he’s Brody’s deputy). “Bruce” had rotted away in storage so a few new shark models were made that apparently didn’t work much better than the original.
*. I said in my notes on Jaws that evidence of its greatness was how many times I’d seen it. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t gone back to watch Jaws 2 again since I first saw it on TV many years ago. But I can’t be entirely sure because only a week after seeing it and going back to type up my thoughts on it I found I had to refer to my notes to jog my memory as to what it had been about. It’s that forgettable.
*. Probably the best known thing about it is the ad campaign. The poster art (and cover of the paperback novel adaptation, which I actually read as a kid before I first saw the movie) is almost as good as the iconic original, with the same giant shark’s head this time looming behind a waterskier. And of course they knocked it out of the park with the tag line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” That’s still with us, even if most people today probably don’t know where it comes from.
*. The plot is mainly a rehash of the first film. A new shark has arrived off the shores of Amity. The mayor and his council of local business boosters is still in denial, even as the bodies pile up (or wash ashore). Instead of doing away with the shark by way of an exploding oxygen tank Brody gets it to chomp on an electrical cable.
*. There were some interesting ideas. The waterskiing scene is actually pretty neat, and not badly done. The shark taking out the helicopter was too much, but has a wacky charm to it (it was still pretty silly twenty years later in Deep Blue Sea). And is that Napoleon Dynamite playing Timmy? Surely he was the model for that later character’s appearance anyway.
*. Not terribly suspenseful or scary. Szwarc figured that since the audience had already seen the shark in the first film there was no point keeping it hidden underwater here. Which makes it more of a monster movie. Given how much trouble they were still having with the shark, going a different route might have been easier.
*. Well, they did try. But Scheider was all that was left of the original trio who really made the first movie work, and he wasn’t getting along with Szwarc at all. The script was a mess and was constantly being reworked. The storyboards must have seemed promising, but given the limitations of what they had to work with at the time the big scenes didn’t translate on screen. So I’d just call it forgettable, and well forgotten. Far superior though to what was to come.