Released: July 22nd, 1983
Intro: JAWS 3 (Or rather JAWS 3-D as it was officially named at release) was the first sequel to leave the island of Amity and explore an entirely new location, as well as an entirely new cast (the only two returning characters have new actors).It was also the first, and only, JAWS movie to feature 3-D technology, which was a new gimmick at the time. JAWS 3-D is often seen as when the series took a turn for the worst, but it still has a small fanbase, myself included.
Story: JAWS 3-D opens at a young Sea World location. I have only been to Sea World once in the early 90’s, but I don’t remember it being anything like what they show here; beaches, on-ocean performances, boat rentals, bumper boats. We meet several characters key to the plot, including a water skier, the owner of the park, a photographer, and our good friend Mike Brody. Mike has grown and moved away from Amity, opting to become an underwater engineer of sorts. His girlfriend, Kay, is our secondary protagonist and also a marine biologist. Soon we meet Sean Brody, Mike’s younger brother who has not coped well with the events of JAWS 2 and thus has a great fear of open water. It’s not long before one of the underwater mechanics turns out to be missing and Mike and Kay turn to some very poorly-made mini-sub sequences and discover that Sea World has a new attraction; a great white shark.
The shark is captured but despite their best efforts to keep it alive, the animal dies once it is forced into a viewing tank by the park owner. The park is not safe for long, however, as it is soon discovered that the shark they had caught was actually a baby and mother shark has come to avenge her fallen child. The shark attacks one of the underwater attractions, causing a flood and isolation of numerous guests. The shark goes on to attack the beach, leaving Sean’s love interest critically injured. The stakes raised, Mike and Kay are now determined to save the quarantined guests and find a way to get rid of the killer shark.
The rest of the movie very quickly wraps things up, killing off the arrogant photographer as he struggles to get the perfect shot and the guests are safely retrieved from their flooded prison. Mike and Kay make a quick retreat from mending the tunnel into the underwater control room, just in time to witness the shark crashing through the window. Conveniently, the photographer had been holding a grenade when he was eaten, and his arm is just lying there in the maw of the shark. Mike fashions a hook out of a piece of metal, pulls the pin, and the shark explodes in loads of 3-D goodness. Mike and Kay then make for the surface and cheer in victory.
If it sounds fast paced and over the top, it is. There are few points of slowdown at the beginning, but the rest of the film moves pretty quick. It’s significantly shorter than the first two films and that’s a good thing here.
The premise itself is absurd – the idea of not one but two great white sharks getting into Sea World of all places is just not very likely at all. (The same can be said for piranhas getting into a waterpark in Piranha 3DD; what is it with 3D and fish getting into impossible locations?). Once you set aside how silly the basic idea is, you can enjoy it for what it is. Almost all of the characters are one-dimensional, but most are likable enough that you’re rooting for them to make it out of this mess safely.
There’s definitely some very cheesy moments in the movie, and some impossibilities that even the most open minded shark movie guru might have a hard time looking past. Mostly I refer to the blatantly obvious moments where they were forcing 3-D elements in the scene, and the fact that the idea of a shark shattering a glass window that withstands thousands of pounds of water pressure simply by poking it with it’s nose. As if that wasn’t enough, the shark then continues to back up and push itself back into the opening, despite the fact sharks cannot swim backwards. The part that really makes me roll my eyes is the very last scene where Kay throws her arms up in a cheer as animated dolphins twirl into the sides of the screen. I just can’t with that.
Characters: For the most part, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional, but they each serve the purpose intended for them. Even our two protagonists of Mike and Kay see little development.
Mike plays the ‘I’ve seen this all before, let’s kill it and go on’ note, constantly irritated that nobody else is taking the risk of the shark seriously and are instead seeing it as a showstopping opportunity. In fact, it’s his dedication to destroying the fish that places him in the hero role.
Kay, on the other hand, has her eyes set on turning this endangered species into something to rival Shamu. She wants to be the first water park in the world to have a great white, almost completely ignoring the danger despite her boyfriend’s warnings. It isn’t until she sees the evidence of the shark’s harm that she changes her mind.
Younger brother Sean serves more as a reminder of what happened in the previous movies with his short-lived PTSD that conveniently disappears the moment a scantily clad water skier gets his attentions. She plays his love interest the entire time, taking him out of the movie when he follows her to the hospital after being attacked. With the exception of a couple short scenes, we don’t even get to see much of the brotherly bond we would hope to see between two siblings who experienced something traumatic as kids.
The two most infuriating characters are that of Calvin Bouchard, the park owner, and Phillip FitzRoyce, the photographer. Bouchard has only one interest and that is the well-being of his park. He seems almost completely unconcerned about the safety of the guests and is more annoyed than anything else. FitzRoyce on the other hand is single sighted on getting the perfect photograph of the shark at any cost, to the point where he dies trying to complete his mission. He’s so cocky and arrogant that I actually was pleased when he was eaten. Bouchard I just wanted to smack every time he showed lack of concern for his staff.
Lea Thompson plays Kelly, the water skier who plays Sean’s love interest. In fact, I heard more about how this was her breakout role in film than anything else about her. The attack at the beach that leaves her injured is the only personal stake for any of the main characters but I wonder if she and Sean had not been in the movie at all, if we would even have noticed.
Two of my favorites heroines from the film are the dolphins Cindy and Sandy. I found myself more concerned for their well being at the climax of the film than most of the humans. I loved seeing them protect their trainer from the shark by making runs at her right in the gills. At one point I was worried she got one of them but we see at the end that both were safe. Cute animals in films (especially horror or thriller) always make me so nervous.
Visuals: Where do I even begin here? The settings are nice; the park looks like a park, complete with exhibits and attractions. Aside from the sharks and the dolphins, however, we see no other marine life around, with the exception from the random fish swimming around the underwater tunnels (that are poorly green-screened, by the way). I didn’t get the sense of life I would have liked to have seen. It also didn’t help that it was hard for me to relate to this place as Sea World when my own visit was so different. Perhaps naming it something else would have helped as I spent so much time trying to make myself believe it was the same place.
I mentioned green screen and 3-D earlier, and both of these are atrocious. The green screen is the worst offender, with a scene showing a mini-sub literally having pieces of the sub disappear and reappear as it turns. There is no way you can ignore this, it’s that bad. The 3-D looks awful, granted I have to give them a slight pass in the fact that the technology back then was incredibly new compared to today. You still needed red and blue glasses to see the effects, but what bothers me is how obvious it is that they shot certain bits for the sole purpose of 3-D. At the beginning there are floating pieces in the water, and at the end when the shark explodes there’s an absurd amount of gore complete with a jawbone just to prove that ‘Hey, we made 3-D! Look at this!”. I’ll also give them a slight pass for the fact that while they chose to use a gimmick in the movie, they at least tried something new and different, and I can never fully fault someone for thinking outside the box.
They did do a great job of displaying the water ski shows, and I definitely enjoyed seeing the dolphins and their interaction with the actors. The landscapes were attractive and as I said, appropriate to the locale.
I mentioned before how the end scene with the animated dolphins was eyeroll inducing, and I echo the same sentiment here. It looks cheesy and out of place.
Sound: Most of the music for this iteration was okay. There were notable tunes during the opening water ski practice, giving a feeling of liveliness and fun. The same can be said for what I call the dolphin theme, which played during the ending scene when the animated dolphins appeared. I enjoyed both of them, as well as the small bit of music played during one of the shows on the beach before the shark attack. It was festive and made me think of a hula dance. There’s also a piece played when Kay and Mike are being pursued by the shark for the first time that gets my blood pumping with anxiety each time I hear it, even if I already know our heroes survive just fine.
Aside from those pieces, the rest of the score was pretty standard, showcasing excitement and danger when necessary and inciting fear where it needed to.
As far as sound effects, not much was needed. Sharks are silent predators and thankfully do not roar until the next movie.
Overall: It may sound as if I hate this movie, but it is actually quite opposite. I love this movie, but part of the reason I love it is because it is over the top and amusing. The absurdities of the plot only really bother me when watching it to pick it apart. Otherwise it’s a fun movie to watch and make light of. No matter how many times I see it though, the mini-sub scene irritates me to death and I still want to strangle Bouchard and FitzRoyce. I always cheer for Mike and Kay though and enjoy the scenery and dolphins. As long as you don’t take this movie too seriously, it’s entirely enjoyable. It may not be in my top ten films ever, but by no means do I dislike it. Dennis Quaid has been quoted to say he regrets making it, but I’m glad he did it; it’s provided me many hours of amusement.