Over the years, I had somehow forgotten how bad “Jaws 3-D” is. It isn’t just a mediocre sequel to a treasured movie that doesn’t live up to its potential (I’ll get to “Robocop 3” soon), it is an abysmal, lazy, and gimmicky film. It may not be on a “Birdemic” level of incompetence, but this movie is bad.
Let’s start with the title. In the years since the theater run for this movie, everything possible has been done to officially change this movie’s name to “Jaws 3”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do anything to mitigate the numerous bad 3-D shots, nor the fact that the entire marketing campaign was centered around the 3-D gimmick. Check out the initial teaser for the film:
Yikes, that is pretty blatant. Now, check out the attempt to retroactively re-title this flick in the opening title card:
Honest effort, folks. Anyway, there are far more issues with this movie than just the 3-D effects and dated marketing campaign. For instance, this movie has one of the most perplexing product placements possible for a film about a killer shark: Sea World is absolutely everywhere in this flick.
For the life of me, I don’t understand the logic of Sea World agreeing to have the movie set at a parks with their brand everywhere. Not only is there a shark that endangers guests in the park, but the park itself is wrecked by the rampaging animal over the course of the movie. Shouldn’t you, a major entertainment park, want people to feel confident in your security and their safety on your grounds? Putting your name all over a “Jaws” movie isn’t exactly the best way to do that.
On to some mechanical issues: one of the strengths of the original “Jaws” movie was the creative scarcity of the monster. It helped build the tension and a mystique around the shark: a convention still used in many monster movies today. The sequels to “Jaws”, however, fail to follow this principle. “Jaws 2” uses a fair amount of shark stock footage, but that doesn’t compare to how poorly “Jaws 3-D” fails in this department: not only do you see the shark way too much, but there is even a baby shark that is captured early in the movie. At that point, there isn’t any great dramatic reveal when the big shark shows up. Without that tension, there is nothing to make the movie compelling or…well…interesting.
The acting is pretty mediocre all around, so it basically blends into the background. I think this is mostly a problem with the writing as opposed to the cast, because there are some half-talented people in there that may have pulled something off with a stronger script. Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson both have some capabilities, even though this was early in their careers. Then again, it is pretty hard to act in a scene like this:
Unless you are planning to marathon the entire “Jaws” series, there isn’t any reason to specifically watch “Jaws 3-D”. Surprisingly, this isn’t even the worst of the franchise: “Jaws: The Revenge” consistently gets that honor (stay tuned). Still, the really bad effects, poor writing, and mediocre direction make this quite a chore to wade through. Outside of the unintentional humor of the 3-D shots and the surreal Sea World advertisements, there just isn’t anything to enjoy here.
The good folks at We Hate Movies podcast have a pretty good episode on “Jaws 3-D”, and it touches on some of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that led to the creation of this movie. Apparently, the movie was initially envisioned as a spoof film, and Spielberg threatened to walk out on Universal if they went through with it. It is a shame they didn’t just ditch the idea altogether.