Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shark Week 3: 'Jaws 3' (1983)

If Jaws 2 was making an effort to recapture the style and tone of Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking 1975 original, along with taking advantage of the box-office appeal of shark attacks, Jaws 3 has no such concerns, going right for the sensationalistic violence with only the most tenuous connections to the characters and story of the first two movies. Although the main character is Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), son of original protagonist Martin Brody (Roy Scheider, who supposedly booked another movie specifically so he wouldn't be available for this one), only a few throwaway lines of dialogue connect him to the character played by other actors in the previous movies, and it would make virtually no difference to get rid of the connection entirely.

The grown-up Mike is now working at SeaWorld in Florida, which has just opened a massive new attraction that mingles with the open sea (the real-life SeaWorld in Florida is landlocked, but parts of the movie were shot on the Florida coast). The underwater complex is realized via a mix of miniatures and rather shoddy-looking special effects, which are made even less convincing by the fact that the movie was shot in 3D but of course is only available to watch in 2D on home video. Like most 3D movies of the '80s, Jaws 3 is filled with random objects thrusting toward the camera, although some of them are rendered in such fake-looking special effects that they look more like objects just sort of floating in front of the screen. The unconvincing effects often undermine the suspense, which is pretty minimal to begin with anyway.

There's no effort here to connect the sharks that accidentally find their way into SeaWorld with the sharks of the previous two movies; it's just serious bad luck that Mike and his younger brother Sean (John Putch) are subject to deadly shark attacks for the third time. There's some rote, underwhelming drama about Mike's relationship with his girlfriend (Bess Armstrong), and Sean hooks up with another park employee (Lea Thompson) before being quickly jettisoned from the story altogether. The climax focuses more on eccentric park owner Calvin Bouchard, played by Louis Gossett Jr., hamming it up as a stereotypical greedy businessman.

It's sort of surprising that SeaWorld authorized the use of its brand (and its actual park) in this movie, which portrays the company as greedy, neglectful and irresponsible. Of course, SeaWorld isn't actually run by a colorful, careless millionaire, but still, I can't imagine this movie was positive PR for them. Maybe if it had been a better movie with a more interesting story, it could have showed how SeaWorld's commitment to preserving marine life could help prevent shark attacks, or something. Instead it's just a mediocre thriller that does no good for the brands of either SeaWorld or Jaws.

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