“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” If you are a fan of movies, then you know where that line of dialogue is from, even though the title of this piece you are reading kinda gave it away. Today at your local movie theater, that line might as well be “You’re gonna need a bigger theater”, with all the blockbusters the come out. Forty years ago the word blockbuster didn’t exist the way we know it today, but that all changed with the release of “Jaws” and the rest you can say is history. Inventing the summer event movie wasn’t the other thing “Jaws” did, it also introduced us to a filmmaker named Steven Spielberg.
Of course Spielberg would go on to make many event films as he continues to do today. Forty years ago though, before you could put on the screen anything you could think of, filmmakers had to use hard work and their imagination to wow you. When it comes to “Jaws” that is what makes the film what it is, as the shark named Bruce, named after Spielberg’s lawyer, never worked properly, which made Spielberg hide it during most of the film. It was that lack of seeing the shark that made so many people afraid to get in the water after watching this film. Today’s blockbusters lacks that, it’s not like you are worried that a dinosaur is going to eat you, or you are going to get killed by a building as two super heroes fight it out above you. That fear of swimming is not the only thing that makes “Jaws” work, it’s a perfect storm of a film, as everything just seems to fall into place.
The idea of the film is simple, there is a giant shark terrorizing the town of Amity, at the beginning of the summer season, or in other words, a buffet for a man-eating shark. Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) discovers pretty early they have a problem, but is unable to talk the town’s folk to close the beach, as the loss of money outweighs the loss of life in their eyes. It’s only after more deaths at the hand of the shark, does Brody and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) talk the town’s mayor to let them hire Quint (Robert Shaw) to hunt and kill the shark for a fee. What happens next is some of the best moments on film, as that giant shark finally bites off more then he can chew.
If only the characters were as lucky as us watching the film to have John Williams’s legendary score warn us every time the shark was going to attack. If it wasn’t the amazing score that wooed us, it was the scenes like Brody, Hooper, and Quint sharing stories of past shark encounters that live in our memory. While there has never been only one “Jaws”, in fact there were three sequels, including one in 3D, none of them got close to the perfection that is the original. To me “Jaws” is required viewing, something I do every summer to remind me of why not to swim in the ocean, and to also remind me what a true summer blockbuster is.