Should an Open Water Swimmer (and Mystery Writer) See JAWS in 3D?
The answer is absolutely YES! Recently, on one of those 110-degree days, I submerged myself in a dark cool theater with my extended family, a huge bucket of popcorn and a soda to rewatch the classic movie, Jaws. This is the original 1975 version, remastered in heart pounding, gory, severed limb 3-D. The cinematic
thriller is based on Peter Benchely’s* best-seller* of the same name.
Although Jaws had its blockbuster debut** almost 50 years ago, the
film has aged extremely well. It’s still terrifying, maybe even more so because I now spend hours in open water. With each scene of the movie, I thought about what swam with me. San Francisco Bay waters are murky; it’s hard to locate my fingers when my arm is outstretched, let alone any fish. Contrast that to the translucent waters off of Cape Code, Massachusetts where the thriller takes place. The long, tanned splashing legs are abundantly clear to everyone, including our dear shark. For me, splashing around in open water is like being home. But Jaws reminded me, I’m the visitor, not the homeowner in this environment.
Director Stephen Spielberg lingers on shots below the surface that are almost silent compared to the loud commotion just above the water level. Submerged, it’s eerily quiet until we hear the classic “duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn,***” announcing you know who.
This is a movie where everyone knows what’s going to happen. Our job as an audience is to wait. It’s the waiting that heightens the suspense. I once heard author David Corbett, talk about what a gem Jaws was when it came to developing unique characters. Corbett should know. He has written two books on character development and spoken numerous times on the same subject. Corbett dug into the character of the protagonist who is Amnity Island’s new police chief, Martin Brody played by Roy Scheider. Brody moved from New York City with his family to find a quieter life (or so he hoped) in this coastal New England town.
Chief Brody’s a man who is terrified of water because of a near drowning accident as a child. Ironically, he takes a job on an island. He’s never been on a boat before and doesn’t plan to change that until the shark takes a pass at his son. Then it’s personal and the gloves are off.
Still agonizingly in fear of water, he teams up with a grizzled shark hunter, Captain Quint played by Robert Shaw and a young Richard Dreyfess as Matt Hooper, a snarky marine biologist – a great contrast of the old and the new -- who all set out on Quint’s boat to find and kill the shark.
If you’re a writer, you know that the protagonist is supposed to change from the beginning of a book to the end. Chief Brody does. In the last scene as he paddles back to shore with Hooper, he chuckles and says:
Martin: I used to hate the water.
Hooper: I can't imagine why.
I could go on with an analysis of the plot but I’m sure some of you are saying, “please don’t.” Anyway, you writers out there, go see Jaws and dissect it. If you’re a swimmer, go and come to terms that you’re an outsider in another creature’s home. If you’re both or you just like a good scary movie, go see Jaws 3D.
*Author, Peter Benchley has a cameo in the movie. He plays a television reporter.
**Jaws was the first summer blockbuster. Ever.
***Composer John Williams said of the shark theme song, he wanted it to be “"grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable." Think he nailed it.