Jaws: Classic Versus Contemporary

Would Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece still be regarded as an iconic movie if it was made today?

In 1975, acclaimed moviemaker Steven Spielberg changed the Hollywood landscape forever when he released a movie that would go on to redefine an entire genre. Not only did the film reinvent how movies were made, but its success allowed it to become the prototypical Hollywood blockbuster, an accolade that was an unbeknownst terminology at the time of production.

Based upon Peter Benchley’s outstanding best-selling novel, the movie would go on to be acknowledged as one of the greatest movies of all time, and raised the bar of movie making for an entire generation. The masterpiece earned the accolade of installing a new breed of fear into its audience and instilled a deep seeded fear of venturing into the open water of our vast oceans.

JAWS

The classic tale, revealed the struggle of the small seaside town of Amity, that found itself the target of a man-eating Great White Shark. The colossal twenty-five-foot predator stalked unsuspecting swimmers from below before dragging them to depths in its serrated teeth wielding mouth. The notion of an invisible killer, stalking us from the gloomy depths of the ocean was a terrifying prospect, one that would frighten its unsuspecting audience for decades and prey upon our deepest darkest fears.

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First Bite

In his profound brilliance, Spielberg delivered a movie masterpiece. One that had never been attempted before. Despite struggling against the unreliability of a mechanical Great White Shark, affectionately named “Bruce” the feature boasted the incredible acting talents of Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and the great Roy Scheider, all of whom provided the perfect protagonists for the silent killer of the deep. Accentuating the movie perfectly, was the infamous soundtrack score composed and conducted by the unconquerable John Williams. His terrifying main theme was as haunting as it was foreboding and alerted the audience the sharks presence in the dark and murky waters of New England resort town.

Jaws was a cinematic event that caught lightning in a bottle. With the perfect director at the helm, the perfect screenplay and the perfect soundtrack it became the highest grossing film of all time and paved the way for juggernauts like the Star Wars franchise to emerge and become a cultural phenomenon.

But, would Jaws have the same impact if it was released today?

With the classic motion picture removed from our cultural history, and John Williams’ iconic score banished from memory, would it have the same impact if conceptualised today using our modern computer-generated effects?

The return of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week event, has revealed an incredible assortment of computer generated effects that have been employed to conceptualise the many species of shark inhabiting the world’s oceans. These computer-generated renditions, are as realistic as they are impressive and allow the filmmakers the opportunity to employ them in realistic scenarios without risk to their human performers. This allows the viewer the chance to get up close and personal with these awes-inspiring creatures of the deep like never before, and facilitates a greater understanding of what is a truly remarkable and graceful species.

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Even more impressive, was the recent motion picture The Shallows. The moviemakers crafted an impressively realistic CGI Great White Shark that for much of the movie, stalked its human co-star Blake Lively, whom had become marooned on a remote island just off shore. Unfortunately for our heroine, the White Shark had decided to police the area after discovering a decomposing whale carcass. The silent hunter had decided to defend its main food source meaning any unwelcome trespasser would be considered a target. The animal’s natural behaviour was captured perfectly and demonstrated their highly evolved abilities to the letter.

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In one sequence, the hunter exploded from the depths and hurled into the air with an unfortunate victim in its jaws, which just so happens to be a natural behaviour of the South African White Shark contingent affectionately named “Air Jaws”. In short, the special effects were incredibly realistic and in places could have been mistaken for the genuine article.

With the field of computer generated effects improving by the day, would Jaws be as impressive if it was championed by a new visionary director using these effects? With Peter Benchley’s outstanding original novel set in a time now outdated and banished to memory, the obvious choice would be to set the present-day incarnation of Jaws in the modern era. However, with this contemporary timeline utilised to full effect, the narrative of the story would need to be brought up to standard to incorporate our modern technologies. These scientific advancements can provide a complete range of marine geophysical, hydrographic and visual inspection techniques to conduct underwater mapping investigations. Submerged surface features and targets can be located, measured and mapped with precision accuracy in real-time using a combination of geophysical mapping and charting technology. Underwater mapping drones are being deployed around the world as we speak, all boasting the ability to three dimensionally scan, not only the underwater typography of the ocean floor, but the marine life they encounter along the way.

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Therefore, locating a submerged Great White Shark with these instruments has never been easier, negating the need for human beings to venture into the water at all. As a result, the endless pursuit out to sea with Quint, Brody and Hooper stalking the predator aboard the Orca for days on end, would almost certainly play out very differently from the fantastical version we are used to. The initial shark attacks on the New England beaches would almost certainly play out like for like, but the remainder of the movie would indeed be altered dramatically.

The Director:

With such a drastic change to the narrative, who would take up the challenge and assume the directorial responsibilities for this project. In the aftermath of the original classic, many inspired directors have championed their own shark tales in lieu of paying tribute to Steven Spielberg’s incredible masterpiece. Not all have been noteworthy, with The Shallows and Deep Blue Sea being the exception rather than the rule, but even ridiculous entries like the Sharknado saga have seen an increase in popularity. It seems highly unlikely that with Steven Spielberg’s departure from the tone of his fantastical and suspenseful movie classics like Jurassic Park and E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, that he would step up to offer his services to helm a contemporary version of Jaws.

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The project would require a true visionary, a director with the knowhow of fulfilling the dreams of a devoted fan base. The obvious choice would be Peter Jackson. His amazing efforts on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies speak for themselves and the inclusion of his definitive version of King Kong only solidifies his appointment, but that is by no means a certainty in the scheme of Hollywood practises.

Soundtrack:

Even more unlikely, is John Williams’ involvement with the project. Even though the masterful composer is in his mid-eighties, his position as the soul of the Star Wars saga remains unthreatened. His masterful brilliance will once again be heard in the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi which promises to be an incredible experience, but his involvement in a non-Spielberg/Star Wars feature seems highly unlikely.

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In our modern era, where movie scores fail more often than they succeed, whom could be trusted to bring a level of tonal brilliance to this hypothetical reimagining? The once great Hans Zimmer has been in decline for many years with his work falling far short of the standard set by his classic scores of yesteryears. Michael Giacchino, seems to be the gold standard of Hollywood just now, with entries like War for the Planet of the Apes, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Spider-Man: Homecoming all being scored by him in the last year, meaning he would be the obvious choice but even composers like James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri and Howard Shore would fit the project perfectly. Whether, they could capture the true suspense and foreboding narratives of the material is doubtful, especially when compared to the great John Williams, but in this hypothetical scenario his original soundtrack would not exist.

Cast:

When considering the depth of the cast of characters in the Jaws novel, whom from our current crop of talent would fit the bill for this modern reimaging? Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider performed their roles with a level of brilliance, a prerequisite from a Spielberg movie, but with the great visionary removed from proceedings…the playing field is levelled. So, let’s look at the potential front runners.

Chief Brody:

Replacing the great Roy Scheider, and fresh off the back of his stunning performance in Wonder Woman, one that demonstrated the depth of his abilities, Chris Pine would be the perfect choice to portray Chief Brody. The tough and resilient New York Police Officer, relocates his family to the beach town of Amity and assumes the role of the chief of police before the Great White Shark comes to town

 

Matt Hooper:

Alongside Chris Pine as Brody is the iconic marine biologist Matt Hooper. Originally portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, the character would require a considerable talent to assume the role and bringing a quirky charm to proceedings could be either Mark Ruffalo or Woody Harrelson. Both actors, have demonstrated an unswerving pedigree in their performances and have earned the opportunity at a career defining role.

 

Quint:

The role of Quint was originally offered to actors Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden, both of whom passed on the project before the great Robert Shaw, under duress from his wife, accepted the role. The seasoned shark wrangler requires a weathered veteran and bringing a level of gravitas to the role, could be either Forest Whitaker or Liam Neeson. Both actors have demonstrated the ability to portray tortured and defeated souls and would fit the bill to perfection.

Bruce the Shark:

And finally, moving onto the incredible special effects being employed by the magicians at both Industrial Light and Magic and the Weta Workshop, the prospect of a contemporary “Bruce” the Great White Shark manufactured by one of these giants of visual effects is an enticing prospect. The advancements in visual effects have made the impossible possible, and The Shallows has proven that a realistic and credible interpretation of a marine predator is now within reach. Either of these renowned establishments are more than capable of bringing a contemporary “Bruce” to the screen and would afford us the most realistic shark ever to grace the silver screen, but it would almost certainly lack the charm and allure of the original.

 

So, let’s try our contemporary Jaws on for size…

Universal Pictures presents Jaws, a film by renowned moviemaker Peter Jackson, the director of King Kong and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Starring the acting talents of Chris Pine, Mark Ruffalo and Forest Whitaker, the movie explores the struggles of a small beach front town that finds itself the target of a man-eating Great White Shark. The movie is set to be the scariest summer blockbuster of 2018 and will feature the iconic music of Michael Giacchino.

“When beaches open next summer, you will be taken by Jaws”

Final Thoughts:

Regardless of who sits in the director’s chair of our hypothetical modernisation, the original Jaws is far more than just a movie, it is a dream realised by a visionary director who fought tooth and nail to bring it to the screen. Steven Spielberg struggled against a temperamental mechanical shark that malfunctioned due to the clash with corrosive salt water and a filming deadline that was unattainable under the circumstances. It was a labour of love, and the hard work and devotion of the cast and crew shines through the amazing story being relayed upon the screen. The delays in filming would prove to be a blessing in disguise. Due to the mechanical shark malfunctioning so often, the director was forced to switch to wider shots using just the dorsal fin, which in the finished film helps to build suspense. Even the ocean itself was a challenge, but Spielberg was unwavering and endured the conditions to finish the movie at the cost of five million dollars over budget.

 

Despite this constant stream of issues dogging production, Jaws was unleashed upon the world in June 1975 and recouped its production costs in just two weeks before accumulating a revenue of over one hundred and twenty-three million dollars. It was the first feature film to break the one hundred-million-dollar barrier and became the very first ever Hollywood blockbuster blazing a trail for future movies. The notion of Jaws being absent from our culture is unfathomable. A multitude of conservation programs have been realised because of Jaws’ impact on our society and without their implementation the Great White Shark may well have been hunted to extinction by now.

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Jaws is a masterpiece for many reasons, Steven Spielberg among them. He captured lightning in a bottle and with his sublime production crew, a cast of incredibly talented actors and a soundtrack that is regarded as one of the finest of all time. His incredible vision has ensured its longevity. No matter who is cast in the main roles today, or the director sitting in the hot seat, or the composer tasked with writing the iconic Jaws theme, the movie would not have the same heart and love of the original. Many movies have tried and failed to emulate its success and any attempt at a reboot, hypothetical or realised, is an unwelcome one.

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Jaws is a true masterpiece of our cultural heritage and long may it reign.

Who would be your top picks for the job? Drop me a line and join in the conversation, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Until then…

One good bite deserves another!

 

Phil Roberts

Owner | Editor-In-Chief | Daily Content Manager | Social Media Manager for thefutureoftheforce.com • Star Wars Mega Fan • Novel Writer • Cineworld Unlimited Member • Movie Lover • Lover of all things Marvel and DC, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Universal Monsters, Ray Harryhausen and Batman 1966 • Husband to @Cool2Zoe & Cool Dad!

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