Jaws at 40 – Is it safe to go in the water yet?

Certain films are very quotable, creating earworms that lodge inside your mind and rarely fail to make an appearance when someone mentions the film in question. Jerry Maguire has “You had me at hello” while Casablanca has “Here’s looking at you, kid”. And who can forget arguably one of the most quoted lines of all from the Star Wars series, “May the force be with you”.

One of the most memorable lines from this forty-year-old film is something that still sounds quite ominous even when you don’t hear it in context:

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Why is the speaker saying a bigger boat is needed? Because the people on it are about to take on a giant man-eating shark…

“Don’t go in the water!”

Jaws is classified as a thriller, and it certainly thrilled – or rather frightened, horrified and alarmed – multiple movie-goers; when it was released in 1975, a whole generation allegedly became afraid of open water.

The film is based on Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’, which was published a year before the motion picture was released. Producers Richard D Zanuck and David Brown read the book and immediately bought the films rights, sensing its potential.

A relatively-unknown 28-year-old Steven Spielberg took directorial duties, with Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss taking the leading roles. Mechanical sharks nicknamed ‘Bruce’ were the eponymous beast though some scenes feature a real shark.

A five-star killer

Jaws is a great example of when creative licence works very well, exaggerating the predatory nature of a Great White and extending it to attacks on humans.

While shark attacks on humans do occur, more commonly in Australia than other parts of the world, statistics from the International Shark Attack File place the amount of attacks worldwide at under 3,000 between 1850 and 2014. The amount of fatal attacks during the same period is just under 550.

Watching Jaws for what it is, a motion picture rather than a factual documentary, it’s no wonder that it holds an 8.1 rating on IMDb and 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, as it’s arguably the very definition of a successful thriller.

We have a series of protagonists, led by Police Chief Brody (Scheider), who are on the hunt, quite literally, for the film’s antagonist, a killer Great White. Their adversary’s actions are random and seemingly without reason. It’s down to Brody and his team to stop the shark before it can kill again.

Urban legend explains that the reason why many scenes were shot from the shark’s point-of-view is because the mechanical sharks used were temperamental and prone to breaking down. This camera angle is certainly a success, creating an additional air of tension and suspense.

The original and best

Jaws set the standard for a generation of films that featured animals as their antagonist. Lake Placid, Deep Blue Sea and Arachnophobia are just three off the top of my head that feature more blood-thirsty beasts rather than cuddly critters. Jurassic Park is a notable addition, though at times you are firmly on the side of the dinosaurs.

A reason why Jaws endures 40 years on is its simplicity.

The killer shark in question is exactly as nature intended it to be; it isn’t the result of a human experimentation gone wrong, a captive beast gone native or a mythical creature. It’s simply a big fish that got hungry and is now having to pay the price.

The protagonists’ jobs are fairly exciting – a Police Chief, a professional shark hunter and a marine biologist – but it’s their camaraderie and personalities that really drive the plot. Who can forget shark hunter Quint’s seafaring ditties or the friction between Quint and his younger marine biologist counterpart? Plus, of course, Police Chief Brody’s aversion to water…

To me, Jaws is an example of when movie makers nearly got everything right. A lot of the film revolves around the three men staking out the beast on a boat so the casting needed to be right. Happily, it was. The creature effects still stand up today and the inimitable ‘duhh dum, duhh dum, duhh dum’ theme is unforgettable.

Jaws undoubtedly remains one of Spielberg’s greatest works.

A docile ‘Bruce’ and Spielberg relax in between shots.


[Review] Jurassic World

Science fiction has taught us many things over the years, from what the most sophisticated weapon is (a lightsaber) to the most efficient way to travel (teleportation). It’s also told us that designer babies are practically a certainty.

These bespoke children, who inherit selected parts of their parents to allegedly give them the best chance of a long and happy life, won’t be confined to just the human race, though.

“We need more teeth”

These words are spoken towards the end of Jurassic World, when the film reaches its heart-racing climax. However, these words could easily have been the catalyst for the whole film, as Corporate, disappointed when visitor numbers remain static at around the 20,000-mark, seek a solution.

When the ‘more is more’ generation gets tired of seeing an extinct animal brought back to life, not bothering to even glance up from their smartphones when a 20ft Tyrannosaurus Rex devours its prey, it’s down to the men in white coats to create something ‘better’.

By genetically modifying one of the most fierce and brutal predators that ever existed, returning Jurassic Park character Dr Henry Wu and his team create something absolutely terrifying and totally uncontrollable: the Indominus Rex.


“You went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea”

While Indominus Rex is certainly an impressive beast, undoubtedly causing nightmares for the younger members of the cinema audience, I was left in both awe and pity.

As Park Ranger Owen Grady says, it doesn’t know that it was created in a lab. It’s simply an animal attempting to fulfil one of its most basic needs: hunt.

Jurassic World builds on the themes of its predecessors to be an intense action film that gives you heroes, villains and exciting creatures plus question the morality of playing god and meeting the needs of a generation that’s searching for ‘the next best thing’.

Following on the foundations of Jurassic Park – with just the right amount of references to it – to show you what happens when the park is fully operational, it shows you glimpses of herbivore petting zoos, ride-on triceratops and a thrilling aquatic display.

For these reasons it ticks all the boxes for younger cinema-goers, creating the same ‘wow’ factor that I had when I first watched Jurassic Park.

It also operates on a second, deeper level. While 11-year-old me was in awe of the idea of a Jurassic Park and wished it could happen, 27-year-old me now understands through Jurassic World’s visual representation the dangers and moral uncertainty in doing so.

I’d still book a ticket to Isla Nublar, though. And I’m sure I’d be content to see plain old T-Rex, the Raptors and the herbivores.


[In Memoriam] Sir Christopher Lee

christopher_lee1The inimitable Sir Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday 7th June after suffering from heart and respiratory problems. He was 93.

A terrific actor admired by his peers, critics and the public alike, for my generation he will be best remembered for his turns as Saruman the White and Count Dooku while for others he will forever be the ultimate actor to play Count Dracula following his Hammer Horror performances.

Sir Christopher Lee 27.05.1922 – 07.06.2015

Hands up, I’m a fanatic!

FF stampIn December, I’ll be celebrating 14 years of being a film fanatic.

I was undoubtedly a film fan in my earlier years, following trips to the cinema to see the likes of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but I became a film fanatic in December 2001 after watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and falling head over heels for the film and the magical way that its director transported you into this exciting, beautiful world.

The more films I watch, the more I form an opinion on what I do and don’t like watching.

I like being (sometimes literally) on the edge of my seat and getting totally wrapped up in what’s happening.

I don’t like macabre horrors like Saw, as it scares me that a supposedly sane person with no criminal intent has written it.

I like being moved to tears, especially if I’ve already predicted the plot; that’s shows the capability of the actors, in my opinion.

I don’t mind some romcoms, but I’d pick a sci-fi or fantasy first.

One definition of ‘hobby’ is the following:
“An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.”

If someone asks me what my hobbies are, I explain that I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, being outdoors with my dog, and watching films. The first two have been true throughout in my life, but the third is again since becoming a film fanatic.

Feeding the fanaticism

In December 2001, to feed my new found appreciation of film I started going to the cinema regularly with school friends and bought a subscription to Empire magazine; I had a cull of my back catalogue recently, recycling everything apart from the LOTR ones, naturally.

As I got older, my interests changed, as socialising with friends became more important. I swopped Friday nights at the cinema for Friday nights at a nightclub. The Empire subscription was cancelled.

As a 27-year-old woman, having a passion for film isn’t a traditional hobby. Empire, which I’ve subscribed to on-and-off for nearly 15 years, says its readers are 23% female and 77% male, with the majority of the readership (34.8%) falling into the 15-24 bracket.

It wasn’t until I completed my university education in 2010 that I really got back into going to the cinema. I moved to a new town 95 miles from my hometown and going to the cinema to take advantage of the Wednesday 2-4-1 offer provided by a mobile phone network was a semi-regular occurrence. The Empire subscription was renewed.

In January 2012, I signed up to Letterboxd, which was founded in October 2011. In 2012, I went to the cinema 24 times. In 2013, it was 17 times. In 2014, it was six times, and I know full well why my cinema-visiting habits changed in 2014 and the latter half of 2013.

I bought a dog.

Still a signed up member

Today, cinema trips are a rare occurrence, taking place when I’m particularly eager to see something. This is because when I come home from work, my priority is to spend time with my dog. I’m still a signed up member of the Film Fanatics Club, though.

The renewed Empire subscription is still going and I enjoy reading it from cover to cover when I have the time. I watch a lot of films at home, read other film fans’ blogs, follow movie news through Empire Online and other sources, and write this blog.

As explained in my ‘About this blog’ page, it’s a collection of my film related thoughts. Really, though, it’s become more than that. It’s my space of the internet to express my opinion; a creative outlet to record my observations and ideas. Writing this blog has given me a lot of enjoyment and direction, and I thank everyone who takes the time to read it.

Can you pinpoint when you went from film fan to film fanatic?


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