Jaws recently had its big 40th anniversary, and since I’ve never seen it, I decided to check it out. Jaws is one of those classic movies that has a lot of hype to live up to. When a movie is older than you are, and you’ve heard nothing but praise for it your entire life, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be a let-down.
Fortunately, Jaws holds up pretty well. It’s not an amazing film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s pretty solid. It’s the movie that made Steven Spielberg an A-list director. You can tell that he’s developing his style, and he’s a little rough around the edges still, but the Spielberg magic is definitely there.
The thing that is both a benefit and a hindrance to Jaws is the pacing. It’s incredibly slow. It’s good because it builds tension and creates atmosphere, but it’s bad because it takes way too fucking long to get to the climactic battle with the shark. At 124 minutes, it’s about 24 minutes too long. I literally fell asleep while the crew was on the ship, talking, before the shark showed up.
Everything else about the movie is pretty good. The acting, the cinematography, the music, the directing, and even the story. Yeah, it’s a little thin, but it’s a play on horror films, so it’s good enough.
What probably made this film such a classic was the era it was released. The 70s had its fair share of great films, don’t get me wrong, but there was a ton of shit from that era, too. Jaws was probably so different, such a popcorn spectacle, that it immediately endeared itself to people. And those people who became so enamored with it on their first viewing haven’t forgotten their nostalgia for it. That’s why it’s considered a classic today; much more so than any truly amazing quality of the film itself.
Ultimately, Jaws is not the unstoppable film behemoth it’s purported to be. But it’s decent enough to watch once or twice. It’s a fun film. I’m feeling generous today, so I’ll give it a score of…