Jaws 3 (1983)
Release Date: July 22nd, 1983 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Joe Alves Actors: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett Jr., John Putch, Lea Thompson, P.H. Moriarty, Dan Blasko, Liz Morris, Lisa Maurer
t’s preview week at Sea World, with water acrobats practicing for performances, new recruits garnering instructions from a trainer, and boss Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr.) reveling in the publicity of the Undersea Kingdom and its four pressurized viewing tunnels, which allow for some incredible sights. Meanwhile, orca handler and senior biologist Dr. Kay Morgan (Bess Armstrong) and her theme-park-designer boyfriend (and fellow Sea World employee) Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) prepare for the grand opening with more partying than double-checks on security precautions. And during a night out at a bar, Mike’s visiting kid brother Sean (John Putch) quickly woos water skier Kelly Ann Bukowski (Lea Thompson).
That same night, a couple of coral hunters (if that’s even a real profession) sneak into the park with an inflatable raft to steal some valuable samples. But they become victims of an underwater attack – the second such event after a fence repairman is snapped up – though none of their bodies are immediately discovered. In fact, even during the following morning, when a submersible is deployed to investigate the possibility of an accident and the strange behaviors of the resident dolphins, no human remains are located. However, the culprit is instantly identified as a Great White shark when it attempts to eat Mike and Kay. But instead of inciting a panic, Kay is enthused about the prospect of tranquilizing and capturing the beast for the headlines and fame, which that feat would surely attract. And photographer/adventurer Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale) joins the expedition to snag a few singular pictures. It’s a rather ignoble motivation, which begs for bloodthirsty reprisal from a toothy maneater.
With an original title of “Jaws 3-D,” it’s obvious that this franchise has truly become a mere product – an opportunity to capitalize on pre-sold audiences and the trend of 3D gimmicks for not only sequels but also, specifically, horror movie follow-ups. Here, various items move or shoot directly toward the screen (including a decapitated fish head, a severed arm, a skeleton’s hand, a discharging syringe, an arrow, and more), which have zero impact on the story and are downright wasteful when not viewed in 3D. In addition, there are an abundance of shots of mutilated corpses (fake as they may look), hinting at the notion that the shark cannot, by itself, provide enough easy shocks. Ironically, many of the theme-park-gone-awry qualities are reused to far greater effect in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” ten years later (though it’s unlikely that any of this actually inspired the latter project).
Once again, the stars are a bunch of young adults, which motivates the dialogue to be juvenile and generic, while the thrills seem cheaper due to the careless, wimpishly screaming victims. Although the environment is a bit different (on its basest levels, drawing parallels to “The Poseidon Adventure”), the killer fish’s actions are familiar and anticipated, leaving little room for genuinely unnerving sequences (though a moment filmed inside the brute’s mouth is one of the highlights). Even the music has deteriorated, notably because John Williams did not return to compose new pieces. And if Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) from the first two films wasn’t the unluckiest of all shark attack victims, his sons Mike and Sean turn the entire family into the most improbably unfortunate targets of some very unfriendly Great Whites. It’s a good thing that the dolphins are so smart that they can repeatedly come to the rescue (and a bad thing that this particular shark has mastered the ability to swim backwards).
– Mike Massie