Franchise Killers: Jaws: The Revenge


Jaws IV wasn’t called Jaws IV.  It was called Jaws: The Revenge.  The thinking behind this seemed to be that the studio wanted to hide the fact that Jaws: The Revenge was the fourth film in a franchise that never needed a second film.  At the time, this was a bold departure from tradition.  Sequels were very clearly labeled numerically – although for reasons I will never understand those numbers were almost always Roman numerals.  I guess Weekend at Bernie’s II is somehow classier than Weekend at Bernie’s 2.  Lack of Roman numerals was a clear indication that the sequel in question was not a worthy successor to the original except in the case of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.  The Boogaloo – electric or otherwise – more than makes up for the lack of Roman digits.

But back to Jaws 4 – or Jaws: the Revenge if you prefer.  J:TR was the final film in the Jaws saga.  It didn’t just kill the Jaws franchise, it blew it all to hell like a shark full of compressed air.  Most franchises are never too dead to be revived with a remake or a reboot.  But almost thirty years after Jaws: The Revenge, no one has touched the shark franchise (despite what was predicted in Back to the Future Part II).

The Revenge part of the title is not randomly sitting in for the IV.  The movie’s tagline promised “This time, it’s personal.”  That wasn’t just an absurd slogan for a movie about a man-eating shark.  It was a plot point.  The shark in Jaws: The Revenge isn’t just an eating machine, it’s pissed.  You don’t think sharks hold grudges?  Then buddy, you don’t know Jaws!

The movie opens with Chief Brody’s son, Sean, having taken his father’s job on Amity Island.  Since everyone knew better than to ask Roy Schieder to return for another Jaws sequel, his character died off-screen.  Did a shark finally get him?  No, the chief died of a heart attack.  No matter.  Much like General Zod vowing revenge on Jor-el’s heir, this shark is more than happy to even the score by eating what remains of the Brodies.

Lorraine Gary, aka Ellen Brody – Chief Brody’s widow and real-life wife of Universal studio’s chief executive at the time – was the sole cast member to return for Jaws 4.  Based on that – and surely owing nothing to the fact that her husband ran the studio that owned the rights to Jaws – Gary’s character assumed the lead role in the sequel.  When Ellen Brody learns of her son’s death, she is naturally upset.  But also is certain of something that seems very unlikely.

Ellen believes that her son’s death was an act of vengeance.  Why would a shark want revenge on her son?  Even if sharks were motivated by things like vengeance, why would any shark have it in for Sean Brody?  Well, not *any* shark would.  But Ellen does not believe that her son was eaten by just *any* shark.  She believes he was eaten by *THE* shark.  The one her husband killed at the end of the first movie.  The one he blew up in a bloody mist with pieces of shark flesh flying everywhere.  This shark:

Um, I don’t know Ellen.  That shark looked pretty definitively dead to me.  I don’t think that shark is going to trouble anybody after that.  But what do I know about sharks?  Apparently, it was just a flesh wound.  He got better.

To cheer her up, Ellen’s remaining son decides to whisk her away from Amity.  That seems sensible.  Where do they go?  The Bahamas.  Okay.  Sure maybe someplace dryer would have been better considering that Ellen believes she is being pursued by a vengeful great white shark that somehow reassembled itself after being blown to bits twelve years earlier.  But then again, the Bahamas are a thousand miles away from Amity.  What are the odds that a shark could swim at the same speed as an airplane to keep up with them?

Better than you would think as it turns out.  Cause when Ellen and her son get to the Bahama’s *THE* shark is ready to pick up where he left off.

But Ellen has other things on her mind.  Specifically, she is in the mood for love.  In the Bahamas, she meets a carefree pilot played by Oscar-winning actor, Michael Caine.  Caine actually missed the opportunity to pick up that Oscar (Best Supporting Actor for Hannah and Her Sisters) because he was in the Bahamas battling a mechanical shark.  Apparently, his large paycheck compensated for the missed opportunity.  Caine has been quoted as saying of Jaws 4:

I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.

So how bad is Jaws: The Revenge?  It’s worse than Jaws 3-D.  And that movie took place in Sea World.  Yes, the theme park in central Florida where a shark could never ever possibly eat people.  And the 3-D shark looked like this:

Folks, that was the big scene in Jaws 3-D.  The stationary shark slowly edging towards glass while Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett Jr. looked on in horror was the scene that was used to sell tickets to the movie.  By all rights, Jaws 3-D should have killed the franchise in 1983.  But then we would be robbed of the catharsis of seeing the shark from the first movie do battle with the first film’s protagonist’s wife.  It’s like how after Rocky, everyone couldn’t wait for the movie where Apollo Creed fought Adrian.

Interestingly enough, Universal had the audacity to diss Jaws 3-D in the press release for the fourth film.  Jaws: The Revenge was referred to as the “third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy”.  So either they are really bad at math or they are claiming that Jaws 3-D never happened.

But as bad as Jaws 3-D was, and it was bad folks, it didn’t hold a candle to Jaws: The Revenge.  Roger Ebert famously pointed out some of the movie’s obvious flaws.  In one scene, Michael Caine crashes his plane into the ocean.  When he climbs out of the water onto the boat, he is completely dry.  Throughout the movie, Ellen has flashbacks to memorable scenes from the first movie… including scenes she did not witness.

And then there was the finale.  Every Jaws movie ends with a shark death.  The more spectacular the death, the better.  The exploding shark in the first film set a high bar and none of the sequels came close to clearing it.  But in the case of Jaws: The Revenge, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  The ending of Jaws 4 overshoots implausible and goes straight for “what the hell was that?!?”

It comes down to the shark and Ellen facing each other down like gunfighters in the Old West.  The shark makes the fatal mistake of leaping out of the water and skewering itself on the bowsprit of Ellen’s sailboat.  Then, it explodes.  Now this is very unusual behavior for non-explosive things like sharks and sailboats.  But apparently if you combine the two with just the right amount of shark vengeance, BOOM!  Shark explosion.

Why did the shark blow up?  Because test audiences for Jaws 4 didn’t care for the original ending in which the shark dies a slightly less ridiculous death.

And with that, the once proud Jaws series came to a close.  Let’s break this down:

How many movies in the series? 4

How many of them were good? 1

Health of the franchise before it died? Critical condition

Likelihood of a reboot? Up until recently, slim.  But with the success of Jurassic World, apparently Spielberg is considering it.

Any redeeming value?  The Jaws 4 drinking game

More Franchise Killers



Posted on September 6, 2015, in Franchise Killers, Movies, sequels and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. Ha! BTTF II also showed us all having self-lacing shoes in 2015 🙂 🙂 🙂 Still holds up for good reviewing. I’m more and more appreciative of Christopher Lloyd.
    JAWS, on the other hand, one was more than enough for me. I am quite sure that your writeup is going to be infinitely more enjoyable than actually enduring through Jaws the Revenge. One question: If the shark blows up at the end, what happens to the people falling off the boat in the clip?


    • Ordinarily, I would disagree that one of my articles could be more enjoyable than the movie that inspired it. But in the case of Jaws 4, it’s entirely possible.

      Given what we have seen of the internal logic of the movie, darn near anything is possible. My guess is that despite the exploding shark, they all sailed away with nary a stain on their clothes.


  2. I somehow sat through this one years ago–I think I was home sick and this was what was on cable, or something–and yes, everyone, it is this terrible. Maybe the only good thing to come out of it was the delightfully cynical quip from Michael Caine about “the house that it built.”


    • One of the odd things about the movie is that midway through it forgets about the shark and turns into How Ellen Got Her Groove Back. I know Gary was married the the head of the studio and all. But no one gave a damn about the widow Brody. We wanted to see a movie about a shark.


  3. I haven’t seen this film since I was a kid (not really a fan of the franchise anyway), but i do remember it being terrible as described. I mean, I guess the shark became a combination of Godzilla and Jason Voorhees later on. The one moment from this film that I recall was when the song “You Got It All” by The Jets was played during a slow dance scene; I like that song.


  4. I always suspected Michael Caine really needed the money. That’s the only logical explanation for why an actor of his talent would take a role in this fiasco.

    Jaws, like Halloween, should’ve stopped after the first one. Spielberg was smart to turn down doing a sequel even though it would have paid handsomely. Although I read somewhere that the main reason he did so is because of all the problems he ran into shooting the original Jaws and not wanting to have to deal with them again. If Jaws were made today, I suspect that the shark would be a CGI creation. Having to keep it off screen made it more suspenseful. But yeah, the subsequent Jaws films suffered by not having a master filmmaker like Spielberg at the helm.


    • Caine took any and every paycheck. That actually seems to be part of the culture of English actors. If the money is good, the quality of the film doesn’t matter. Olivier used to make equally droll remarks about his salary on dogs. It’s been a while since I have seen it, but the movie PCU had a running gag where one of the characters was doing his thesis on how Caine or Gene Hackman were always on cable 24-7. He was not known for turning down parts.

      Spielberg initially turned down Jaws 2. But he reconsidered. Had the scheduling worked out with Close Encounters, Spielberg wanted to do a prequel with a young Quint on the Indianapolis. I’d still like to see that movie.

      A lot of movies don’t need sequels. Jaws is one. Although you have to remember that sequels were very different creatures in the late 70s before cable TV, DVRs and home video. Sequels were often virtual remakes. Jaws 2 is basically Jaws redone by a less talented director and with an eye towards a teen market. Back then, once Jaws was out of theaters you weren’t going to get another chance to see it unless it got rereleased. It would eventually show up on TV years later, edited for TV and stuffed with commercials. Today, you can pretty easily watch any of your favorite movies at any time. But back then, that wasn’t remotely true. Something like Jaws 2 gave you a chance to reexperience Jaws even if it was a lesser version.


  5. truth be told michael caine took a lot of crap roles for money especially in late 80s most of 90s. He was defintly a list back in the day from 60 to mid 80s . THen he started picking crappy roles his career dried up . After his oscasr win in ciderhouse rules which got him oscar his career was resurrected however this lead to supporting roles and he became a s successful character in huge hits. His leading man days were over but he still gained interesting parts


  6. You know Lebeau you bring up an interesting point about 70’s and 80’s-era movie sequels, that sequels back then frequently used roman numerals, i.e. Rocky II, III, IV, V, The Godfather II and III, Weekend At Bernie’s II, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, and on and on. For lord’s sake they even used a roman numeral for Porky’s II: The Next Day! The roman numeral just adds a touch of class that the film itself is lacking.

    What’s funny is there are a couple of movie series that initially used the roman numerals but eventually gave up on that as the series went on. You had Smokey and the Bandit II, But for the third one they just abandoned the formality and went with Smokey and the Bandit 3. I guess Smokey II is just classier than Smokey 3. In more recent years we had the Men In Black series, with Men In Black II and then Men In Black 3 (that was the first time I recall such a change which I found odd, and still do). Perhaps most pecular among film series is Death Wish. For the first sequel you got Death Wish II; they abandomed the roman numerals for Death Wish 3, contiuning with Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, but then…… for the fifth and final entry, they went BACK to roman numerals for Death Wish V: The Face of Death. Why? Why??? I will never understand.

    Perhaps its just me but it’s kind of an interesting topic, and it seems once the 90’s rolled around film studios largely abandoned the roman numerals for sequels althogether.


    • I opened with that bit because I have always been genuinely interested in the topic as silly as it may seem. When I was growing up, almost every sequel had the same title as the original with a number to designate its status in the series. This wasn’t always the case. You used to get sequels like the Planet of the Apes movies which came up with clever titles that gave you no idea in which order they should be viewed. If you wanted to see a Planet of the Apes movie, you just went to the one that was in theaters. They would explain everything you needed to know from the previous films.

      The roman numeral thing always struck me as silly because it was so pretentious. But it was the standard. It was pretty rare to see a movie break with that tradition. But with Jaws: The Revenge, they were actively trying to hide the fact that Jaws III or Jaws 3-D ever existed. Calling the movie Jaws IV would have been a reminder that Jaws 3-D sucked. So they came up with this idea to try to pretend that they were completing some kind of trilogy like Jaws was Star Wars. Every aspect of it is ridiculous.

      Today, we’ve gotten away from the roman numeral thing and we’re back to names which give you no indication of where the movie fits in the series. Look at the Jurassic Park movies. If you didn’t know already, how would you ever figure out the order; Jurassic Par, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III (in a nod to tradition) and Jurassic World. Or heaven help you with the Batman series which eventually dropped the name Batman entirely; Batman, Batman Returns (so far, so good), Batman Forever (sounds like a good title for the 4th movie if you ask me), Batman and Robin, Batman Begins (WTH?!?), The Dark Knight (is this even Batman anymore), The Dark Knight Rises, Batman V. Superman.

      The thinking used to be that every successive sequel earned less than the previous movie in the series. When a franchise reached a point where you weren’t sure if it would be profitable anymore, you just killed it. At some point, they came up with the clever idea of not advertising the fact that the movie was part of a long-running series you might no be caught up on. I remember this being very noticeable when the Star Trek movies dropped the numbers from the title. Since then, it’d kind of been anything goes.


  7. “This time, it’s personal”. If nothing else the Jaws sequels came up with some terrific movie poster taglines (that may be the only compliment anyone ever gives the Jaws sequels). Best of them all though is from Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….” I would go so far as to say that is one of the best movie poster taglines ever created, if I may be so bold. Now if only the film had been as great as the tagline….


    • Those were some great taglines. I hadn’t seen either Jaws movie, but I knew “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” and I was scared silly to get into my local pool for fear a shark might be in there.


  8. Caine came from a poor family so he took any role wiht lots of money.the 80s not the best decade for movies. I tend to think alot of movies there were cheesey. His 80s resume is bad island .


    • I don’t entirely agree about the quality of film in the 1980’s. There was a goofier, silly vibe to a lot of the productions, but it still had a lot of strong pictures that fit into any era such as “Ordinary People”,”Gandhi”, “Hannah and Her Sisters” and more. Was it as good of a decade as the 1970’s? Not even close. But the films of the 1980’s were basically a reaction to the topical, serious films of their decade, and also the “New Hollywood” movement of directors from that time as well.


      • To add to this, I don’t see Michael Caine’s 1980s filmography as all that bad overall. He was nominated for Oscars for Educating Rita and Hannah and Her Sisters, winning for the latter, and nominated for Golden Globes for both those films as well as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, winning for Educating Rita (he also won a second Golden Globe for a TV movie about Jack the Ripper). Deathtrap and Without a Clue both have good reputations as well.


        • Deathtrap was fun. Kinda blew my mind to see Superman kiss Michael Caine when I was a kid.


        • I agree, I think Michael Caine had more hits than misses in the 1980’s. I’d really only consider “Jaws: the Revenge” and “Surrender” to be subpar (I actually like “Half Moon Street”, though it could’ve been better).


  9. avoided the film sounded dumb. cianes 70s was near perefect his 80s more flops then good but still good performances.However the 2000s have been amazing to him hes been more consistent in terms of hit then al pacino and denrio 2 actors ranked higher then him . His 90s work except little voice and cider house isnt impressive. Leabu my dad has caine was kindof the clooney and nic cage of his time. He had clooney charisma was a sex symobl like clooney. As for nic cage just like people critised cage for every bad movie he makes after a good they did the same for caine . Even back then he made some quesitonable choices


  10. the island was bad. He is one of my fav actors but his film career most part struggling in 80s and especailly 90s. His oscar win for cider house rules made him realize its ok to character actor. If lebeau had this made in 90s caine would be on it.


  11. I actually really like JAWS 2, but 3-D and THE REVENGE are utterly terrible.


    • Jaws 2 is okay for what it is. I’ll watch it if it’s on. Diminishing returns is definitely a factor. Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfus are missed.


      • Viewed as a stand-alone movie, Jaws 2 is okay. Viewed in comparison with its predecessor it’s worse. It’s the only watchable one of the Jaws sequels.


        • Definitely. It was his direction and the performances that elevated the original Jaws from being simply a B movie to being something special. Jaws 2 is basically (if viewed separate from its predecessor) a B movie. Not bad in that regard.


        • Jaws 2 was the movie everyone expected the first Jaws would be. It’s not without merit.


        • Most definitely. He initially said “hell no” but he actually reconsidered. But by the time he did, it was too late.


      • I think Jaws 2 would be a great movie to watch again for your ‘Was I wrong’ segment. I actually love that movie. Over time it’s reputation has suffered because it’s not the Spielberg movie. Don’t get me wrong. The original is the best but I think part two is a worthy successor. When I was a kid one of the big debates in the 80’s was which one is the best: the one with the tank or the one with the cable.


        • I have seen Jaws 2 enough that I really doubt my mind will be changed by another viewing. But the next time I see it on cable, I’ll give it another look. I actually think I am more fond of Jaws 2 than most, but there’s simply no debate over which movie is better. The one with the tank wins by a landslide. I can see where kids would prefer the sequel which had more shark.

          I actually saw Jaws 2 before seeing the original. My parents took us to a drive-in movie that was showing The Blues Brothers and Jaws 2. They clearly had no idea what The Blues Brothers was going to be like. All my siblings fell asleep during or after Jaws 2, but I was mesmerized by both movies. I also have fond memories of collecting Jaws 2 trading cards. I think I still have some. And of course there was the great tagline.


  12. Lebeau you gave me great idea for a blog you can do. WHen you told house of cards success keeps spacey away from having a wthh article it gave me idea for one you should write. You could write about actors at one point when they careers where in a slump before there comeback they could have an article. You can call the article almost in the dumps. You can write about ben affleck who before the town his career was doing bad . Spacey and paltrow cna be included in it too.


  13. ok maybe u can also add company men on costner blog if you have the time too. I know that movie flopped but it was a supporting role for him rare.


  14. Top 10 Ridiculous Movie Plots

    We’re all willing to suspend our disbelief for movies to a certain extent, but these ones push the limit way too far. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Ridiculous Movie Plots. For this list, we’re looking at those movies whose plots were so ridiculous and outlandish that we can’t help but laugh at their unintentional hilarity.


  15. 11 Movies Where The Reshoots Were Painfully Obvious

    Jaws: The Revenge

    The sheer terror on the faces of Universal executives as they sat down to watch Jaws: The Revenge can only be imagined. Not the terror that comes with watching a great horror movie; it’s the terror of realizing they’d spent millions to make such a turkey.

    No amount of reshoots would have salvaged it, but they did decide to add a new ending to make it a little happier. The original climax saw the mother of the family being hunted by the psychic, vengeful shark (long story) impaling it with a broken bowsprit. It trashed around in pain and destroyed the boat before finally dying.

    The effects looked abysmal and test audiences were sad the friendly Jamaican scientist was eaten, so the new ending had the shark explode for no apparent reason when he’s impaled and the scientist somehow survives being beaten in half. The new footage jars so badly that it is immediately apparent something is wrong.

    The crude model used for the exploding shark (seen above) is a total embarrassment and archive footage of the shark’s death from the original movie is spliced in to complete the effect. They also failed to mask that it was shot in a tank; the ocean can be seen washing over the “sky” in the background.


  16. 9 Terrible Franchise Killing Movies

    Jaws: The Revenge

    With Jaws, Steven Spielberg created one of the greatest thrillers of all time; a superbly made, impeccably cast movie that invented the summer blockbuster. Somehow it also inspired Jaws: The Revenge, which is considered one of the worst movies ever and is regularly a punch line when it comes to people talking about terrible sequels.

    It’s not hard to see why since the story is kind of insane, even for a movie about a killer shark; this particular shark is targeting one specific family, and the mother seems to have a psychic connection with it. The shark is also made of rubber; the machinery that operates it is blatantly visible on camera in key shots and it roars like a lion, despite sharks not having vocal cords.

    Needless to say, the reviews for the movie weren’t kind, and no other sequels were made, though they apparently flirted with the idea of bringing back Richard Dreyfuss for another round during the nineties.

    Rumor has it Spielberg hated The Revenge so much he refused to let Universal package it in the same box-set as his movie, which is why the Jaws sequels are packaged separately from the original.


    • Disappointing movie sequels that killed franchises

      Jaws: The Revenge

      Question one: how do you make a sequel to a movie about a killer shark who dies in the final act? Question two: why would you even bother? The answer to the second question is “money,” but there really isn’t a good answer to the first, as the Jaws franchise demonstrated repeatedly over the years. The studio cranked out your basic rehash for Jaws 2, then got desperate for ideas, resorting to a cheap gimmick for 1983’s Jaws 3-D. But that silliness pales in comparison to Jaws: The Revenge, which imagines a shark deliberately picking off members of the first film’s central family in retaliation. Hampered by low-budget effects and a script that, at one point, attributed the shark’s murder spree to the work of a vengeful witch doctor, the fourth Jaws was a complete critical and financial disaster. Even in an era of constant reboots, this is one franchise that’s remained blissfully underwater.


  17. 10 Dead Movie Franchises That Hollywood Must Revive


    Shark movies are all the rage at the moment. Giant prehistoric sharks, sharks in tornadoes, ghost sharks, flying Nazi sharks. You can’t pick up and throw a shark in Hollywood without it landing on a low rent production company remaking BMX Bandits with sharks, or trying to land an eighties pop star to front Killer Zombie Sex Sharks From Mars.

    That’s why there’s never been a better time for a return to the definitive shark attack franchise. Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw may have passed on, but Richard Dreyfuss is still going strong: however this isn’t necessarily about returning to the old characters.

    What we need is a bare bones, chillingly effective movie that riffs off the original but matches it for sustained, cold deep sea dread and ups the ante for set-pieces. No ridiculous gimmicks: Jaws wasn’t a monster movie, but a slasher flick where the masked guy with the knife lurking in the shadows, was a twenty-five foot long Great White shark.

    And if you’re stuck for a hook that connects it to the first film: well, there’s always that conspiracy theory that says that the huge man-eating shark that’s killed at the end of Jaws had actually been terrorizing the east coast of America for years.

    A seventies-set prequel ending in the official cover-up that leads into the events of Jaws itself? I’ll buy into that.


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