Jaws 3 (1983)
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Joe Alves
Producer: Rupert Hitzig
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb
Date Released: July 22, 1983
Dennis Quaid as Mike Brody
Bess Armstrong as Kathryn Morgan
Simon MacCorkindale as Philip FitzRoyce
Louis Gossett, Jr. as Calvin Bouchard
John Patch as Sean Brody
Rating: 1.5/5 Graves
As SeaWorld Orlando prepares to open its newest attraction, tunnels submerged deep underneath the waters of a lagoon, a great white shark gets marooned within the attraction’s gates. The great white shark begins attacking and killing the humans who end up in the water, and matters are further complicated when SeaWorld decides to make the shark a part of the park.
There is some blood here and there, but poor effects lessen the impact. It’s about as gory as a bad nosebleed and about as scary as one, too.
The Grave Review
Jaws 3 (1983) was originally marketed as Jaws 3D and pitched as a parody of the first two Jaws movies, which explains so many things about the movie. For the most part, the effects are cheap, the story is pretty weak (though not necessarily unrealistic), and the actual horror and gore gets in on a technicality.
This movie is set at SeaWorld Orlando, which is probably the most distracting thing about the movie, despite the fact that the movie is about a bloodthirsty shark. Not only has a lot of unsavory information about SeaWorld come to light since 1983 that makes the movie hard to watch while staying in the moment, it’s hard to watch this movie and not think of it as a big commercial with bad special effects, especially when we have random footage of Shamu tricks and parades and activities at the park that aren’t related to a hungry great white shark. I think it also explains many of the problems with this movie compared to the first two Jaws films. I’m guessing it comes down to the fact that the goal was a PG movie so kids could see it, get excited by the shark stuff, get entranced by the fun SeaWorld stuff, and beg their parents to take them to SeaWorld and become park profits. I don’t know if this is the exact truth of the matter—one has to question a marketing team that would think a film about people getting eaten at your park would make the park more appealing—but I would bet that my idea isn’t so far off, either.
It would for one explain the weak effects and weak horror. Jaws 3 has a PG rating, as do its predecessors, in a time when PG-13 did not exist: movies went right to R. If Jaws and Jaws 2 toed the line for an R rating, Jaws 3 could probably see the line if it squinted really hard. But showing those classic moments of people getting bloodily gobbled by nature’s trash compacter would scare young kids and bring bad associations to the park, hence we have a sharp decrease in the all things that would have drawn the adult audience to the movie. The clearest example of this come when a man swallowed by the shark just kind of gets lodged in his throat and even the inventive death scene from inside the shark’s mouth just shows a little squirt of blood from off-screen. It’s a far cry from Quint’s bloody end in the first film.
It also explains why the story feels so weak. There is no real terror, not just because the gore effects and sense of suspense are hardly there, but because the danger is so forced. At SeaWorld, most of the people are in the stands and on the ground, not in the shark-infested waters. Although the shark threatens park guests and chases innocent park employees, the shark is just so easy to avoid. Leave the park! It would even be easy to get rid of the shark: just open the gates back up and drive him out, but the park manager wants to turn the great white into a feature of the exhibit. This could be made into something horrific—the initial shark exhibit is a very shallow pool with no additional guards to keep humans from getting pulled in—but the shark that ends up in that pool dies quickly and it feels like a huge missed opportunity. (Though I will give the filmmakers credit for accuracy, whether they intended it or not: great whites do extremely poorly in captivity and die very quickly.) The second shark could be taken care of just as easily, presumably, so it’s hard to take seriously.
The special effects in general are pretty weak as well. Many shots are superimpositions that are poorly added into scenes. Many of the 3D scenes are superimposed shots rather than scenes filmed with a 3D camera, which makes them look awkward and out of place. Ironically, it’s the image quality itself that looks awkward and it makes most of the shots obviously intended for a 3D experience a bit more normal looking. Film quality differed wildly between shots and scenes, which made me wonder if I was watching a restored edition or something. Obviously, state-of-the-art special effects looked a lot different in 1983, but I still can’t help but feel that things should have still looked at least a little smoother than what Jaws 3D had to offer.
There are a few strengths here and there. The climax is cheesy but enjoyable in the vein of the best seventies’ disaster movies, and although the puppet and shark animatronics vary wildly in quality, it is usually an improvement on previous films’ sharks. Stock and underwater footage of real sharks is also used effectively. There are occasionally inventive shots, like the death scene from inside the shark that I’ve already mentioned, that I enjoyed. There are also two dolphins that assist the humans, which I wish the filmmakers had done more with because it’s delightfully weird and not necessarily inaccurate to real life dolphin behavior. In general, I love the idea that SeaWorld probably thought this movie would reflect positively on them. Maybe it did, and I’m the one with bad marketing instincts.
Jaws 3 (1983) isn’t awful, but there are much scarier shark movies around, take it from someone who is terrified of sharks! If you must watch Jaws 3, lower your standards and do your best to put the first film out of your mind. If you know a lot about sharks, turn that part of your brain off, because the dialogue will drive you crazy! And try to catch it on TV rather than streaming it or picking up a hard copy. It seems like most stations cut out a lot of the extraneous SeaWorld footage and streamline the film in general, which will at least shorten your suffering.
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