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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Jaws 3-D (1983)

"The third dimension in terror."


A baby great white shark is found inside in the man made lagoon of a Florida sea park. The park owner hopes to put it on display as no great white has ever survived captivity. But after the partially chewed body of one of the gate workers is found inside the compound, everyone realises that there is an even bigger shark loose in the lagoon - the baby's mother.


With the first sequel, Jaws 2, being a big success, it was only a matter of time before Universal tapped into the cash cow for a third outing. The original plan for Jaws 3-D was to turn it into some sort of comedy spoof with the tag line Jaws 3: People 0. Come on, that's infinitely more interesting than this serving of great white mayhem which goes down as one of the worst sequels of all time and actually provides more unintentional laughs than straight comedies do altogether. The great debate is just which of the Jaws sequels is the worst and although many people choose Jaws: The Revenge for it's laughable ‘shark out for revenge’ story and a really fake animatronic shark, I always say that Jaws 3-D is the worst simply for the fact it's just overly boring and there's not much in the way of shark action. Jaws: The Revenge is so bad but at least it's entertaining at times - Jaws 3-D is just dull, lifeless and while it's the better film from a technical standpoint (only marginally), it fails to get the pulse racing.

The story had potential as sea parks across the world have actually tried and failed to keep a great white in captivity for years. Enclosing the shark in a confined area also brought about a fresh approach to the series instead of having it sea-based again and, coming from the pen of Carl Gottleib (who co-wrote the original) and author/screenwriter Richard Matheson (who wrote the novel I Am Legend upon which the film of the same name, amongst other adaptations, was based), you'd expect this to be a tight thriller. But you would never guess either man had been involved here, such is the dreariness of the script. In fact, a large chunk of the film appears to be a poor advertisement for SeaWorld. There are plenty of scenes of dolphins jumping around, people skiing and other water-based stunts that make it look like a TV commercial so I hope someone got a cut out of the traffic that was sent over. It also tries to tie itself into the Jaws timeline by having two of the males in the film being older versions of the Brody brothers. Given that the film was clearly green lit around the concept of a shark being loose in a sea park, it seems forcefully tacked on as on afterthought (and is the only one of the four Jaws films not to feature Amity Island at all).

Jaws 3-D falls flat on its face when it tries to create an atmosphere and director Joe Alves, who was the production designer on the first two films, has no clue how to generate excitement. This was his first and only foray into the director's chair and he is completely out of his depth. The audience knows that there's a shark in the sea park somewhere, but there's no suspense or tension in the eventual discovery. It takes over an hour for the shark to finally start causing some havoc around the park and even then it does little apart from scare a few people off their skis. Before then we've got the dreaded character development scenes of the various actors making friends with each other, drinking and going about their daily jobs. We're lumped with a bunch of losers though Louis Gossett Jr, who chews the scenery up as the park owner, is the only one of the cast to even try. He knows that the film sucks so at least he's going down with a bang and comes off looking like some rich pimp. Dennis Quaid has seen better days and was quoted in an interview once as saying "I was in Jaws what?" and in other interviews referring to the fact he was on drugs the whole time. Clearly he knows how low down on his list of credits this was.

The shark should be the star of the show in Jaws 3-D - that's what people have come to see after all - but never has it looked worse. It is hard to comprehend the fact that the special effects seem to get worse from film to film as opposed to going the other way with advances in technology and filming. You don't get to see an awful lot of it, only one instance of it actually breaching the surface of the water, and when you do its always from the same angle. The slow-motion shot of it ‘swimming’ towards the underwater glass screen in a direct torpedo-like movement is ridiculous. Looking back at this film in the current 2010s fad of 3-D, it's easy to say that the effects look horrid. They've dated badly and the 3-D is clearly a tacked on gimmick with floating fish, arms, the submarine and even the shark all given the special treatment. But I can tolerate that - few of the 3-D films in the 80s have aged gracefully in this aspect. What I can't forgive is a terrible animatronic shark. It should have been easier to manage with the film being set in fresh water in a controlled environment, rather than being out to sea where salt water could wreak havoc with its mechanics.

Outside of the few brief scenes with the shark in, I counted a kill total of six here and that includes the pre-credits fish we see ripped to pieces. Three of them aren't even done on screen and the ones that are look rather poor. Where is the thrashing around, the bloody water and the desperate underwater screams for help as we've seen before in the previous films? There's literally no gore at all on display here and the best we get is a chewed up corpse which looks like a remnant from a Halloween sale. A couple of dummies are used in later underwater kill scenes but this shark doesn't seem to want to swallow any of them in the finale.


Final Verdict

It's hard to see how anyone could have even considered doing another sequel after this ship wreck of a film... but they did and look what happened. Jaws 3-D is the worst of the series by a long way. It is a million miles away from the quality of the original or even the vastly underrated Jaws 2 for that matter. If only they'd have gone with the spoof idea, at least there would have been excuses if it turned out as bad as this.


Jaws 3-D

Director(s): Joe Alves

Writer(s): Peter Benchley (suggested by the novel "Jaws"), Richard Matheson (screenplay), Carl Gottlieb (screenplay)

Actor(s): Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett Jr., John Putch, Lea Thompson

Duration: 99 mins


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