¨What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all.¨
Jaws marked a before and after in American Cinema; it became the first true Blockbuster movie and it has since influenced films for 35 years. Before Jaws came out, there weren´t any summer movies (perhaps many critics regret this since summer movies aren`t necessarily recognized for its artistic value), but this movie set the standard for what a summer movie should look like. Jaws also launched the career of Steven Spielberg as a director since he was largely unknown by the general public. So you may ask yourself what made this film such a success. There are a great amount of factors that I consider helped turn Peter Benchley`s bestselling novel into such a terrific thriller. First of all John Williams`s score is breathtaking. The suspense he created with a few notes that accompanied the shark`s point of view with the camera where masterful. There was no need to see the terrible shark; the music alone built the fear in us. Sometimes we fear more what is unseen than what is actually seen, and in the case of the shark it was much scarier not knowing where it was going to come out from in the water. The shark tales and pictures we see of people who have been attacked by sharks throughout the beginning of the movie are sufficient enough. Spielberg has already inserted fear in our minds before we even have a chance to see the actual beast. This technique was one of the reasons the movie was so successful. Everyone remembers the speech about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis as one of the highlights of the film and that is because it worked just like a scary tale in the middle of a campfire in the woods works, because it takes the atmosphere and the context and plays with our imagination inserting fear into our minds.
Jaw takes place in a fictitious island resort named Amity Island. Summer is approaching and the town is getting ready to receive thousands of tourists coming to its beautiful beaches, but a local teenager has just appeared washed up in the shore attacked by some sort of animal, probably a shark. Local Police Chief, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), is investigating the incident. According to the forensic report the cause of death was a shark attack. Brody thinks it is best to close down the beaches until the shark can be killed, but Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) stops him and says this will have a huge economical impact on the town. It is too soon to scare off the tourists and he gets the forensic doctor to change his report on the cause of death, so Brody reluctantly has to follow the Mayor`s orders. The next day another incident takes place, although this time it occurs in plain sight, and a local boy is killed by a shark. Brody closes the beach and the boy`s mother offers a reward to whoever catches the shark. Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) is the local shark hunter who knows they are dealing with a very big shark and tells the Mayor that if he wants the shark hunted then he will have to get paid a lot more than the reward the woman is offering. Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is an Oceanographer who comes to the Island to help Chief Brody with the case. Together Hooper, Brody, and Quint set sail on the Orca to try to hunt the shark that has everyone panicking. They will soon find out that they are gonna need a bigger boat.
Jaws is considered by many as one of the greatest thrillers ever made. It is no surprise that after this movie came out very few people wanted to get into the water. The shark was in everyone`s nightmares. Jaws actually took home three Oscars, one for the musical score, another for the Sound effects, and a third for best editing under Verna Fields who took a lot of the credit for the success of the movie during that time. Spielberg was overlooked as a director, but he later proved in his other movies he was one of the reasons the film was so successful. He was a visionary in his field and was able to create one of the best thrillers without great visual effects. The secret was building the suspense through the unseen and showing the shark as little as possible. By the end of the film we were so immersed in it that we even believed the improbable ending and didn`t even feel cheated by that final climax scene. Spielberg combined suspense and thrills with comedy and action to perfection. Each character played an important part in the film and Brody, Hooper, and Quint became popular characters in movie history. This may have been one of Spielberg`s first films, but it still ranks among his best work because it managed to terrify audiences for ages to come.