In 1975, Steven Spielberg wasn’t a household name. In a more literate, pre-cable and internet world, Peter Benchley may have been the more recognizable of the two. Benchley may have written the book, but Spielberg made Jaws into a phenomenon – and single handedly invented the summer blockbuster in the process.
What Jaws did was change the summer movie from throw away flicks for bored teens to something much, much bigger. For that alone, it’s worth re-watching: it’s as good as you remember. The movie has aged well, or save the clothes, not at all. John Williams music starts to creep you out in the shallows as the credits are still rolling and it never really goes away until… well you just spend most of the movie fairly clinched up.
It’s a damn near perfectly balanced movie. Even the production mishaps are lessons on making the best of what you’ve got. The budget – when Spielberg had such constraints – didn’t allow for use of the mechanical shark so Jaws lurks in the surf and in our fears, but is rarely seen. That makes the movie, really, because the only part that hasn’t aged well are the special effects surrounding that monster shark.
Mostly, though, it isn’t about the shark. What makes this movie so timeless is that it is about people: those in power and the ignored. It is about how they react to each other in the face of lurking, largely unseen danger: the politicians, the police, the victims, the adventurers and (weirdly topical) the scientists.
You’ve likely already been to the beach, so wrap up the summer with the original blockbuster.