Entertainment Column: 47 years later “Jaws” still has teeth

September 18, 2022

If you’ve been alive long enough to watch at least a handful of movies, you’ve probably already seen “Jaws,” or at least heard of it. But for most moviegoers, it’s commonplace in any discussion of the greatest and most influential films of all time.

Despite the film having been released nearly fifty years ago now, it still has had a lasting impact on the way movies are made, and especially marketed. Likely any theater that you will step into today, you can thank “Jaws” for. Its unprecedented success led to the term “blockbuster” and was a pivotal moment, showing how much impact a single film could have. This eventually contributed to the establishment of multiplexes, as well as the current model of how films are released. 

This past Labor Day weekend, “Jaws” came back home to these multiplexes it helped build and is bigger than ever. This new re-release is specially formatted for IMAX screens, and there is a 3D version. 

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For those uninitiated into the cult of IMAX, it’s a premium large format screen that is only available in select theaters across the country. The standard IMAX screen measures 52 feet wide, 72 feet tall. The auditoriums also boast an audio system with more speakers and is much louder than the standard auditorium. This is likely the largest screen that “Jaws” has been widely shown on since its release. 

“Jaws” was not the first of Spielberg’s masterpieces to receive this treatment, as “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” was also re-released to IMAX screens, less than a month ago on Aug. 12, 2022. 

The format lends itself greatly to the grand and cinematic way in which Spielberg crafts his films. Full of breathtaking wide shots, intense moments of terror, and the iconic John Williams score, swelling to fill the room completely. 

By far the most impressive aspect of the film today is the grip it still can maintain on the audience all these years later. Even with the advancements made in technology, nothing can take away Spielberg’s innate understanding of an audience. This is likely somewhere around my thirtieth time seeing the film and even still, the shark attacks are truly terrifying and I still find myself hoping Quint will make it out alive. 

The themes of the film have become even more poignant today as well. Dealing with a mayor who refuses to accept the danger that is being posed to the town’s citizens, prioritizing profits from tourists over their safety, “Jaws” is a prime example of the idea that less is more. The characters and dialogue are simple and work with little exposition of what has happened prior to the shark attacks. 

This is also true for how the shark itself is shot. “Jaws” has become the blueprint for how to utilize any monster in a film. To show as little as possible to keep it mysterious and scary, then finally giving the audience that catharsis, as well as terror, of finally seeing it up close. For a film that is credited for kickstarting the period of excess in Hollywood filmmaking, it’s highly restrained, even by 1975 standards.

Whether it’s your first time watching or the hundreth, it’s impossible to not recommend seeing classic films such as “Jaws” on the big screen (or biggest screen in the case of IMAX) in the way they were intended to be viewed. Although the screening I attended was relatively empty, just seeing the film in a theater allowed me to better imagine what it was like for audiences in 1975.

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“Jaws” is not the only classic film to be re-released this August/September movie season. The aforementioned “E.T.” had been released just three weeks prior as well as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” being re-released this past Labor Day weekend. This is especially strange, as the film had only been originally released just nine months prior. Later this month, on Sept. 23, the 2009 film “Avatar” will also be re-released in IMAX theaters. 

One thing all these films have in common is that, upon their initial release, they were extremely successful blockbusters, with “E.T.,” “Jaws” and “Avatar” all having been the highest grossing films of all time at one point in their releases. 

They all are likely being re-released during this time, as August and September are traditionally slow periods for film releases, but this year has been especially dire. Very few major releases have been slated for these months which has put many theaters in tough positions to try and get people into seats. 

The studio’s answer to this is to re-release films that already have a track record of being highly successful. In my personal experience I can’t say this is working all too well as my screenings of both “E.T.” and “Jaws” were relatively empty on the weekend of their re-release. But if it gives movie lovers a chance to re-experience these classic films on the big screen, then I am all for it. 

Staff reporter Zaden Dennis can be reached at [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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