Jaws the Revenge has received a lot of flack from fans and critics alike on multiple accounts: There’s not enough shark mayhem… too much old people subplot… crappy looking shark… crappy acting… roaring shark… exploding shark… clunky dialogue… These complaints are for the most part groundless, but even those are at the very least accurate assessments of the movie (most of the one’s concerning the shark) are not weaknesses, but in fact incredible boons to the series. Why? Because Jaws the Revenge is a different kind of shark tale. It features a terrifying monster, to be sure, but this is not some inane earthly beast, this is a monster of the mind. Jaws the Revenge is the first psycho-shark thriller. And it remains to this day one of the best.
The fourth iteration of Jaws demands new skills from the viewer different and apart from any of the previous movies in the series. You might call it a “writerly” text in this sense because it demands the viewer work with the production to understand its “depth.” In early Jaws flicks, for example, the shark attacked for natural, indiscriminate reasons (usually the shark was hungry and about anything tasty would satisfy that craving). The shark might eat a silky swimmer, a tender boy, or a crusty sailor. Sharks have even been known to eat license plates and old tires. Stupid shark! This lack of cognitive direction resulted in a documentary sense of realism in the first three films which hindered the surreal nirvana of great film making. The shark may have been scary (or at least, the prospective of being eaten by it was) but ultimately it was just a shark and no more. But in Jaws the Revenge, finally, the screenwriters understood that in order for their film to be a hit, they needed to truly transcend the series up to that point. The result was to finally make the shark a complex, dynamic character that no longer merely ate people because it was hungry, but because it sought revenge. This new, motive driven shark could as a result be more expressive and psychologically thrilling than ever before. The tagline for the film is famously “This time it’s personal.” And indeed, it is the instilling of that “personal” quality, with emphasis on person, that makes the shark transcend its banal species and become a compassionate monster. Nay, a psychological monster.
You see, this movie isn’t really about the shark. It’s about the human characters… specifically the Brody family. The shark, you’ll notice, only wants to eat Brodys in this film, and not just because it has acquired a more refined taste. It wants to eat Brodys because Chief Martin Brody (now dead) killed the original shark. Wait a minute! You protest. If Chief Brody killed the original shark, how can it be seeking revenge against his family? EXACTLY. This is the key to the whole film. The shark isn’t a natural shark this time—it is a supernatural psychotic manifestation of a shark. The shark is really the subconscious memories of the Brody family, linked by a single Jungian archetype (the shark), which crosses the boundary from the subconscious realm into conscious reality (Michael Crichton’s Sphere would later pick up on this idea). But perhaps that is still too vague for you. Too unbelievable. You need something more concrete. Just what does this psychotic manifestation (the shark) represent? What/who is it? Brace yourself: The shark is Chief Martin Brody or at least, it is Brody as his family now relates to him in their subconscious. Brody is the shark. But why would he want to kill his own family? He doesn’t! It is the haunting memory of Brody and, as we learn via his son Michael, the haunting sexual demons of the family as a whole, that, unleashed in physical form from the subconscious, seek to destroy all those who are familiar with its past. For though it is never stated explicitly, the film makes abundantly clear that the Brody household has become synonymous with incest, abuse, and psychosis.
With that said, let’s dive into this modern masterpiece of psycho-analytical cinema…
The film begins by placing the viewer in the head of the shark—haha, no, the movie doesn’t eat you—it gives you a shark’s perspective (POV) among the harbors of Amity Island. It’s night time, and there is a lot of junk in the water. The shark/audience (we are one and the same, since the archetype of the shark infects us all) swims onward—remember, we are the shark, we are already set up to connect with its passions and motives (soon to be revealed). We sense the power and responsibility that comes with being a giant man-seal-baby-killer (the shark). As the shark dives and resurfaces repeatedly—breaking the boundary between air and water—it is as if it is struggling with its own moral choice between man-killer and friendly denizen of the deep. This contrast between surface and subsurface is extremely important. Below water is of course the subconscious—the realm of dreams and dangers. Above water (land/air) is the safety of the conscious world with its familiar set of rules and physics. The sea of course has long been a psychological metaphor in literature, and Jaws the Revenge carries this literary mantle adeptly.
After establishing its distinct psychological and physical realms, the film cuts to a dead fish’s eye. It is being cooked alive by humans… and not by just any humans. It’s the Brodys who are apparently tomato thieves—already implying their not-so-moral nature (how ironic considering the Brody family has long been a symbol of law and order on Amity Island!). Some of the film’s flashiest writing occurs here demonstrating that foreshadowing is as deft a tactic as ever to use in film.
ELLEN (O.S.) Stop that.... SEAN (O.S.) Stop what? ELLEN (O.S.) That.... SEAN (O.S.) (laughing) I'm not doing anything. A hand is heard being slapped lightly. SEAN (O.S.) (feigning pain) That hurt.... ELLEN (O.S.) Serves you right. (laughing despite herself) Will you please stop.... SEAN (O.S.) Can't help myself....
An excerpt from the screenplay.
Sean defines his character nicely as “not doing anything” and being incapable of “helping himself.” This will come into play soon when he is eaten. He is later ordered to chop vegetables and apologizes to the tomatoes for chopping them up saying, “Sorry fellas,” but although he apologizes he kills the tomatoes anyway. If Sean is so willing to kill tomatoes, why should we be bothered when the shark is so willing to kill him? Sean then cuts himself (right after his mom told him to be careful not to!), getting blood on the veggie. He argues that the blood will make it taste better… the irony here is brilliant: Sean’s blood tastes good and the shark enjoys eating Sean later in the film. Already the film is establishing solid logic.
We find out from a phone call that Michael Brody, his wife Carla, and daughter Thea are in the Bahamas where Michael does research. It is established that it is Christmas time in Amity. Sean goes to the police department and is assigned to clear some wreckage in the harbor. Note that Martin Brody’s picture hangs in the office prominently (it’s in 50% of the shots taken inside the office). This ghost-like, watching presence of Martin Brody visualizes the haunting memory of the past which hangs over all the Brodys. Remember, the shark is the subconscious of Martin Brody as manifested by the Brody family. The shark is soon to attack Sean after he has just been in the “presence” of his father. His subconscious is supercharged and so is the shark!
Heading to the pier, Sean goes by the Amity Island Christmas Special. Christmas is of course a celebration of life. We are reminded that Sean was once a shepherd in the Christmas special when he was younger, but now he is a cop (just like his father!). He was once a shepherd of sheep and now he is a shepherd of men; both positions of responsibility, one which risks attack by wolves (in sheep’s clothing) and the other by men (in shark’s clothing). And yet interestingly he seems to still live with his mother! This doesn’t seem to make any sense, and yet it does. Remember that sex and incest I mentioned earlier? Case number one. Now, I am not saying that Sean is having sex with his mother. I am saying that he yearns to, and this is why he stays close to her. True he has a fiancée, but it is without doubt that while making love to her he fantasizes about his mother. AND YET, he knows doing this would of course anger his father (classic oedipal syndrome once again). And indeed it does, or at least it angers the Sean’s psycho-manifestation of his father, for he is about to be eaten by him…
Sean goes out to clear the debris from the harbor… but is attacked by the shark who must leap out of the water (he has chosen to be man-killer) to violently eat Sean.
Sean is eaten and we already know his blood tastes good (see above). He screams for help because he is helpless and does nothing to save himself (see above). And so he is eaten, just as was predicted by his opening lines (see above)! The efficiency of the effect is brilliant. Sean, to his credit, screams for help for a long time while he floats around and is eaten. He dies though. The death marks the second Brody male killed in the series meaning only one remains that can pass on the Brody seed: Michael Brody (still unseen).
The next day, Ellen must identify her son, Sean’s, chewed up body and as a result her psychology is shattered. She is given Sean’s gun and other “police things.” This brief arming of the mother foreshadows her later all out Mellvillian war with the shark in the film’s climax.
Enter Michael Brody and his wife, Carla, being led by their charming granddaughter Thea who interestingly climbs up and over a well outside (reflecting her own emergence from the womb about six years ago). They’ve just arrived on Amity Island for Sean’s burial. Michael, seen for first time, is dark and grizzled and stares out into what seems the universe. His wife loves him. The family comes inside and Michael is kissed by an old woman. This is of course indicative of Michael’s own seedy relationship with his mother which of course is the cause of all the mayhem in the first place. (Note too the blatant phallus on the wall behind the woman!).
Meanwhile Ellen stares out at the ocean at sunset. Apparently “the doctors” had to sedate her—perhaps it was the powerful drugs which allowed her subconscious to manifest itself in this realm (?). Of course, this is somewhat ambiguous as the line is actually spoken: “We just came from Tiffany’s house [unknown punctuation] poor girl, the doctors had to sedate her.” Now, just what that punctuation is one can’t say for sure. Did they have to sedate Tiffany or Ellen? This kind of ambiguity will clearly be a lynchpin for future arguments regarding Ellen’s psychiatry. Little Thea meanwhile notes that Uncle Sean is dead and wonders if he’ll ever come back (!!!). This of course is the heart of the matter since Martin is dead and indeed he did come back (as the shark, remember?) Thus it is entirely possible that Sean will come back, perhaps as a shark himself! Jaws 5, anyone??? Brilliant! Thea is offered a funny bone (cannibalism?) sandwich by some woman for her thoughts on the matter.
Outside, Michael holds his mother to his chest. They then stare into each other’s eyes as she grabs his head and makes *almost* to kiss him. Once again, the Freudian layers are “just below the surface” (pun intended. In fact, my argument rests on that pun). Don’t believe me, just see the screenshot!
Ellen explains that “It [the shark] came for him… It [the shark] waited all this time and it came for him.” Here she is referring to the shark and Sean, but we know of course that it was Martin who came for Sean, his own son, and ate him.
Note that the film depicts humans eating just as much as sharks… “You guys must be starving. I’ll make some fettuccini” Ellen says in the next scene. They eat fish at the beginning of the film (if we can eat fish, why can’t sharks eat us?), Thea is offered a funny bone sandwich, and now Ellen offers to make fettuccini. Of course the humans never admit that what they are eating might offend a shark. This denial again makes complicated their psyche. Just one more layer on the wedding of cake of madness.
Ellen says she wants Michael to stay away from the water—in fact, no one in the family can be near the water. Some critics question why the family doesn’t just move to Montana (where there is no ocean and thus no killer sharks). This is a stupid question that seeks to attach concrete things like geography to art and the psyche. The ocean is the subconscious, remember? Can you just move away from your subconscious? No. I didn’t think so.
Michael grabs his mother and tells her she is ridiculous scientifically for wanting him to stop working in the water. She rebuts that his male relations are dead, all having been eaten by sharks. Outside, Michael then breaks down with his wife. He then runs away from her… clearly they have a connection. Psh. She asks poignantly: “Where are you going?” And he answers “Nowhere!” There are two ways to analyze this response. One is that he will run a certain distance, and then return to the spot from whence he came, thus having a displacement of zero and thus going “nowhere.” The other is that his soul, his spirit, his mind is stuck in one place—his mother’s bosom/womb—and is going nowhere. I obviously prefer the latter. He cannot escape his love for his mother. Notice too, that Michael runs along the shore… the physical boundary between the consciousness of the land and the psycho-spiritual subconscious of the water.
There is then a flashback showing a young Sean with his father during Sean’s funeral—both now killed by the shark… and both now having become the shark! Sean’s death compounds the subconscious turmoil of the character and the essence of his memory is added to the shark’s manifestation—making it even more powerful. You can tell this by the sepia tone in which the flashback is displayed. It is the sepia of the mind.
After the funeral, Michael invites Ellen to the Bahamas with him (and his family). The mother says yes. Mom says “Today? I can’t.” Thea replies, “Yes you can.” This can-do, candid nature of Thea accomplishes a great deal (compare it to Sean who cannot help himself and Michael who goes nowhere. Clearly it is the Brody women who have a certain action-oriented nature).
They are all on a ferry—the whole Brody family. But the shark is not seen even though this would be a perfect opportunity to complete its mission of destroying the entire Brody family. So why doesn’t it? “Because then there wouldn’t be a movie,” you say? No! Because the shark is a manifestation of the Brody mind and to kill them all so early in the movie would make unnecessary the shark’s existence. (I told you, the shark this time is a fully thinking entity, not a mindless beast as in the earlier, lesser films). This is a much better explanation than yours. Interestingly in this scene, Carla (the mom) threatens to throw Thea overboard—that is, she wishes to cast the girl into the torrents of the subconscious, a cruel act to lie upon the innocent. Fortunately Carla recants, but Ellen breaks down once she realizes the horrible potential of madness that Thea is genetically at risk to.
The family is then on a plane over the Bahamas. The plane is piloted by a British folkster named Hoagie. Hoagie will provide the love interest for Ellen but this, as you might guess will lead to emotional complications of a Freudian nature.
ASIDE: In the plane they see a parachutist… a person who has learned to sail over the ocean. Mike says, “My mother always said, if God had intended for us to ride in parachutes he would have given us free tickets.” The mom denies this much as Jesus denied his own divinity. Coincidence? Or yet more unexplored theory? Keep in mind the film takes place in the Christmas season…
“Sometimes father puts me in his lap and lets me steer the jeep…” says Thea to Hoagie after he refuses to give her chips and soda. This raises some questions about the responsibility of Michael as a father (remember when Britney Spears let her child sit in her lap while she drove away?) There is also of course the always weird connotation of children sitting in their father’s laps. But ignoring this (somewhat) and speaking only of fathers, Hoagie is already attempting to replace a father figure (Michael) by having Thea sit in his lap.
Upon sitting, Thea asks “How come it bumps up and down when there is no road?” To which Hoagie replies “The wind does that.” He then gives a peculiar look… I am not willing to say that anything inappropriate is happening here. I am only trying to present the facts in a fair and unbalanced manor (like the House of Usher). Shit. Fair and balanced manner. There. I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
After this tomfoolery, Hoagie then risks all their lives… and lands the plane.
It is worth noting here that the entire film takes place either on sea or on an island. Islands of course are surrounded on all sides by water (sea in this case). That is, the consciousness is surrounded by a sea of unconsciousness which cannot be merely walked across unless you are Jesus (and remember that aside about the parachutist earlier where Ellen just might be comparable to Jesus?) Again, I leave this to further investigations of the reader.
Then, in a scathing post-colonial attack on colonialism, we cut to a black man driving the family from the airport and singing a Christmas song to them… into a microphone… in the limo… he’s wearing a suit… and is called Romeo… and angers Michael when he doesn’t play with the bags. As post-colonialism is not yet my expertise, I am essentially just baffled by this and therefore will ignore it forthwith.
At the Brody’s bungalow, Thea disobeys Ellen and runs out and plays on a swing dangling over the water like a piece of 6 year old bait. Note that this is the second time Thea dangles over the water (the first being on the raft). She is so clearly close to the unconscious horror realm! And eventually, as we will see, not even Thea can escape the subconscious terrors of the Brody brood.
Next we see some modern art called “Tourist on the Loose.” It is pretty good, apparently, and just happens to look like a shark’s mouth. Yet another clear example that subconscious thoughts can manifest themselves in physical form!
And now, finally, for all of you who at this point might be thinking: This is complete garbage. Freud? Jung? Jaws? I don’t think so! Dreams? Subconscious? No way. This is a shark movie pure and simple. There’s no incest, no secret horrors… You’re cock and bull story ain’t cutting. Now!!! Now I say! Finally the movie, like Moses and the Red Sea, parts its murky water just a bit to confirm that we are indeed on the right track in understanding the true nature of Jaws the Revenge. Behold!
SCENE: Ellen swims in the ocean just off shore… she mysteriously senses the shark is after her. She swims to shore but is attacked from below (we, the audience, once again get shark POV). Butt and limbs are thrashed about and then… GASP! It was just a dream. Ellen is safe in bed. But notice she is sweating—that is, her dreams of fear caused the physical reaction of sweat… Water! Subconscious! She produced physical sweat which is symbolic of the unconscious realm. SHE MANIFESTED THE SUBCONSCIOUS IN PHYSICAL FORM. If her mind can make sweat, then why can’t it make sharks? This is the first direct connection between dream and ocean and shark all in Ellen’s head and I think it makes my point emphatically.
In the next scene, a yellow submarine named Jake starts talking to Michael about conchs… “Hard on the outside, chewy on the inside.” Hmm, much like Michael in his submarine. But don’t worry, there’s no attack here. Just some bonding between Jake (he’s really a person, not a submarine) and Michael who are in fact marine biologists studying conch movement (but what they should be are psychologists studying the conchs of the mind).
Next it’s Christmas day and Jake, his wife, Ellen, Michael, Carla, and Thea are celebrating at the bungalow. Thea, being the precocious tot she is, asks another blunt question: “When Uncle Sean was bad, did you ever spank him?” Everyone looks around nervously indicating that perhaps “spanking” was a little secret preferred to be quietly kept between Mama and the boys… or maybe it’s just another reminder that Sean has been killed. But remember, he was killed because his subconscious memories of youth killed him… and undoubtedly those memories revolved around spanking as the disturbed expressions of the guests at the Christmas party make clear. So now we not only have sex, but physical abuse as a major part of the Brody’s mottled past.
But lest we forget about sex, Jake then says to Mike “May your sex life be as busy as your shirt,” to which Carla responds “Ooh, thank you!” and wraps her arms seductively around Michael. It is at this point that Ellen then leaves the room. Clearly something is going on here. She was able to stay while Thea asked about her spanking her dead son’s naked bottom, but when it comes to the live son… the son with whom she might still have a future… having sex with another woman… this is too much for her and she leaves.
Michael follows her out for some alone time and tells Ellen he misses dad (!!!). Ellen insists Michael change his work again to get away from the scene. Admittedly this is a rehash of prior dialogue in the film, but (!!!) listen to the background… what do we hear? The rest of the family is singing Christmas carols inside! Just as when Sean died. The average viewer might not pick up on this because it is targeted by the filmmakers at the audience’s subconscious!!! Just as the film plays on the Brody’s mad minds, it plays on ours as well. A true stroke of brilliance.
Later, Ellen helps Thea build a sandcastle and emphasizes the structural design should have a moat: “Dig the ditch really deep so the water will go all the way around and we can swim in it.” What is land surrounded by water again? An island! Once again, the conscious surrounded by the subconscious. Ellen cannot escape this paradigm and the movie confirms once again that I am not just making this stuff up!
To drive the point home, Ellen accidentally steps in the ocean and instantly stands rigid as she senses the presence of the shark nearby. Some critics have complained that there’s no way the shark could have gone from Amity to the Bahamas in just three days. But these people have all missed the fact that, once again I must press this, the shark is a psychotic manifestation of the Brodys’ subconscious. If they could get to the Bahamas in three days, then so can their subconscious and thus so can the shark.
Hoagie then approaches (coincidentally?) FROM THE SEA in his fishing boat. That is, he comes out of the water of the subconscious to see Ellen. Interesting, eh? The two of them chat about Ellen’s emotions.
Meanwhile, on his research vessel, Michael spies Hoagie and his mother together using binoculars! Clearly he is possessive and protective of the woman he considers his own. Don’t believe me? Don’t worry, there’s more movie to come.
Back on shore we overhear some of Hoagie and Ellen’s conversation:
Hoagie: “I always listen to my feelings.”
Ellen: “I think I’m going crazy… nightmares… when it killed Sean I knew for absolute certainty it came for him… I know it’s coming…” (!!!)
Aha! Look at Ellen’s word choice: crazy… nightmares… sounds pretty text-book Freudian to me! Hoagie (who came moments ago from the subconscious sea, remember?) tells her to embrace these feelings (feelings of what? craziness! nightmares!) In other words, he tells her to embrace her madness! Still think I’m nuts? The next line comes from the ever to-the-point Thea as she interrupts the conversation by shouting:
“THE WATER’S COMING IN!!!”
Exactly, Thea! The subconscious is mixing more and more with the real and concrete. The result? Madness and one hell of a big Brody shark! Can I just say once more how incredible this film is?
Hoagie then takes Ellen in his plane to a nearby Bahamian festival. While flying to the festival… Hoaie says, “You better take the wheel or we’ll be swimming in 5 minutes.” Which of course translates as, “You better take control of your feelings or else you plunge into the madness of your subconscious forever!”
Then Hoagie tells one of his many anecdotes which I cite only to emphasize the sub-textual sexuality he represents to Ellen. (The bold words are the one’s Ellen’s horny mind will pick up on):
Hoagie: “One time I was flying supplies up the Amazon when I came down in the jungle. I was picked up by this tribe of head hunters and they took me to see their chief. He took a long look at me then he took me in his hut. Inside his hut there was a long pole…”
Offshore, the shark attacks Mike and Jake aboard the research barge and Ellen is clearly aware of it (we get a quick cut to her looking disturbed to verify this).
Jake sees the shark as a chance to do some “real” research. He sees it as a material object. But as we all know the shark is a super-psychotic force. And Jake’s misconception of this eventually comes back and bites him in the ass! Really!
Scene change. It’s evening and it’s raining (the rain here indicates a mixing of the land and the water of course… conscious and subconscious blurred…). Ellen is returning home with Hoagie and once again, Michael is spying on her.
In this masterful shot, the water creates a ripple affect on Mike’s body. He is becoming a water creature! Just like the shark (father)! The bizarre Freudian trappings of his mind are beginning to consume him! His wife asks him to come to bed. She takes off her panties and throws them at him. She then uses her body to “take his mind off things.” Based on the already bizarre sexual cravings in Michael we have already established, I don’t want to know what Michael is thinking about during this act. Meanwhile, Hoagie departs.
Cut to a casino. It’s New Year’s—rebirth of pagan time! (Christmas is birth of Christians). Hoagie is spotted putting everything on the line at the craps table. He rolls snake eyes. Perhaps his luck has run out? He doesn’t seem to care. Ellen says, “I guess that’s bad.” And he says it depends on your point of view (because the house wins big). This sense of equilibrium makes Hoagie wiser than most. Indeed, he plays the role of the equalizer in the movie, eventually bringing mother and son closer together while making love to the mother and yet not displacing the memories of the father (who is now a shark). Got it? Okay!
Hoagie takes Ellen dancing and Michael, not being able to stand it, butts in and steals his mother back! Hoagie, chill as he is, says, “Please, the world would be a better place if more sons danced with their mothers.” This line is clearly pays homage to Hitchcock’s own masterpiece PSYCHO, yet another film in which a boy has, erm, an interesting relationship with his mother. Although frankly, Norman’s psychosis, terrible as it might have been, couldn’t conjure up sharks. Move over Norman Bates… welcome Michael Brody!
Ellen tells Michael to stop pouting, “You look like you did when you were six and didn’t get something you wanted…” What exactly Michael wanted at that age isn’t stated, but as the movie has already seeded our thoughts, we all can guess what it was (breast feeding). Whatever the case, clearly Mike knows what he wants now… BUT! Ellen says she’s “cured.” She can’t go on with her “obsession” with the shark. In other words, she rejects the psycho-subconscious that has played such an elemental role in the film thus far and she let’s go of what that psycho-subconscious represents: her dead husband, Martin Brody. If only Ellen had been crazy then the shark would logically disappear at this point (since her subconscious has been absolved). But unfortunately, as we have seen, Michael has been infected with Ellen’s terrors and the shark lives on in his own warped mind. I repeat, Michael now manifests the shark where his mother once did. The shark is his shark.
As a result, Jake convinces Michael to go after the shark. “Tell me you don’t want to study the fish as much as I do. This is what we were trained for.” Hah! Perhaps if they had been trained in psychology rather than biology. Jake is always just one bend behind the corner.
Meanwhile, back at the bungalow, Michael’s psychosis manifests itself in more domestic ways as he argues with his wife about who should take out the garbage. Still think I’m making all this up? Still think this conceptualization of the film is crazy? How about this line:
Michael: “I thought artists work with their subconscious. How come it’s my responsibility?”
Subconscious? Art? The filmmakers really have given the audience all it needs to understand the film. They really were unjustly attacked by so-called “critics.”
The couple resolves the argument and Michael then attempts to have sex with his wife despite claims that she has work. She tries to defend herself with a blow torch but to no avail. He then says, in one of the film’s most amazing and direct revelations:
“I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder. I’ve dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy.”
I could spend another ten pages analyzing this line alone… delving into how blowtorches connect to Michael’s youth… But needless to say I am not an expert in dreamology. Whatever the case, they in engage in marital congress once again. And the bills pass unanimously.
We cut to the research barge as blood plops into the water while Jake holds a long spear designed to stab the shark with a tracking device. The shark goes for the bait and is stabbed by Jake’s spear (read what you will of this). The ploy works and the tracker is put on the shark! Technology has met the ethereal. Boundaries have been crossed to much significance. Jake’s attempt to do this of course marks his fate. He has violated the laws of the mind. Stabbing the shark with the tracking device is like stabbing Michael Brody’s mind with a tracking device. It can’t be done!
Meanwhile, on another date, Hoagie and Ellen order “Two Bahama mamas” which of course plays off the fact that he is trying to coitalize this “Bahama mama.” Hoagie then has an irresistible urge to kiss her (irresistible because it’s the subconscious). He succeeds in kissing her. The kiss is sexual in a way that Michael can only dream about, which, once again, is why there is a shark eating people.
Back on the research vessel, Michael asks questions about Hoagie to Jake. When did he get here? What do you know about him? “He’s after my mother.” JUST LIKE THE SHARK!!! And, just like the shark, Hoagie just showed up one day, according to Jake. During this discussion, they lose track of the shark. “Maybe he’s gone… maybe your gear crapped out.” These are Mike’s thoughts on the matter. But we cut to a shot of the shark, verifying he’s still there.
Meanwhile, inside the art workshop Ellen is telling Carla about her date.
Ellen: “All he did was kiss me!”
Carla: “Maybe that’s a beginning.”
Ellen: “I feel too old…”
Carla: “I hope not, I’m counting on a long happy sex life.”
As juicy as this talk is, it is interrupted by Thea who has actually been listening to all of it! Already it is clear she must too learn the ways of womanhood before this film is through. Is nothing innocent???
Mike then has a shark dream JUST LIKE HIS MOTHER. This verifies that the shark is now his own manifestation. He has been infected by his mother’s nightmares. The psychology has transcended forms. Is it genetic? Is it Mike’s love for his mother? His hatred of his father? His own dark reckoning of the past?
There is then a scene with Thea and Mike recalling the original Jaws film where the son (Sean) imitates the father. Perhaps Mike has imitated his mother so long that he has absorbed her psychology. The father and daughter even make fish faces at one another (sharks are a kind of fish)! Then Thea goes to bed and is called a peanut by Ellen.
Ellen tells Michael, “I saw you. You looked just like your father. Did you know you and your brother used to imitate him?” Once again, the history, the subconscious, manifests itself. I just don’t get why people think this is a flawed movie. I find it time and again to be incredibly consistent.
Meta moment—Jake makes the shark noise (heartbeat) which sounds just like the Jaws theme! Cool! over the radio while Michael dives in the submarine. “It’s a big ocean, we could spend the rest of our lives looking for it.” Well, the subconscious IS indeed infinite. So yes. That’s why there are trained psychologists for this kind of work. Jake.
While underwater, Michael gets attacked by the shark while in a submarine. He has brought once again the machinery of man into the supernatural world of the sea. Machinery cannot defend him against his own subconscious—the shark. Jake repeatedly shouts “Michael, can you hear me?”
People might comment on the fakeness of the shark in these scenes. But remember, this isn’t a real shark. It’s the shark of your mind. That’s how it can fit through “impossible” spaces. Wherever your mind can go—it can follow. To escape Michael uses a phallus—er, scuba tank—to shoot the surface by ejecting white bubbles of oxygen that propel him skyward.
The next day, Michael ignores his wife’s art show celebration because he’s “scared shitless… what the hell am I supposed to do if I can’t go back in the water.” Both a meta line (no way will audiences dare to go swimming after seeing this movie) and of course the metaphor of the subconscious. He has to face his fear, something psychologists recommend we do in some cases. And readers, this is very important. If you have a fear of poisonous snakes, few real psychologists will recommend you go around picking up King Cobras. Michael, however, is a biologist. And he pays the price. As he explores his subconscious (that is, he goes diving) this time, he is startled by what some critics laughingly call the scariest monster in the movie—an eel. I think the picture below makes it clear what these critics are really afraid of.
Meanwhile, on shore, during the celebration of ART the shark shows up. Again, clearly its appearances are associated with people thinking about their inner selves. The shark targets Thea who is riding with a mother (!) and other children on what at first glance appears to be a giant yellow penis (the characters call it a “banana boat” but it is clearly a penis). These “joy riders” of the penis are punished for abusing the phallus so. The shark eats the mother at the end, Thea goes into shock, Michael misses the whole event, and Ellen goes off to face the shark herself. It’s go time.
And now we have climax. Ellen versus the shark. She, like Michael, goes out to face her subconscious on the research vessel, which (and I have been waiting to mention this) is not-so-incidentally named Neptune’s Folly. And a little deconstruction shows… Neptune’s Folly… the folly of the god of the sea…the madness of the sea… the madness of the mind!!! You see? YOU SEE??? Christ this is incredible!
Finally, despite making it back to the bungalow and finding his wife scared out of her mind and his daughter in shock, Michael promptly asks the first thing on his mind: “Where is my mother?” Clearly his train of thought remains consistent. Realizing she has left on Neptune’s Folly, Michael chases her down with the help of Jake and Hoagie in Hoagie’s plane. It will be a race of life, death, and the mind. Hoagie crash lands his plane, surrendering himself to the psychological pools he has so long “soared” over.
On Neptune’s Folly the shark begins its attack on Ellen, who then coincidentally quotes her husband “Come and get me you son of a bitch,” which gives an example of the transcendental coincidental nature of events that allow people to repeat history without knowing it. It’s called morphic resonance. The fact that she says the same thing as her dead husband did years ago is too remarkable to be explained as a natural phenomenon. Little does she know that when she says that line she’s really talking to her husband (the shark) who said it in the first place!
The shark then destroys the plane… Hoagie is stuck in the sea of life with the rest of them.
Jakes then attempts to make the shark a “slave” by jabbing it with an electromagnetic device. But of course, it is impossible to enslave the subconscious and Jake is eaten (though he did successfully stab the shark… tradeoffs).
Ellen has flashbacks of Sean being eaten… and her husband fighting the shark. She wasn’t at those events, but the shark was and—Jungian archetype that it is—connects all those who have knowledge of the shark into a shared consciousness.
The shark then gets electrocuted and roars repeatedly. Critics again attack the “roaring” as being scientifically inaccurate (sharks don’t roar). But it goes without saying that this is, once again, a psychological manifestation of a shark based on Michael Brody’s crude reckoning. For all he knows sharks do roar and have sex with their mothers. Okay? It’s not like he’s a marine biologist or anything! Then once again man’s equipment breaks. The shark comes for the boat and Ellen impales it with the broken mast! There are several cuts of superb surrealistic film as the shark is stabbed and explodes. During this sequence it changes size several times and explodes in a splash of red goo. It is all very disorienting because this is what happens when you conquer the subconscious in that way. The scene is frankly powerful and represents what in my mind is exactly the way my subconscious would explode.
Meanwhile Jake is found to be alive… great.
That about wraps the movie up—Ellen goes back to Amity (flown by Hoagie). The family remains intact except for the dead son and father whose subconscious manifestation has at this point been exploded. They fly off into the sunset. The end.
Note: You may have heard that there was a different ending to the movie in which Jake doesn’t survive. Apparently test audiences were upset by this. By expressing how upset they were, they actually changed the ending of the movie and Jake survives. Clearly the mind can have powerful effects in the physical world… even in real life!