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The book was written with him in mind. The movie was only made when strives in digital effects finally caught up with his singular vision. Both came together to create what is probably the ultimate Steven Spielberg experience. This movie has everything—high concept premise, showstopping F/X, benchmark moments of moviemaking, and above all, the director’s love of all things fun and frightening. Sadly, the sequels couldn’t live up to the original’s combination of action and awe. As with most failed franchises, this first foray into the world of reanimated dinosaurs is most indicative of its creator… and the best
Before James Cameron stepped in and swept away the award for most popular movie of all time, this was it. This was the moment when Spielberg went from reliable box office draw to pop culture landmark. This was the movie that begat a working Amblin, that started his stint as a successful producer and provider of outlets for other worthy talents. Sure, the creature work today screams of an era when prosthetics and animatronic figures did all the heavy lifting, but you cannot deny Spielberg’s way with story, actors, or setting. The entire experience is like one big ridiculously sentimental, astounding rollercoaster ride.
Many will complain about the placement of this Stanley Kubrick inspired project. In fact, Spielberg was picked to take on this amazing movie when the late great auteur died suddenly. Argue all you want to about the final act (set several thousand years in the future) but the first two parts are some of the smartest, most assured filmmaking this director has ever done. The message about what makes us human and what it takes to be a parent couldn’t be more profound. Similarly, the introduction of the sex droid Gigolo Joe and the journey to a submerged Manhattan illustrate that, in the realm of technology gone sour, Spielberg is indeed a visionary.
You had to be there. You had to walk into the theater, unprepared, and walk out woozy and drunk on what Spielberg and pal George Lucas had designed. An homage to the serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but with none of those items “same time next week” flab, this muscular, manipulative marvel was like a shot of adrenalin expanded to 120 minutes. From the insane action sequences (which even today continue to set the genre bar) to the novel internal premise (God vs. the Nazis? SOLD!) this was nothing short of a one in a lifetime marvel. Oddly enough, it was business as usual for the outrageously talented filmmaker.
Let’s face it—you can’t discuss the rise of the Summer movie season without it. Similarly, you can’t reference the blockbuster, the successful book to big screen translation, and the rise of commerciality inside the outwardly artistic post-modern movement without mentioning this nature gone wild masterpiece. Faced with a shark that didn’t work and limited budgetary constraints, an untested Spielberg did his best Hitchcock impression, keeping the reveal of his monster secretive and subjective. By the time the main characters had to battle the massive fish, viewers were ready to scream at anything, even a questionable fiberglass beast. No matter—the moviemaking was so skilled and sublime that it turns chum into a championship. Jaws was and is what the popcorn movie season was/is all about. Some 36 years later, it’s still not safe to go back in the water—or question Spielberg’s gifts.