Released: July 22, 1983. Directed by: Joe Alves. Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale. Runtime: 1h 39 min.
“Jaws 3-D”, a film so bad that it’s not really even canon in the franchise because of the events of “Jaws: The Revenge,” follows a grown-up Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) as he’s working at SeaWorld in Florida. The amusement park is about to open an attraction called the Undersea Kingdom, a series of glass tunnels about 40 feet underwater. Interfering with the grand opening is a 35-foot Great White shark that manages to get into the park.
The IMDb synopsis says “the sons of police chief Brody must protect customers” at the park, but that’s only the last 40 minutes and Sean Brody (John Putch) doesn’t help much. He’s just kind-of there to visit as he’s taking a break from schooling in Colorado. He shares his father’s fear of water but goes in because his love interest Kelly (Lea Thompson in her first film), a water-skier at the park, likes the water. The Sean character has always been afterthought to Michael, and it’s no different here.
The characters in the film are just flat. Michael works at SeaWorld as the engineer of the Undersea Kingdom and lives with his girlfriend Kay (Bess Armstrong), SeaWorld’s senior biologist. Their main thing is that Mike might go to Venezuela for work, but he also might not. That’s the deep development we get.
There’s also Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr.), the park’s manager who makes a lot of stupid decisions because he’s the boss and doesn’t want to ask anyone before doing something. A photographer named Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale) also shows up to help hunt the shark. His characterization’s basically “must get footage, must get footage” and that’s it.
It seems like there was an interesting idea in Richard Matheson and Carl Gotlieb’s script – about a shark getting loose in a water park – but the result’s bad and the attacks suck because we can barely see them. We spend a scene on a pair of random thieves trying to steal coral from SeaWorld’s lagoon, and it’s worthless because we can barely see the attack.
Usually when I hate a film, a redeeming quality is that’s in focus. That’s not the case for Jaws 3-D as the cinematography (by James A. Contner) is consistently bad. Everything looks terrible, and the underwater scenes don’t look good this time. Unfortunately, much of the film takes place underwater because of the Undersea Kingdom, including the finale. The exterior of the Kingdom’s glass tunnels look like the fakest thing, as does the scuba vehicle the characters use.
The use of 3-D is gimmicky – where things like a fake-looking severed arm come at the screen, and a harpoon also gets shot at us – and the visuals are god-awful. The film just has bad production design, terrible cinematography and worse visuals. It all renders it unwatchable. There’s a part where the shark literally looks like a cardboard cut-out coming at the camera. It looks more rubber often, but when it does look real, it’s just stock footage.
At one point, after Mike and Kay get out of the water after the first interaction with the shark, Mike asks, “What was that?” After encountering sharks so much as a kid, you’d think he would know what a shark is. But the beast just looks so fake, I can’t fault him for not realizing it’s a shark.