written by Laura J.
Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974)
Jaws directed by Steven Spielberg (1975)
This was requested by someone on a YouTube comment, but when someone makes a request through a YouTube comment I haven’t been in the habit of writing their name, and it would take forever to go through the comments trying to find the name!
I also want to say that has iconic as the movie poster is, I also absolutely love the book cover! Both are just so cool!
I was hesitant going into this book because I had heard it had some offensive content. I was thinking it might be another The Godfather book situation! But this book was fantastic! Yes, there is a section in the middle with a subplot that has nothing to do with the shark and feels like we are suddenly in a very different kind of book. That section as a whole I was fine with though and it creates some drama between characters later on.
This book had great suspense, great drama, great characters, and is definitely one I will be reading again at some point!
I also wanted to point out how much this book reminded me of The Mist by Stephen King. Which obviously this came out first, but both deal with a small town that has local’s vs summer people and they are being attacked by some creature. Jaws even has a character who says this is God punishing them, which of course we have a lady like that in The Mist as well. So if you like The Mist, you should definitely read this, and vice versa!
After finishing the book, I was so excited to watch the movie! I am happy to report it did not disappoint! I had never watched this before, and all I knew about it was the famous line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” Which apparently was improvised! I loved this movie though and it is insane to think Spielberg was in his late 20’s at the time! What?! This movie also kickstarted John Williams career as a movie composer.
The movie does make quite a few changes, including removing plot details from the book that didn’t involve the shark as well as changing some aspects of the ending! When I later decide which wins, it will be a tough call because I really did love both! Stay tuned to see which I pick!
Before getting into the plot, I wanted to share that both Benchley and Spielberg were regretful that this book and movie caused people to think of sharks as vengeful man-killers and they were hunted and killed after this movie. Benchley went on to work in shark conservation and said in a 2005 forward to this book, “With knowledge accumulated from dozens of expeditions and hundreds of dives and countless encounters with sharks of many kinds came the realization that I could never write Jaws today. I could never demonize an animal, especially not an animal that is much older and much more successful in its habitat than man is, has been, or ever will be, an animal that is vitally necessary for the balance of nature in the sea, and an animal that we may—if we don’t change our destructive behaviors—extinguish from the face of the earth.”
From here on out I will be getting into plot details which means there will be spoilers for both the book and movie!
In the movie, Martin Brody has been newly elected as the towns sheriff and moved in just that past fall. Whereas in the book he was a local, but his wife was a rich vacationer he had met and the two married. In both, we see that Brody is scared of the water which I thought was a nice touch. I am also someone who is kind of scared of the water (for fear or drowning, more so than of the creatures that are in the water) so I could relate to him in that sense.)
In the movie, him being new to the town is used against him because the mayor and others say he doesn’t understand how things work and that the town needs the summer people in order to last through the following winter. In the book he is well aware of this, but still thinks they should close the beaches. In both, after the first death, he is manipulated into keeping the beaches open and this is when the young boy ends up dying next.
In both, the mayor wants to keep the beaches open but, in the book, he had other reasons for this. In the book he has connections to the mafia because years prior he had borrowed money from them and now they have bought real estate in Amity and if this summer does not go well, they will lose a lot of their money and the mayor will be in trouble. In the movie, he just wants to keep things open for fear of losing money in general.
Near the end of the book, the mayor goes to see Ellen Brody and tells her that they would have made a good couple essentially and it seems he is going to commit suicide or something.
In both, it was interesting to see the effect this has on the town. For example, in the book people comes from far away because they heard there was a killer shark so in some ways it helps business.
In the book, there is a subplot where Ellen realizes she is unhappy with her life. She meets Matt Hooper and turns out she had dated his brother ten years back. She then decides to sleep with Hooper and so one afternoon they meet up and have sex. Brody suspects something went on between the two of them and this causes some tension and arguments when they are out on the boat in the second half. However, he never finds out for sure.
This plot line with the wife was fine and the only thing that really bothered me was when they were talking about sexual fantasies and Ellen’s fantasy is just offensive and something no normal woman has fantasies about. I don’t think even ”unnormal” woman fantasize about being sexually assaulted.
Anyway, she doesn’t have feelings for Hooper, she just wanted a one-time fling with someone from a higher class such as herself.
In both, Hooper goes down in the shark cage. In the book, he has his stick thing to try and harm the shark, but his main reason for going down there was to get pictures. Whereas his reasons where much more noble in the movie and he was just going to try and kill it. In both, the shark attacks and breaks open the cage and in the book he dies. In the original script, Hooper was supposed to die but in the footage with a real shark, things just didn’t go as planned so they kind of had no choice but to have Hooper end up surviving.
Quint is a great character in the book and is expertly played by Robert Shaw. In the movie he gives a monologue about being on the USS Indianapolis which had sunk and some of the crew were eaten by sharks. This part wasn’t in the book. In the book, it gets to a point where Quint says he doesn’t care about the money anymore because now there is something deeper within him that wants to catch the shark.
In the book while they are on the boat going after the shark, there are a few times they catch other, smaller sharks, and cut them open as a way to lure the bigger shark. They also have a baby dolphin they use to get the shark to come to them but none of this is in the movie. Though the movie does have the part where some other people show up and catch a different shark but think it is the one that has been killing people.
In both, Quint ends up being killed but in the movie, he is eaten by the shark-which he had said is his worst fear and he would rather drown. In the book, they were shooting the shark and his leg gets caught in the rope that was attached to the harpoon and he is dragged away and drowns while trailing behind the shark in the water.
I had never seen this movie and didn’t know the end, but there was a moment when they are talking about the oxygen tanks and Hooper is like, hey be careful! These things can blow up! And right then I knew this was a Chekov’s Gun moment, and those tanks would be used to get the shark. Which is what happens, Brody gets the tank in the sharks mouth, then is able to shoot the tank and blow the shark up. After which, Hooper comes back up and the two of them swim back to shore.
In the book, before Quint dies, he had shot the shark with enough harpoons that it died and dragged Quint down to the ocean depths with it. To be honest, I listened to the last like 40% of this book while on a road trip, and I missed that the shark was even killed! I thought it survived, and Brody swam back to shore and it didn’t attack him for some reason. But it actually was killed by Quint. The book ends pretty abruptly, and we just see him start to swim towards shore. Similar to the movie really, but in the movie, it doesn’t feel as abrupt I guess because we get some nice dialogue between Hooper and Brody before the credits roll.
Fun movie facts
I hadn’t known that Jaws created the summer blockbuster! Prior to this, big movies were released over Christmas and that had been the plan for this. However, it went over schedule and was pushed to summer. Studios did have much hope for summer movies, since people were busy enjoying being outside. People flocked to the theaters to see Jaws though, and it became the first movie to make over 100 million in theaters! Since then, summer has become a time popular move release season!
Benchley was involved with the script writing process, however he wanted to keep it like the book and ended up being fired because he was being too stubborn about the climax of the film and the subplots.
I also wanted to note the cool camera angles throughout the movie, and just so many great shots. I also really like the scene where Martin is telling is son to get out of the boat and the wife is like calm down, he’s safe in the boat. Martin does calm down, but while he is calming down the wife sees pictures of shark’s biting into boats and she then does a 180 and yells for the son to listen to his father and get out of the boat. I also like when Hooper is wanting Brody to go to the end of the boat so Hooper can take a picture of the shark and use Brody to scale. I was just surprised how many funny moments there were throughout the movie.
Oh and of course the great scene when Brody sees the shark while throwing out chum and the way he stands up straight so abruptly and just seems to be in shock as he goes to see Quint and tells him they will need a bigger boat. By the way, I kind of think that had the had a bigger boat, maybe things would have worked better and Quint could have survived-what do you think?
I also like how this movie perfectly balances horror, suspense, comedy, drama, and at other times has a wholesome feel. Definitely similar to Jurassic Park which starts out so magical and wonderful before then turning into a scary movie.
Book vs Movie
When it comes to which one wins, this is a tough one because I really do love both. However, I gave the book four stars, whereas I gave the movie five. I really couldn’t think of any reason why not to give it the highest rating! Even the shark effects for the time I thought where well done! I was fine with them leaving out the subplots, and the book has some weird racial things as well which the movie doesn’t have. So, there you have it, the movie wins!