Monday, May 14, 2012

Movie Rant: 20 years from now, will Jaws still be considered a classic?

Steven Spielberg with "Bruce."
Last month, during the Easter long weekend, my two young cousins told me that they'd recently watched Jaws for the first time.

"Yeah?! And?" I asked. "What did you think?"

The elder cousin said, "It was kind of cheesy and not even scary" while the younger one shrugged and said "the shark looked so stupid and fake."

I'm not gonna lie: I was a little crestfallen. I'd never heard someone say that before about Jaws or "Bruce", the famously malfunctioning shark robot.

"Well, it was fake," was my lame response. "You have to remember the time in which it was made."

I asked them what their friends thought of it and they responded with, "they also thought it was boring and fake."

Now, maybe it was a bit naive on my part to assume that they would gush and swoon over what many consider to be one of director Steven Spielberg's greatest film achievements. They are only 15 and 10 years old, after all. But, still. These girls are pretty patient with "older" films (i.e. movies that were made before the rise of Kristen Stewart or Channing Tatum) -- they even expressed their recent love for Titanic even though it's, and I quote, "pretty old." So, the fact that they were so quick to dismiss Jaws surprised me a little. Even when I was a kid in the '90's, it was still considered a really cool movie.

I mean, the 1975 underwater horror classic is the reason we have blockbuster movies today. Without Jaws there would never would have been an Indiana Jones, an Avengers, a Lord of the Rings or even a Star Wars (although George Lucas may take issue with that). For that reason alone, it deserves its place in film history books. What makes it so great is the fact that we so rarely get a glimpse of the shark -- it goes back to the whole notion of how what we don't see is often scarier that what is shown to us.

In this increasingly digital age, though, what does this say about the future of certain film classics if the next generation of film fans brush off older flicks because of what they consider to be clunky technology? We assume that once a film is a classic and revered in film circles around the world, it will always be so. And, for many, that will remain the case. But what about the old-school thrillers or movies that rely heavily on computer technology? I just feel that, more and more, an emphasis on technology and special effects is at the top of moviemakers' lists -- so where does that leave Jaws?

Roy Scheider battles the Great White.
There are certain classics that I don't worry about -- their fates are sealed and they are destined to age gracefully. I'm thinking of The Godfather, a towering cinematic achievement that doesn't have to worry about technology and gadgets that will (unintentionally) prematurely age and outdate it. I would even argue that Star Wars is relatively safe what with Lucas' incessant tinkering, nit-picking and re-releases. Ditto anything directed by James Cameron, the George Lucas of a new generation.

I know comments like the ones my cousins made are inevitable and probably not all that uncommon (I'm just in denial, clearly). I'm also probably being crazy and reading too much into it -- but, once I started thinking about it, the more I realized that Jaws' of the film world may struggle to survive and retain their relevance and cultural significance down the road.

Of course there will always be film buffs to defend it and discuss it, but I'm talking about the average moviegoer. Will it be remembered ...or ignored?

But I guess this is how people felt when black and white receded into the background and colour became the "next big thing." While today's generation of kids likely wouldn't be caught dead watching a black and white film, there are still plenty out there who appreciate them.

But, in the age of torture-porn like the Saw franchise and Rob Zombie horror adaptations, Jaws apparently just doesn't cut it anymore. There has to be blood splattered to engage an audience or there has to be massive explosions to provide thrills. Somehow, I feel like it will be different this time around -- it won't be quite like the disappearance of black and white films.

As for me, I still think "Bruce" looks pretty damn realistic.


  1. It's just the age of your cousins and maybe also their gender. "Jaws" is kind of a "big boys' adventure" more than a horror movie and so it will always be a classic. I really don't think the effects will ever date it that much but the very American and '70s setting will in time make it a nostalgia piece for many.

    1. It could totally have to do with their age, but that's what I worry about. Their generation just won't be into certain classics. It's just that I saw Jaws when I was about 10 or 11 years old and I loved it. But you make a good point when you say that the effects won't really date it and that it will be more of a nostalgia piece down the road. I hope you're right!

  2. I hope it is still considered a classic, and I think it will be.

    1. It still is considered a classic now, I'm just thinking longterm. But I hope you're right!

  3. I feel like with things like this, though, movies are continually evolving and taking on new and exciting forms and genres. While I share your disappointment that my brothers will never get into older films that I find fascinating, there are a lot of things that our modern audiences can appreciate that'll probably become outdated someday too (and yet, hopefully, still appreciated by a select number). Take shocker thrillers like The Sixth Sense or The Others, which are now a little commonplace whereas they were revolutionary a decade or two ago. Out with the old and in with the new, as it were, haha. Wow, that was a novel.

    1. It's OK, I like novels. :)

      I totally see where you are coming from and there are certain films that have been released now that will one day be outdated. But, I don't know ...the films that relied heavily on technology back in the 70s and 80s are just *so* dated now to a lot of younger generations, I just worry they'll be forgotten down the road ...especially if there isn't a George Lucas-type who is around to constantly tinker with them.

  4. I think the fact that silent film still has a significant following is enough to assure that films such as Jaws will always have a fan base. Unfortunately, you're right- it won't enjoy the same "Classic" status as, say, "The Godfather", but I also think that the "Classic" label is reserved for films more fit the mainstream, anyway. The more fringe or genre films tend to have more cult followings (like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Singin' in the Rain) while the more "normal" movies tend to have more wide-spread modern fan bases because they're still relatable.

    1. So, do you think Jaws is a little more out of the mainstream (more Rocky Horror than Godfather) and will have more of a cult following down the road?

  5. Yeah Bruce still looks fine to me too. I understand that younger viewers don't feel the same way. They didn't see the hype on release or didn't remember seeing it on TV as a kid with their parents or older brothers and sisters raving about. It will look dated now.

    Besides every generation has to find their own classics. It would be boring if we all still kept going on about Ben Hur and Citizen Kane and The Godfather. My classics are Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix. 1999 was one of the greatest years for cinema ever.

    Embrace the fact your cousins will find their own classics. Unless they start claiming Twilight or Harry Potter are and then they need a good talking to.

    Great post btw, I'll be recommending this to others!

  6. Oh I totally understand that each new generation of film fans will have their own classics. It's just that there are certain films I think a lot of us expect to still be around one day when, in reality, they'll likely be forgotten down the road. And Jaws isn't The Godfather, which means it will likely fade in popularity.

    I know it's all inevitable but I guess it brings a sense of nostalgia that newer generations won't understand. It's just that technology is evolving so fast I just worry it will leave a lot of older films in the dust really fast.

    Thanks for the comment!

  7. I admit to having not seen Jaws in a very long time (and also admit it didn't quite impact me the way I'd hoped), and partially because of that, I suppose there's always the possibility that they're just a little young to appreciate it.

    Take it from me, often for kids what they see is what they get. With something like, say, the cheesy 1960s Batman movie, I thought it was awesome because of how quirky and colourful it was. Now I obviously see it as more of a so-bad-it's-good type of thing when there are much more gratifying incarnations of the series around.

    I suppose with Jaws it's the suspense that critics are primarily focused on, yet the idea that the "shark looks fake" has resonated in culture (think Jaws 19 from Back to the Future Part 2!) to the point where it's become as equally easy a dismissal of the film, mainly for those with that WYSIWYG mentality I described earlier.

    Hopefully one day they'll be able to see it differently as they grow and mature.

    ...To the above poster, HEY! Harry Potter DOES happen to be one of my classics as a person growing up in the late 90s, but that's another story. Let's just agree that Twilight's lame.

    1. Their age could definitely be a factor. I saw it for the first time when I was 10 or 11 but I guess I can't expect everyone to love it at that age much as I want them too. ;)

      Haha! I forgot about Jaws 19!

      That is a good point about the WYSIWYG, but I guess the nostalgic part of me that loves Jaws finds it a little tough to swallow. I'm just glad we barely SEE Bruce in the film, otherwise the disinterest from upcoming generations would be even greater!

      Yeah, I wouldn't categorize Harry Potter and Twilight together. Harry Potter definitely deserves its legion of fans and its place in pop culture. Twilight ...not so much.

  8. To merely discuss the horror and technical aspects of "Jaws" is brushing the surface, at best. Whether or not the infamous opening scene with Chrissie or Bruce's realism withstands the test of technological time is nearly irrelevant in comparison to the character development of Martin Brody, Robert Shaw's drunken yet powerful performance, or the frequently overlooked screenplay. For these reasons, "Jaws" will not be forgotten in film history.

    In a recent interview, J. J. Abrams mentioned the scene in "Jaws" in which Brody and his son are sitting at the dinner table—the younger son mimics his father's every movement. Filmmakers should be trying to replicate that scene, as opposed to the film's suspense or use of a spine-tingling score.

    1. I totally understand that and agree. But you and I can say that as big film fans; people who grew up with these films and love them. I'm talking about this up-and-coming generation that may have, arguably, a much larger appreciate for the technical aspects in this digital age. That's all.

      Jaws won't be forgotten by hardcore film fans but I can't help but wonder if it will grab newer generations like it used to?