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.