Movies & TV / Columns

From Under A Rock: Jaws

June 18, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Jaws Netflix
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
From Under A Rock: Jaws  


This is another one of my “For Aaron” picks because he hadn’t seen it until we watched it for this review. This movie is one of the all-time classics, but I (Michael) myself didn’t manage to watch it for the first time until two years ago. I’m a failure as a human being, I get it. But what is not a failure is this film; it’s fantastic, so let’s dive in.

…which could be risky.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron snipped Michael’s nose to show him Chinatown. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the water by showing him Jaws.

Released: June 20th, 1975
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Peter Benchley
Roy Scheider as Martin Brody
Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper
Robert Shaw as Quint

Michael Ornelas: As I said above, I’m personally guilty of not seeing this movie until just a couple years ago. But I also hold Aaron to a higher standard than I hold myself, so when he told me he hadn’t seen Jaws before, I knew that I had to add it to the list. So no we’re watching it just in time for summer vacation. Enjoy those trips to the beach!

Aaron Hubbard: I’m just glad I went into the Pacific Ocean before I watched this movie. But yeah, even telling some of my friends that I was excited to see Jaws at last, I mostly got dismissive, judgmental looks. And now, I kind of get why. I already want to see it again.
Don’t Show It
Michael: I’m a big fan of horror, and a subcategory contained within that is monster movies. I’m a firm believer in building as much tension as you can before finally showing your monster. Jaws wasn’t the first to do it (Creature from the Black Lagoon waited awhile to show the monster if I remember correctly), and it wasn’t the best to do it (Alien exists), but I’ll be damned if this movie didn’t do a fantastic job of building that tension to a fever pitch before showing our titular water monster. The scene where the dock breaks away is pitch perfect horror, as are soooo many of the teases. This movie makes us afraid of the shoreline at every possible moment and whenever it’s breached, our hearts flutter with anxiety. This is how you do horror.

Aaron: I was literally trembling during certain parts of this movie, so yeah, I’d have to say it’s pretty damn effective horror. It’s interesting that you bring up Alien, a movie we both love, because it did occur to me while watching this film. Alien is a brilliant, virtually flawless movie, but I think Jaws might actually be more effective at horror just because it feels more grounded. No, there aren’t any giant killer sharks (that we know of), but the ocean is scary, and shark attacks do happen. It struck a nerve with me, and was so effective that by the end I was on the edge of my seat and talking at the characters, things I generally don’t do. I haven’t felt that kind of white-knuckle fear since watching Room, honestly.

Michael: Realistic “it could happen to me” horror definitely has merit in terms of being able to reach heights unattainable to imaginative horror, but I personally view the imagination as a scarier place than reality. That’s just my obligatory defending of Alien right there. But you’re right: this movie is terrifying. I’m glad it got such a visceral reaction from you because on my first viewing, I was with friends and they were distracting so I was robbed of that experience for my maiden voyage. This time was also much more effective for me, and it was only my second viewing, so you’re not far behind.
Characters We Care About
Aaron: When judging the quality of a horror movie, I always go to one simple question: “Was I rooting for the characters to survive, or was I waiting for them to die?” Jaws easily passes, judged on this criteria. Rather than waiting for the shark to show up, I was dreading any time it arrived. Martin Brody and Matt Hooper were the perfect characters for this movie. Brody is a man with a ton of responsibility who is obviously careful in general, but especially of the water. He is afraid, but he will also conquer that fear for the safety of others. But while Brody is scared more because of the unknown, Hooper is terrified because he is an expert on sharks and helps convey the scale of the threat. His introductory scene was fantastic at establishing tension; this guy looks at shark attacks for a living, yet he’s terrified of what happened to the girl. I think it’s easy for the audience to empathize with them, and to respect them because we know they won’t do anything stupid.

Michael: I think you hit the nail on the head in that last sentence. I think the reason we care about them so much is because as an audience, we trust them. It’s often easy to detach from characters in movies with high body counts because we see stupidity and their deaths are predictable. That wasn’t the case here and it helped us invest. Even Quint, who was the dumbest of the three leads, seemed more than capable of holding his own. It was his stubbornness in the end that did him in though, as he pushed the boat past its limits and made a bad situation worse for all involved. That said, I cared about him because he had that magnetism that caused you to watch (and care) intently every second he was on the screen. And how about that shark as a character? Bringing it back to Alien, the antagonist monster was actually presented as intelligent. It was primal, but it had motivation to its actions in each scene. That alone made the horror sink in deeper.

Aaron: Quint’s character introduction was a real stand-out as well for me. I hated the nails on a chalkboard bit, but it does catch our attention. The character reminded me of an older Han Solo; someone who projects confidence in such a way that he’s easy to believe, but perhaps not easy to like. When he names his price, he sounds like somebody who can get the job done, and I was instantly fond of him. But other characters in this movie are good too; Brody’s wife, the mayor of the town, the mother of the second victim. The film works extremely well without the shark physically appearing, and the shark just helps elevate it.
Making a Splash
Michael: Beyond its merits as a film, Jaws arguably changed the face of the film industry forever (for better or for worse). Jaws is widely regarded as one of the very first summer blockbusters and set a new model for which film studios could strive. Those big tentpole releases that studios bank on started here and it worked. If we look at the huge hits of the years to follow, we have the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones movies, and pretty much every Spielberg movie ever (let me exaggerate for the sake of making a point). It’s an approach to moviemaking that studios are still taking because it’s all about generating revenue. The monster box office from this film changed attitudes forever and therefore its cultural impact cannot be denied.

Aaron: Certainly not. I’ve went back and forth on this one; I certainly don’t agree with people who say that Jaws ruined movies as art, because it clearly hasn’t. There have always been movies that are made for a smaller, more “intelligent” audience, and there are still plenty that exist today. What Jaws did was open a window for new kinds of films, and I for one am glad that blockbusters exist. Many of us first get interested in film because of films like Jaws; I certainly had an interest in Independence Day, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Spider-Man long before I sunk my teeth into films like The Shawshank Redemption or The Godfather. And I feel like there are enough truly great films that exist in the blockbuster genre that immediately dismissing them as “less than” is ignorant at best. It’s like complaining about Ricochet vs. Ospreay just because you don’t like flips; they are still masters at their craft.

Michael: Boom.
Aaron: I loved this movie, much more than I thought I was going to. Steven Spielberg’s a legendary director, there’s no doubt about it, but I was always skeptical of this movie because of its reputation and the style of movie it is. But everything about Jaws works; it’s a well-crafted, well-paced movie with a simple premise, with strong characters, chilling horror scenes, and a fantastic finale. Outside of a few effects that haven’t aged well, it’s hard to find any real flaw with the film, and it’s an adrenaline rush as well.


Michael: If we’re going on personal preference alone, I’d give this movie just an A, but the impact the film had on studios makes me nudge it up for its place in history. It’s terrifyingly effective horror at its finest and a gripping character study all in one. The lead characters’ arcs are understated but simultaneously a driving force for the plot. It’s hard to find flaws in this film and the fact that the shark’s malfunctioning animatronics are the reason it appears so little only added to the atmosphere.


Aaron: Man, we sure do love the 1970’s on this column.

Michael: Now I’m tempted to pick That ‘70s Show (the full series). Actually…that’s not a bad idea. I liked that show…

Do we need a bigger boat?

Next week:

Aaron: Next week’s pick is one that I always meant to catch, but never got around to until a few weeks ago. I was definitely impressed, but like Chinatown, I want to see it again and really get a better understanding of it.
Michael: Bought this for Best Buy’s holiday sales last December and now I finally get to watch it! Alright!

Aaron: I dunno if excitement is the right word, but it is an excellent film.

What is your favorite modern western film?

E-mail us at [email protected]
Follow us! @FUARockPodcast
Like us on Facebook!
And follow Michael on Twitter! @TouchButtPro

Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws

Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews his own father! How’s it going to turn out? How is he going to review him? Watch below to find out!

This week Aaron races through a column on Barry Allen, better known as The Flash, looking at how the ability to outrun time raises questions that define the Fastest Man Alive.

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Look, it's Jaws. Very few movies have the kind of cultural impact of Steven Spielberg's seminal horror film. It's a masterpiece of suspense and thrills, and still stands as one of the most exciting and terrifying movies ever made. But it's also got memorable characters, fantastic dialogue, and it’s aged a lot better than it had any right to. Don't wait until you're our age to see it.