As the summer movie season comes to an end, a few all-time blockbusters are busting back into theaters. One is from just last year but the other is the original. The first. Maybe the best of the best. Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, Jaws.
Jaws on the big screen alone is quite the experience. John Williams’ Oscar-winning score blankets you in fear. Spielberg’s masterful direction pushes you to the edge of your seat. Watching the movie on the big screen by itself would be worth the cost of a ticket. But this weekend isn’t a mere re-release. Spielberg himself has approved a 3D conversion of the film and if that piques your interest in any way, it’s absolutely worth your time.
io9 caught a screening of Jaws in Real D 3D last week and it’s truly excellent. Which, we fully admit, has lots to do with just how incredible Jaws remains. It’s a movie you can watch again and again and find new things to marvel at. Nuances to the performances. Foreshadowing in the filmmaking. But in 3D, much of its marvel has to do with the cinematography of Bill Butler.
Unlike 1983's Jaws 3D, the third film in the franchise which was filmed with 3D in mind, Jaws in 3D isn’t all about stuff flying off the screen. Instead, it’s a more subtle, immersive experience. Butler’s compositions are deconstructed almost like one of those exploded blueprint posters. Every piece of the frame is stretched front to back making it feel like you’re looking out a window, not at a flat screen.
Instantly, you notice how many shots in the film were composed to give the world depth and scope. Brody walks through town, and the buildings and crowds stretch into the horizon. Fishermen run on a dock with the railing furthest up, people behind it, and the moon in the background so clear you can almost touch it. Even watching characters have dinner, the 3D makes everything feel a bit more real and personal.
But the best 3D scenes take place in the water—which, it being freaking Jaws, happens a lot. When the camera frames the water at eye level, the theater almost becomes an aquarium. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine holding an aquarium in your hands and moving it left and right. How the water goes up the sides of the structure but doesn’t tip out. It’s restricted yet beautiful. That’s what Jaws feels like in those scenes. The water seems as if it wants to pour into the theater. And these scenes are all throughout the film. Anytime people are on the beach in the first half and, of course, when Quint, Brody, and Hooper go out into the water in the second half.
As one might expect, the 3D effects are even better once Jaws becomes the three men on the water. You get that aforementioned aquarium effect at times but the angles on Quint’s Orca boat are what really shine. When the captain is hanging off the front of the boat, you can see how exposed he is, and feel his vulnerability. When Brody climbs up the mast, there’s an added fear of heights on top of the fear of killer sharks. And when those yellow barrels pop up in the front of the frame, no matter how far back the boat looks like it is, it’s never enough.
This weekend, you can see 11 extra minutes of Spider-Man, watch the new film from George Miller, or revisit Top Gun: Maverick for the 5th time. All are solid options. But if you love Steven Spielberg and/or Jaws, seeing it in 3D is a wholly satisfying, worthwhile experience.
Jaws in Real D 3D opens in select theaters Friday for one week only to start. Head here for showtimes and tickets. (It’s also opening this weekend in IMAX, which is not in 3D but should be pretty damned cool too.)
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