Jaws (1975)

Tagline: The Nation’s No.1 Best-Selling Book now the Screen’s Super-Thriller

Synopsis: When an unusually large great white shark wreaks havoc on the small island community of Amity, a rag tag team of locals combine forces to stop it before its too late.

Meat & Potatoes: First let me preface this review with the fact that I am making a direct correlation with Christopher Volger, a Hollywood development executive best known for his guide for screenwriters, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.  It is essential that you, my audience understand the significance of Vogler as it pertains to my analysis.  Vogler based his work on the work of Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion.  His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: “Follow your bliss.” Vogler took this material to create the now-legendary 7-page company memo for Hollywood screenwriters, A Practical Guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Vogler later developed his memo into the late 1990s book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers (ISBN 978-1-932907-36-0).

With that said, let me continue.  The ordinary world of the film Jaws is the New England island community of Amity.  This sleepy beach town is a quiet retreat for the recently transplanted Chief Brody and his family to get away from the crime and violence of New York City.  In this town, the police are scant and mostly concerned with the occasional case of vandalism or parking infraction.  But Chief Brody is the first to realize that a great white shark is in the local waters and the most likely suspect of a brutal murder.

I would describe this ordinary world as quiet and uneventful.  It is only after Chief Brody contacts the oceanography Institute and teams with Matt Hooper that he can validate the real threat to the people of Amity.  After the second murder the town is galvanized into action.  Fisherman and bounty hunters form in and around the area take to the seas to confront the shark.  Things look good when a boat returns with a tiger shark but it is quickly dismissed.

It is difficult to clearly describe the change we see in the town of Amity after Chief Brody, Hooper, and Quint successfully kill the shark.  The film ends while Brody and Hooper are coming ashore after the Orca sinks and the shark is dead.  What we can infer from the story, however, is that the mayor and other leaders of the town will hopefully be more insightful in the future when it comes to the safety of the town.  Brody declares that “I used to hate the water” revealing that through this ordeal he has overcome his fears and changed.  Hooper is no less enthusiastic about his passion for sharks and is perhaps satisfied to add another shark tale to his resume.

I believe that the archetypes in Jaws are best described as masks that move through the various primary characters.  As I have outlined below, the three primary characters are typically in possession of any given mask at varying times through the film.

The primary characters in Jaws are as follows:

HERO – Chief Brody is the hero and protagonist of the story.  His character possesses the greatest character arc and his change and growth is evident from the beginning of the film to the end.

MENTOR – I believe there are two Mentors in this film, Matt Hooper and Quint.  Hooper serves to provide Brody with the necessary information he needs to classify the deaths as shark attacks.  He further befriends Brody and helps him to cross the first threshold by taking him out on the ocean to investigate the area and ultimately discover the ship and body of Ben Gardner.  Quint is also a mentor in that it is his wisdom and experience that shapes the voyage they all take to find and kill the shark.  Quint instructs Brody and Hooper on how to go after a shark, even though it is his stubborn foolhardiness that leads to him destroying the radio and pushing the ship to the point he causes it to sink.

THRESHOLD GUARDIAN – I believe the primary threshold guardian is Mayor Vaugn.  He is also the antagonist and arguably the shadow archetype.  Vaugn stands in the way of Chief Brody doing what he thinks are the best steps to protect the beach and the people.  It is Vaugn who prevents Brody from closing the beaches longer than 24 hours and also from getting the help he needs.  It is only after another death that Brody is able to get Vaugn to agree to hire Quint.

HERALD – According to Vogler, the Herald represents a new force that appears in act one and brings a challenge to the hero.  This is most clearly defined in the Matt Hooper character.  It is his identification of the remains of the first death that disproves the Mayor and coroner’s assertion that it was an accident.  Hooper also provides valuable information that disproves once again that the tiger shark was not the shark responsible for the deaths.

SHAPESHIFTER – In my estimation the only character that assumes the mask of the shapeshifter would be Mayor Vaugn.  He embodies the reluctance that Brody feels inside, his doubt about how to do his job and protect people.  Vaugn, through his insistence that the beaches must stay open, gets in the way of Brody’s ability to do his job.

SHADOW – As a shadow character, Vaughn’s disregard for human life and his direct hindrance to Brody make him a sinister force.  He is also responsible for goading the people into the water before the last beach death occurs.  In some ways Quint contains shadow characteristics as well, the wounded hero and consummate drunk.  But these qualities fall to the wayside when it is evident that Quint is the driving force necessary to confront the shark and inevitably destroy it.

TRICKSTER – There are two obvious trickster archetypes at work in this film.  The first and minor role is performed by the deputy.  While he does not have a major part in the story he serves to interject a light-hearted energy into the film.  The second and more substantial role is performed by Quint.  We are first introduced to him at the town meeting where he uses his fingers on the chalkboard to get the attention of the room.  Later, when he has been hired to hunt the shark, he makes on with various jokes and songs to lighten the mood as their risky journey is about to begin.  We might also look at the Hooper character as offering moments of levity throughout the film, such as the scene where he is comparing battle scars with Quint.

The twelve steps of the Hero’s journey according to the protagonist, Chief Brody.

Ordinary world

Chief Brody’s ordinary world consists of his new position as town sheriff.  The ordinary world is an uneventful one.  Crime is nearly unheard of.

Call to adventure

I believe there are two instances of the call to adventure.  The first comes when Chief Brody is telephone about the young man reporting the girl missing after swimming.  This leads him to the beach and after this point the ordinary world is beginning to change.

The second instance of a call to adventure is after the second death.  After this the whole town is affected in a much broader sense.

Refusal

The refusal in this film is quite subtle.  It takes place before the young boy is killed.  While at the beach observing, Brody finally lets his children go into the water after numerous false alarms.

Meeting with the mentor

Brody’s first and primary mentor is Matt Hooper.  Hooper arrives and together they begin to piece together the evidence of what has been happening.  Hooper dismisses the Mayor’s findings regarding the first murder and ultimately rules out the tiger shark that had been captured.

Crossing the threshold

Hooper convinces Brody that they need to investigate the ocean.  He takes him onboard his own high tech ship and Brody gets a taste of what they will soon be doing when they acquire the services of Quint.

Test, Allies, Enemies

During this part of the story the tourists arrive.  There is a new threat that Brody must take into consideration.  Brody also learns that the Mayor and town leaders are more interested in their livelihood than the safety of the people.  Brody and Hooper both get on the telephone and try to get help.

Approach the inmost cave

Brody and Hooper meet with Quint and prepare for their journey to sea.  After they argue over the necessity of their gear, Quint welcomes them aboard and they set off from the harbor.  We get a view through a set of shark jaws on the window of Quint’s place of the ship leaving the harbor and perhaps a visual cue that the inmost cave has been entered.

Supreme Ordeal

The supreme ordeal occurs after a lengthy cat and mouse game with the shark.  Quint has destroyed the radio and pushed the ship until the motor explodes and the vessel begins to take on water.  Hooper has escaped death by diving to the bottom of the ocean here and Quint has already been killed by the shark.  Brody is facing one last effort to shoot the compressed air cylinder lodged in the sharks mouth or die trying.

Reward

Once the shark is killed the film ends rather quickly.  The immediate reward for Brody is that Amity will once again be safe, as well as the fact that he is no longer threatened himself.  He also discovers that Hooper hasn’t been killed and that together they will be able to swim back to shore.

The Road Back

The road back is quite literally the distance they will need to swim back to shore.  It is during this final sequence that we see how Brody has changed and ultimately we are led right into the resurrection and the return with the elixir.

Resurrection

The resurrection occurs when Brody tells Hooper how he ‘used to hate the water’.  He has faced his fears and came out triumphant.  He is saddened by the loss of Quint but is vindicated by successfully killing the shark.

Return with Elixir

Brody returns to Amity no longer afraid of the water and triumphant that he has saved Amity and his family from the threats of the shark.  His journey has come full circle.  Now he looks back at the shore from the ocean which contrasts his earlier view from the shore looking out at the vastness of the ocean.

Bits & Bites: Um, check this ->here<-

Amazon.com->here<-

Similar Films: For an example of other films by George Lucas, check->here<-

The Closer: Jaws is and was a product of the times in which it was conceived.  I think for the most part it stands the test of time but if you’re wondering why you should watch it, well, you should have seen it at least once before now.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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