Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... A couple of divers with plenty of money to spare go down to investigate the wreck of the Orca, which carried the three men who destroyed a giant shark that terrorised the island community of Amity - but the divers go missing, leaving only their camera behind. Meanwhile Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is having suspicions, to his wife Ellen's (Lorraine Gary) dismay, that another maneating shark may be lurking in the depths of the surrounding sea after there's a boating accident in the waters off the shore of Amity island. And, yeah, there is.
Written by Carl Gottlieb (returning from his duties on the original) and Howard Sackler, this sequel to the celebrated seventies blockbuster finds considerable difficulty in finding anything new to say. What it does say contains none of the resonance of the original, and it emulates the model of the disaster movie with its collection of innocents being threatened, here by a force of nature, which again taps into the fears of eco-horror that informed the original, but in that left room for all sorts of other themes. You'd have thought that after the first movie Amity would be hyper-sensitive to any possibility of another shark menacing the island, but oh no, then there wouldn't be any film.
This means we are treated to scenes standing in as reruns of the first movie, specifically Brody trying to convince the town's leaders that there is any problem, and the leaders not wanting to hurt the tourist industry by closing the beaches and stopping potential victims setting out on boating trips; this time round they simply seemed obtuse rather than self-serving or the victims of economic threat. There are the expected false alarms and tension building incidents: a killer whale washes up on the beach with huge bite marks in it, a waterskier and her boat are destroyed in a suspicious explosion, and Brody mistakenly panics the tourists when he believes the shark is on its way to the beach (he should have pretended it was a Candid Camera stunt).
Although a subplot about Brody losing his standing with the community and his family harks back to the previous film, yet another echo to demonstrate Joe Bob Brigg's maxim that when you're making a sequel, you should make exactly the same film as before, now the focus is on the teenagers of the island. Halloween came out the same year, but Jaws 2 also shows the signs that getting a bunch of young people together in your film and then killing them off could be a lucrative idea, effectively rendering this fishy frightfest as at least forward thinking in that respect. They travel out to sea in flimsy vessels, only to be picked off by the shark - this film marks the link between disaster movies and slasher movies.
Why are these two dimensional characters (nerds, fat bloke, beauty queen) terrorised? As one old woman says when witnessing the waterskier incident, "The were having a wonderful time and then..." So, no reason other than to scare the target audience - Jaws 2 is as mechanical as its villainous shark. It's telling that you lose count of how many teens there are as they are reduced to a collection of screaming inadequates for Brody to come to the rescue (both his boys are among them). Also, they were obviously not quite as lucy with the weather as they had been on the first blockbuster, as those are some of the greyest seas you'll ever see in an ocean-based movie. Watch for: the shark eating a helicopter, which is notable for its farcical quality. Plus: an awful lot of rope-throwing, for some reason. John Williams returned to write the score, which sounds similar to his first attempt - how could, it not? Suits the film, I suppose, yet Jaws 2 was not the worst horror sequel around, some would say you had to wait for the third and fourth entries in the franchise for that.