Review: Jaws 2 (1978)

Composer: John Williams

Label: Varese Sarabande

Catalogue Nr.: VSD 5328


Sequels of classic and successful films are mostly inevitable but in many cases questionable. Given the enormous success of Steven Spielberg's seafaring horror Jaws (1975), which was not only a great movie but quickly became a part of our modern pop-culture, a sequel was almost guaranteed to lack the spirit of the original. For director Spielberg, the beginning of the Jaws franchise was already its end and he would not return to direct any of the three sequels. Nevertheless, Jaws 2  somehow became the better sequel to Jaws especially compared to the silly Jaws 3-D (1983) or the embarrassing Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

The score:

Although Jaws 2 was not a Spielberg film, composer John Williams was one of the original Jaws crew members who would return for the sequel. Williams' score for the original Jaws (1975) is without doubt one of the classic film scores which earned the composer his second Academy Award win. The incredibly effective use of the main theme, a 2-note ostinato, as the signal of the sharks arrival is common knowledge for film score fans.

Besides the obvious return of this famous main theme and very sparse usage of secondary thematic material from the first score, Williams also tried to add new musical colours. The prominent usage of harps to accompany the extended shots of the magical underwater world is one of these new colours which is opening the score in "Finding the Orca (Main Title)" followed by a slow horn statement of the orca theme from the first score's end titles before the 2-note ostinato strikes back. The influence of John Williams other classic score, Star Wars (1977), are also evident in Jaws 2. "The Menu" with its neo-baroque sound can be seen as an elegant cross between "Tourists on the Menu" from Jaws and the Java/Sand Crawler music from Star Wars. The harps return as a wonderfully mysterious "Ballet for Divers". A loud outburst of atonal music and a slight hint of the 2-note theme can be heard at the end of the cue.

"The Water Kite Sequence" is a thrilling piece of score which starts with string clusters reminiscent of Williams' suspense music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The rest of the cue is actually one exciting variation of the 2-note theme follows which goes into a menacing and dark fanfare. Slightly heroic tones are cleverly merged into the 2-note theme at one point which makes this cue one of the best variations on the Jaws theme and the highlight of the CD. Another noteworthy addition is a new melancholic theme for Chief Brody played by horns and solo trumpet in "Brody Misunderstood". Williams also composed very light-hearted and playful seafaring music for Jaws 2 introduced in "The Catamaran Race" with lush strings and a 11-note heroic theme.

"Towards Cable Junction" features some tedious and lengthy suspense music for strings before the action takes over in "Attack on the Helicopter" with striking fanfares, frenetic strings and more of the 2-note theme. The light-hearted seafaring music returns in "The Open Sea" but this time with a more lyrical music for strings while the second half of the cue features suspense music and another slight hint to the Star Wars score at the end. "Fire Aboard and Eddie's Death" offers more action music but this time it appears to be less inspired than the previous cue. "Sean's Rescue" mainly consists of dull suspense music before frenetic and painfully atonal music returns in "Attack On The Water Skier" which features a nice climax for the 2-note theme at the end. Dramatic but somehow playful music can be heard during the finale in "The Big Jolt". The cue features a musical idea for horns and woodwinds which is reminiscent of Williams' military cover-up music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). A gently relaxing and positive variation of the seafaring music is closing the score in "End Credits".

Review by Andreas Creutzburg



Score as heard in the film: 78%

Score as heard on CD: 70%

TOTAL: 74%


The presentation:

Varese Sarabande released this CD reissue of the original soundtrack LP in 1991 but it quickly went out of print and is now considered as a collectible. Today it is nearly impossible to find a used copy for less than $50. The booklet features informative liner notes by Kevin Mulhall and a cue-by-cue analysis, the sound quality is very good and the running time of 41 minutes is appropriate but the availability results in a lower presentation rating.

Presentation by the Label: 30%



Jaws 2 is a good sequel score but it is John Williams on auto-pilot without any groundbreaking new ideas or turns compared to his other output from the 70's. This score is basically a compilation of variations on ideas from William's other 70's scores. However, Williams still managed to create some interesting variations on existing material and especially on the 2-note Jaws main theme and some of the action scoring is exciting enough to keep the listener entertained. If you are a sucker for John William's work from the 70's then Jaws 2 is highly recommended. Unfortunately, it could be nearly impossible now to find a used copy of the long out of print CD at a reasonable price.



01.  Finding The 'Orca' (Main Title) (03:15)
02.  The Menu (01:48)
03.  Ballet For Divers (02:56)
04.  The Water Kite Sequence (02:52)
05.  Brody Misunderstood (02:48)
06.  The Catamaran Race (02:08)
07.  Toward Cable Junction (03:44)
08.  Attack On The Helicopter (01:56)
09.  The Open Sea (02:03)
10.  Fire Aboard and Eddie's Death (03:25)
11.  Sean's Rescue (02:55)
12.  Attack On The Water Skier (02:41)
13.  The Big Jolt! (04:39)
14.  End Title, End Cast (03:25)