Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Jaws by Peter Benchley rakes in at 278 pages. It’s a fairly quick read, I managed to get through it in a few hours with a pause for food and to watch a few minutes of Zombieland. I was wanting to watch the movie again before writing this review so I could kind of do a comparison like I did with Different Seasons but by the time I finished the book I realized there was no need. It says on the front cover, “Powerful…His story grabs you at once.” -The New York Times Book Review I can’t really agree with that…I think the book started off pretty fucking slow (the intro is brilliant mind you), and slowly got its legs about halfway through.
There is a huge difference between Jaws and Jaws. At first I thought it was simply because there is that gap between a book to film translation. Then I realized its not the gap, it’s the fact that the characters actually have personalities. In Jaws the fucking shark is the real star, everyone else is just a supporting actor to it. Not to say the movie isn’t fantastic, I fucking love it (especially the performance of Robert Shaw). Hell, even my mom said she refuses to get into the ocean to this day because of the film. This is just another one of those cases where the book is actually better then the movie. Let me see if I can explain.
When it comes to the characters you pretty much got the same ones you deal with in the film. There is the Amity Chief of Police, Brody, who is actually a much larger asshole then the Brody that is portrayed by Roy Scheider in the film. The Chief of Jaws has a love for his town, a love for his wife and family, and a love for his job. Other then that he could honestly seem to give a fuck less about you, his friends (he has a friend of 15 years die and barely bats an eye), or any of the tourists. Then of course the ship Captain Quint is almost the same as that of Jaws the only difference being that there is no great war story of a sinking ship with sharks. More than likely the biggest difference in characters is Hooper (who was played by Richard Dreyfuss). Hooper in Jaws is young, arrogant, cocky, and comes from a family of money. He doesn’t really care who he steps on to get things done and he honestly doesn’t “care” about anyone. He is in it for himself and no one else. If someone goes down to feed his infatuation with the shark, so be it. You still have the other rounding out of side characters but Ellen Brody does have a much larger role in the book, however, that fits more with plot.
There are several key differences in the plot from the film to the movie. So let me kind of brush on these without hopefully giving too much away. One, there is town corruption with the mayor that actually involves a mob connection. It is this reason that, like the movie, the town council is so key on re-opening the beaches for the summer crowds. There is more of a dynamic between the townies and the people that visit during the summer that borders on racism. In regards to Ellen she has a whole character struggle of once being that rich woman who came for the summer to being a townie, and in a way, is having a midlife crisis and trying to rediscover herself. Don't forget, she's also described as a total fucking MILF in the book. Included in this struggle is an affair with Hooper. I can understand why they took it out of the movie, even in the book it doesn’t really seem to belong and the only result is an unwanted tension between Hooper and Chief Brody that never really pans out or develops into anything but an annoyance. Brody’s children aren’t even in the book that much. In fact, if I recall correctly, there are actually only two instances in the book in which they are involved. Last but not least is the grand finale. I remember the ending to Jaws seemed to take forever, they were out there on that boat trying to hunt down that shark….chasing it…chasing it…chasing it. In the book, the actual chase of the shark only lasts for a few pages. Now they go out there, I think, four days in a row but unlike in the movie, even though Brody wants to do it, they never stay the night out on the water. There are a few more deaths, one I wasn’t expecting and then it happened (I actually went “cool”), and a few more plot twists that I’m leaving out. YES, the scene where Brody is throwing out chum and the shark just appears behind him is in the book. NO, he doesn’t blow the fucking thing up, it dies like a normal shark.
Overall Benchley’s Jaws doesn’t even really deal with the fucking shark. Its more a look in the life of the people involved. The look in the life of a small town. At the end you’re not left going “Fuck Yeah!” You’re left more with a sad feeling that nothing has really ended. Brody hasn’t really triumphed. He’s going to go back to the little life he has and continue to be the way he has always been. Rich tourists will continue to come and continue to leave and the town will continue to tick. On the back jacket there is a quote from The Philadelphia Inquirer that says, “RELENTLESS TERROR…You’d better steel yourself for this one. It isn’t a tale for the faint of heart.” I realize this book came out in 1974, but I never saw the terror. Except for maybe the naked lady swimming in the water at the very beginning of the book…that part is pretty creepy.