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To 3D Or Not To 3D: Buy The Right Jaws Ticket

Roy Scheider stands stunned on the Orca's deck in Jaws.
(Image credit: Universal)

There is a creature alive today who has survived 47 years of cinema history without change, with quotable moments of dialogue and in the face of some infamous sequels. Thanks to both new IMAX and 3D versions released into theaters for a week-long engagement, Jaws is back to thrill audiences and fans alike in two new formats. 

You can see where I’m going with this, as it’s now time to ask that beautiful question: To 3D or Not To 3D? If you want our assessment of Jaws as a movie, you can actually read our official Blu-ray review from back when Steven Spielberg’s iconic thriller first arrived in HD. Otherwise, it’s time to find out if your 3D money is put to good use or if you’d be better off investing in a bigger boat.

FIT SCORE - 2/5

I’d like to put one thing out there before we begin: this is Jaws in 3D, not the infamous Jaws 3D. Although I’d love to see how a modern refresh would enhance the camp value of that oddity, that’s not what we’re here to discuss. The one, the only, the original, Jaws is a movie that puts a lot of time and energy into ratcheting up the tension of the ever lurking shark. 

That being said, this isn’t a movie built for 3D, and it’s no one’s fault that Jaws isn’t the best fit for a third dimensional overhaul. Honestly, the third act on the Orca seems to be the place where this format fits the best. If we were still in the days of IMAX 3D releases like Superman Returns, we might have seen Jaws given the classic “select sequences in 3D” treatment . Alas, the film on the whole isn’t exactly a 3D playground.

PLANNING & EFFORT - 4/5

Jaws is one of the best cases of working with what you’ve got. Mostly devoid of the typical 3D-friendly angles one would work with, the conversion done by Stereo-D has added quite a bit of pizzazz in ways that one wouldn’t normally think to do so. Also, for an almost 50-year-old movie to look this smooth in 3D, with some minor hiccups, is a feat in and of itself. 

While Jaws isn’t the most natural fit, there’s enough excitement added to make its third dimensional enhancements an intriguing experience. It's quite surprising that in a year that's given us shear perfection like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' perfect 3D effort, Jaws manages to still be able to stand pretty confidently in the format. Unfortunately, two major sections take the biggest hits in this premium re-release, and one is a stone cold bummer. 

BEFORE THE WINDOW - 2/5

One of the greatest shortcomings of Jaws’ 3D conversion is the Before the Window factor. In this classic segment where we evaluate just how much pops out of the window, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. The majority of Steven Spielberg’s classic just doesn’t pop out of the screen all that much, and the stuff that does is pretty standard and repetitive.  Brace yourself for a lot of guns and spears poking out into the audience, as those seem to be the most window breaking elements Jaws has to offer. 

There’s one moment of Roy Schieder’s Chief Brody pointing into the audience’s face that also works, but again, this isn’t exactly a film built for 3D optimization. Although, the scene where Bruce the shark breaks into the Orca’s cabin would have been a perfect moment to break some Before the Window thrills into the picture. Sadly, that’s not in the cards, as the effect falls pretty flat. Not all 3D movies can be like Jurassic World Dominion and contain eye-popping dinosaur thrills.

BEYOND THE WINDOW - 5/5

On the other flipper of the menacing sea beast, Jaws has some of the best Beyond the Window work I’ve seen in quite a while. In fact, this is the feature that most capitalizes on the 3D format, as the conversation heavy film is drawn with great depth and spatial reasoning. 

A firm example of how Jaws makes this factor work is the initial scene where Chief Brody and Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) share their first conversation on an Amity Island ferry. Not only do we get the limitless backgrounds in this 3D conversion, but the level at which people are placed into any scene of multiple characters is astounding. Constantly showing us the world of Jaws in stunning detail, Beyond the Window thrills are the star of this show.

BRIGHTNESS SCORE - 3/5

For once, the Brightness score has a perfectly good reason to be dinged a couple of points. While the usual caveats still stand, Jaws has always contained scenes of low-light that obscure the audience’s view. This, paired with the usual suspects, makes for a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to visual clarity.

If you go to see Jaws in 3D, you’ll still want to make sure you see it at a theater you trust to keep their equipment maintained. For this viewing, the majority of the movie was nice and clear, with minimal dimming through the glasses required to create the 3D effect. This premium re-release isn’t killed by this factor; but you’re absolutely going to feel the lack of lighting in those darker moments. 

GLASSES OFF SCORE - 5/5

You’re always going to be tempted to take your glasses off during a 3D movie, and if you’re not, you’re a liar. Jaws especially makes itself a case to invite such behavior, as format connoisseurs are going to want to see how good of a job was done on this conversion. Thankfully, the blur that manipulates the images in this case manages to stand out. 

Even more impressive is the fact that Jaws doesn’t just use center-standing character for all of its 2D anchor points. Some crowd scenes will have a person off to the side doing that heavy lifting. Not to mention that if you enjoy noticing those moments where a piece of the image shifts through levels of blur in the moment, you’ll be quite pleased with this film.

AUDIENCE HEALTH - 4/5

In the face of greater dimness being contained in moments of Jaws’ 3D adventure, there isn’t a huge level of visual strain or wonky images. Even moments of people running through crowds of panicking beachgoers doesn’t seem to fail the audience, further highlighting that a movie released 47 years ago can still be touched up with fantastic third-dimensional  aspects. 

There are a couple of moments though where the picture kind of wonks out. Also, the soft, blurry nature of Jaws’ daytime imagery does play a little bit of havoc on the 3D effect overall. These are minor quibbles though, as no one’s going to get seasick over this boat trip. 

FINAL VERDICT: 25/35

If I were to make a recommendation for which Jaws premium experience to choose, I might lean more towards the IMAX experience. Though I haven’t seen it myself, the quality sound system and larger image feel more adept at enhancing Jaws’ blockbuster thrills. Having said that, it’s not a total waste if you see the 3D version. Just go in knowing that it’s more subtle than you’d think, and the real dynamite pops up towards the end of the film. 

That’s all for this edition of To 3D or Not To 3D, However, I’m excited to say that we won’t have to wait that long to reunite as friends and fans of the third dimension! This September’s re-release of Avatar in a remastered 4K HDR variant is also going to include a 3D rollout. Plus, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is also on the horizon, as is the possibility of an eye-popping version of Black Adam in October. Until next time, please recycle your glasses and just keep swimming! 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.