Steven Spielberg’s 3x Oscar-winning film Jaws has been upgraded to 4k Blu-ray celebrating the 45th anniversary since premiering in 1975. The movie won 3 Oscars including Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams). Jaws was also nominated for Best Picture in 1976, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won that year.
The movie was so powerful it created a cultural shift in feelings towards sharks. The mysterious creatures were always feared, but not as much as after Jaws debuted. Shark fishing tournaments became more commonplace and the movie continued to propagate non-factual sentiments that sharks are man-killers and therefore a danger to humanity.
Of course, Speilberg directed Jaws based on the novel by Peter Benchley and shouldn’t be solely responsible for the demonizing of sharks. In fact, he was not the original choice for director. But nevertheless, Speilberg took the script and turned it into one of the most frightening and influential thrillers of all time.
Two Jaws movies followed the original (nowhere near as successful), as the shark became the villain for many movies such as Deep Blue Sea, Soul Surfer, The Meg, and even goofy horror films like the Sharknado series. But none of those films come even remotely close to the quality of filmmaking, acting, and music composition found in Jaws.
Jaws begins with a night scene in which we see the first victim of the giant great white, and in terms of video quality isn’t exactly the way you want to show off the capabilities of 4k. But when the movie switches to daylight there is a noticeable improvement in sharpness, finer grain, and color depth.
The scenes in natural light are the most impressive in terms of color, with improvements in saturation and luminance not possible on traditional Blu-ray without HDR (on this 4k Blu-ray edition delivered via Dolby Vision and HDR10+).
HDR10+ is a tricky spec to see in action. It’s supported by very few TVs and Blu-ray players (some requiring firmware upgrades) but is more capable than its predecessor HDR10. Essentially, HDR10+ allows for more brightness (up to 4,000 nits) but the real advantage is its dynamic rendering of the color specification. Anyhow, if your TV has Dolby Vision you don’t have to worry about HDR10+.
On 4k Blu-ray, there are details that may not have been visible before, like seagulls flying through the frame or a subtle glisten on the lips of Brody while he’s skimming through shark books. In that same interior scene, Brody’s eyelashes are backlit by the setting sun and about as sharp as this movie gets.
There’s a little bit of fall-off from the lens in the top and bottom areas in some shots (notably shots from the bow of the boat where Hooper is at the helm), and in some of the wider focus shots we find less sharpness. But this is more about the original cinematic lens reaching its limits rather than the film restoration and transfer to 4k.
There is a definite improvement in the video when Hooper goes underwater in an attempt to inject the shark with Strychnine. The shots are the best we’ve seen boasting clarity in the shark’s mouth, Hooper in the cage, and color that is frighteningly realistic.
During one of the best scenes in film history, when Quint and Hooper are comparing scar stories while waiting for Jaws to resurface with a barrel attached, we find the true test of HDR. The hull of the boat is dark and not evenly lit, and much of the scene is shadow. But with High Dynamic Range some of those details in the dark areas are more evident.
The only problem with this restoration of Jaws is that it needed at least one more pass to fix all the dust spots and artifacts. The imperfections are more evident the larger the TV, but pop up throughout the film (see the examples below). With a movie of this significance it’s hard to believe the spots were missed. That isn’t to belittle the amount of work the restoration team put into Jaws though. Watch the bonus feature about how each frame was examined and repaired, some taking up to 2-3 hours each!
By the way, it’s also interesting to note the restoration team actually created another film print of Jaws for archival reasons.
The musical score to Jaws is one of the most memorable, if not the most memorable, of all time. AFI has ranked the film score No. 6 among its Top 25 in history. John Williams’ two notes (E to F, or F to F-sharp), albeit often with a humorous tone, have been forever fixed in our memories as a sign of danger ahead. It’s also one of the easiest motifs to play on the piano!
The new Dolby Atmos/7.1 channel soundtrack adds a bit more dimension to the Jaws soundtrack, that is, effects that surround and seem to wrap around you. We hear this in surround effects like helicopters passing overhead or Quint’s finger scratch on the chalkboard that sounds almost as cringy as in real life. The music score also envelopes the viewer at times, creating an effect that seems to bring us closer to the screen in certain moments.
The new mix and format also increase the dynamic range of the audio, widening the volume levels from quiet dialogue to the crashing sounds of waves hitting the Orca. In the restoration bonus you can learn more about how the team moved the audio and soundtrack to 7 channels. Spielberg even says the sound is better than we’ve ever heard it before.
The bonus material has been released to previous Blu-ray editions, but there is plenty of it including “The Impact & Legacy of Jaws,” “The Making of Jaws,” “Jaws: The Restoration” (mentioned above), deleted scenes and outtakes, and more. Some of the bonus material is actually viewable on the 4k Blu-ray, With this combo edition from Universal you also get a code to redeem a Digital Copy. And, the 2-disc 45th Anniversary Edition includes a collectible book with rare photos, posters, storyboards, and more. You might also consider the high-quality lenticular packaging to be a bonus.
Jaws on 4k Blu-ray is a must-own for anyone who owns a 4k TV and 4k Blu-ray player. If the TV supports HDR, this new release is even better enjoyed with more realistic color and expanded detail in shadow and light areas. The soundtrack to Jaws is better ever before, bringing a theater-like experience especially with surround sound speaker systems and a subwoofer to reach the deepest notes of John Williams’ powerful score. It’s hard to call the video transfer perfect when there are still artifacts floating around, but this is the best Jaws has ever looked or sounded in its 45-year history.
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