When I first saw Jaws 2 in the summer of '78, I thought it was good; not great, but good. It reminded me to keep out of the water. Seeing it again now, it’s much more disappointing. The first Jaws was an instant classic, but worked very hard to be more than a monster movie — it also succeeded as a drama and an adventure.
Jaws 2 is mostly a monster movie, and fairly bad otherwise. Not 'so bad it’s good', but boring bad. The best scenes make it watchable, but only because they had a bigger budget than most monster movies.
The plot is simple and almost a dry run for Friday the 13th (1980). A bunch of foul-mouthed teenagers ignore a mean old man (in this case, the police chief) and get picked off, one by one, in various imaginatively brutal ways. Besides the return to the Amity Island location, the John Williams music makes you think you’re listening to a Jaws film. The great cinematography means you think you’re watching a Jaws film.
In the cast there’s Roy Sheider, Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary again, but… it still doesn’t feel like a Jaws film. Even in 1978 I sensed the film was going to be lacking from the limp opening scene. Two divers are attacked underwater as they discover the wreck of the Orca (the only vague clue to the new shark's motivations). There's lots of thrashing about and fast cutting, but you don't see anything actually happen. It's not violent or interesting; it's just a lame plot point because the divers' camera goes off.
To make the new shark look more like a baddy, there's a very silly scene where it has to get hideously scarred (er, like The Phantom of the Opera). A woman, who tries to protect her boat by braining the shark with a can of fuel, merely looks like she's pouring it over herself. This scene is so poorly staged you barely understand what she's doing.