Near a lush tropical island, a small plane carrying young military school cadets crashes into the ocean. In a stunning prolog, we see the cadets fall helplessly into the waves while the camera shoots them treading water, from below. But after its arresting, almost surreal opening
sequence, this unnecessary remake of William Golding's much-read allegory becomes an exercise in futility.
Making their way to a tropical Garden of Eden (with one seriously wounded grown-up), the children are left to fend for themselves without a social structure. Civilization quickly starts to unravel. Although Ralph (Balthazar Getty), a born leader, establishes rules and encourages cooperation, Jack
(Chris Furrh), a rotten apple, seductively appeals to the boys' anarchic spirit. Even though his classmates ridicule the portly Piggy (Danuel Pipoly), his physical limitations become adventageuos when Ralph realizes that Piggy's spectacles can be used to start a fire. Guards are appointed, and a
signal fire is kept burning. Meanwhile, Simon (Badgett Dale), the most sensitive of the lads, clings to the hope that the adult will recover. Innocently at first, cruel children's games are instituted and duties are shirked. Flexing his leadership muscles, Jack persuades the others to track down
wild boar. Racked with fear, the surviving grown-up wanders from camp; the boys assume he drowns. When Jack leads another pig hunt, the youngsters allow the fire to go out and miss an opportunity to signal a passing plane. At this point, the cadets split into factions, Jack's renegade group
attracting more followers once a storm has wrecked the camp. When one boy wanders into a dark cave and stabs what he thinks is a sleeping monster, Jack consolidates his power by frightening the others with tales of a fiend he can protect them from. Reverting to savagery, Jack's faction paint their
bodies with blood, dance around the fire, and steal from the other boys. Then Simon discovers that the slain monster was actually their missing teacher; that same night, Simon himself is attacked and killed by a mob that has been stirred up by the increasingly brutal Jack. Ralph and Piggy try to
reason with the hooligans on several occasions (and attempt to retrieve Piggy's glasses, which have been stolen), but their former friends jeer at them. The most bloodthirsty of the tribe, Roger (Gary Rule), crushes Piggy with a boulder. Having secured the allegiance of everyone but Ralph, Jack
initiates a hunt to eliminate his only rival for leadership. But, just as the boys smoke Ralph out and close in for the kill, marines arrive on the island.
This pointless remake is a Classic Comics' version of Golding's beautifully structured masterwork. Filmed in 1963, Peter Brook's intriguing but disappointing original screen adaptation of the novel was enhanced by stark black-and-white photography and some haunting performances. This version
begins excitingly and goes steadily downhill. Neither Brook's film nor this one adds anything new to Golding's vision; they merely iterate themes better conveyed in literary form. For a film version of Golding's tale to succeed, it would have to reshape the material into a cold-blooded adventure
story (a black comedy SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON without adults) or a spine-tingling horror yarn (an island full of Bad Seeds wiping out the noble student-council types). No rethinking has been attempted here except for the abbreviation of Piggy's murder, which was a highlight of the earlier version.
Several problems compound the failure of imagination on display. Filmed in gorgeous color, the movie unfolds like postcards from a Junior Club Med. While black-and-white cinematography may be out of fashion, it worked for the previous stab at capturing Golding. Here, instead of counterpointing the
terror, the movie's pretty look diminishes the sinister atmosphere. Moreover, the over-elaborate score comes on like a relentless town gossip prattling on about everything that's happening on-screen. In the process of this ear-bending, the score deprives the viewer of the opportunity to experience
the story for himself. Shifting the nationality of the boys from English to American is also problematic: the behavior of English youngsters is governed by centuries of tradition, whereas their American counterparts seem always to do what they please (often in the classroom). Indifferently
presented by the script and blandly portrayed by the actors, the protagonists are like children of the shopping malls; their fall from grace is neither unexpected nor moving. Instead of conveying innocence, the fresh-faced cast of amateurs distance us with their inability to act. A
lovely-to-look-at photo album treatment of Golding's heart of darkness pessimism, this movie misses the point and mood of Lord of the Flies completely. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: Near a lush tropical island, a small plane carrying young military school cadets crashes into the ocean. In a stunning prolog, we see the cadets fall helplessly into the waves while the camera shoots them treading water, from below. But after its arresting… (more)