“Mama, mama can't you see? What the Army's done to me? They put me in a barber's chair. Spun me 'round, I had no hair.”
Harry Hook’s 1990 adaptation of William Golding’s classic novel, Lord of the Flies, didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I’ve never read the novel, but from what I’ve heard there are several differences in this adaptation mainly in that it is a modernized version of the story and that the children are American instead of British. The greatest issue I had with this film is that the child actors weren’t very good. There were several scenes in which the delivery of the dialogue felt completely forced and so did the emotional moments where some of the kids’ cries felt terribly fake. The film definitely hasn’t aged well considering how strong the performances are from child actors nowadays. The second issue I had with this film is that the shocking premise of seeing these innocent kids become savages is something we are very used to seeing now. We are way too familiar with their dark side and we’ve heard of one too many school shootings on the news. Perhaps we’ve become desensitized towards this issue, but it doesn’t shock the audience now in the way the story intended to. The story itself feels pretty rushed and we never get to spend much time with these characters or get to know who they are. I simply never felt engaged with the story and thought that the transition from one scene to the next was never smooth. The Lord of the Flies’ greatest virtue is that the island is gorgeous, so the cinematography was executed pretty well and the visuals were beautiful.
The film begins with an underwater sequence as a group of kids are trying to save an injured pilot from drowning. They are a group of young military students who survived a plane crash and fortunately have found a nearby island to settle in. They must find a way to survive while they await rescue so the kids aappoint Ralph (Balthazar Getty) as their leader. He assigns different responsibilities for everyone which include searching for food, gathering wood, and keeping the fire camp burning in case a plane or a boat passes by. A couple of days go by and some of the kids get tired of doing their choirs. When Ralph calls their attention, Jack (Chris Furrh) decides he is no longer going to take orders and decides to leave. Several other kids decide to follow Jack and pretty soon the group is divided. Unlike Ralph, Jack is simply concerned with hunting and he could care less about being civilized in this remote island. It doesn’t take long before several of the kids begin losing their humanity and joining Jack. Ralph and Piggy (Danuel Pipoly) seem to be the only two rational kids left on the island as rumors of a monster fills the rest of the group with fear.
The film really doesn’t leave much room for analysis or interpretations, and the book probably does a better job at that. The theme can basically be summed up like this: it is in our nature to become savages, but society is a way in which we’ve learned to keep those desires in check. However, the transformation of these characters doesn’t feel very natural considering the emphasis is on summarizing the story instead of actually building the characters. It’s as if the main purpose of the film was to simply get from point A to point B. That is what ultimately hurts this film because the lazy script adaptation doesn’t allow us to see that transformation unfold gradually. It all becomes about choosing one leader and following them.