This adaptation of the William Golding novel gets a top-tier Blu-ray upgrade from Criterion....
Criterion / 91 Minutes / 1963 / Unrated / Street Date: July 16, 2013
I was telling a friend a while back that I would be reviewing the old film version of William Golding's classic novel, Lord of the Flies. My friend replied that I would gain little enjoyment from watching either the old (1963) or new (1990) versions, because films that center around a group of young boys are frustratingly unwatchable at their core. I quickly named Stand by Me as an exception to that rule, and he corrected himself. But he did make a credible point. The film is bogged down by the immaturity on display. Watching boys bicker is not something you usually want to invest in, especially when no comedy is involved. But Lord of the Flies is successful because of the complexity underneath the surface.
Lord of the Fliesbegins when a large group of preteen boys are marooned on a small island thanks to a plane crash that killed all the adults. The boys are left to fend for themselves. Even at the beginning the boys are divided, as several belong to a chorus with a headstrong leader named Jack. Another boy, Ralph, makes his thoughts known, which include the necessity of appointing a leader and the construction of a shelter. Amid the conflicts that later arise is the widely believed allegation that a beast is roaming free on the island.
Unfettered by the trappings of a civilized environment, what path will a mostly preteen group of males follow? This film attempts to provide one of those possible paths. Obviously the path chosen depends on the personalities involved. Kids at this age are starkly divided between those that lead (Ralph and Jack) and those that follow (everyone else). The leader receives a sense of empowerment, while the followers receive a sense of security.
Ultimately I believe that you will probably like this movie if you find it to be a realistic portrayal of what could happen to a group of boys isolated from society. But if you find yourself thinking that such and such could never happen, you will have a difficult time suspending your disbelief as you might do for the latest action flick.
The commentary track contains mention of a four hour cut that was eventually cut down to 100 minutes. Then this was cut even further for the official release version at the suggestion of the film's distributor. The timeline of the film obscurely suggests that a lot of time passes from the beginning of the film to the end. Certainly the metamorphosis of the boys is not something that happens overnight. In short, the film could use some breathing room.