SEAT AT THE BACK - SCRIBBLES! ~ Films on the Seat at the Back playlist right now: KIDS IN LOVE; JUNE; CURVE; WILD, BARELY LETHAL; GODDESS OF LOVE; THE VATICAN TAPES .. What a night in!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

BLUE LAGOON: THE AWAKENING (2012) // It's Indiana Evans at Home and Away! ~ A girl overboard faces bad boys, big cats and bad hair days in the all new Blue Lagoon!


* This review may contain spoilers skinny dipping in the lagoon below ~ watch before reading! *

The Blue Lagoon first dived into the cool blue tropical waters of film way back in 1923, a good half century before a 14-year-old Brooke Shields shed her inhibitions (or what was left of them after 1978's Pretty Baby) in the most exploitative version of the story (filmed a number of times) so far, released in 1980. Shields played young castaway Emmeline and followed in the footsteps (in the sand) of the distinguished Jean Simmons (1949 version) and Molly Adair (1923). For every Emmeline there is 'the other young castaway' - Richard (or Dick, in the 1923 version) and the character was played with charismatic lack of inhibition by Christopher Atkins in the 1980 release, which is the one most of us associate the Blue Lagoon story with.


The tall tale of girl and boy shipwrecked and growing up on a tropical island facing all manner of natural threat has inspired countless and far more sleazy rip-offs (body doubles were used for Brooke Shields to preserve her modesty, mostly), notably Paradise (with a young Phoebe Cates) in 1982. You could even claim Oliver Reed cavorting in the nude for Castaway in 1986, is the grown-up version of The Blue Lagoon (despite being based on a true story) with Amanda Donohoe also showing us what previous versions couldn't - pretty much everything, but encountering similar natural hazards as Emmeline before her.



The Blue Lagoon was based on the novel by Irish author Henry De Vere Stacpoole, written in 1908. A sequel to the 1980 Blue Lagoon movie, Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991) was based - incredibly loosely - on his 1923 novel, The Garden of God. This desert island atrocity (in the eyes of many critics, winning numerous Razzie bad movie awards the year of its release - but was quite good fun all the same) starred 16-year-old Milla (Resident Evil franchise) Jovovich, whose modesty was protected far more than Brooke's had been.


For such a sleaze-loaded story idea of young people growing up alone on an island and discovering danger and carnal pleasure, the official Blue Lagoon movies tell the story with remarkable restraint (however, Christopher Atkins's skinny dipping - being over the age of 18, showed less restraint). The 1980 version still caused huge controversy at the time of its release with Brooke Shields having to later testify at a U.S Congressional Enquiry that her nude scenes had used a body double and that her very long hair had properly preserved her modesty.

Of course, such titillating trivia made headlines back in the day, and to many of us who were nearing the teenage years ourselves at the time of the film's release - the Blue Lagoon felt like a really taboo place to be. But didn't everything in the early 1980s, especially in the UK, where censorship started off relaxed (with the introduction of video rental) and quickly became tightened as new laws ensured that 'controversial' film-making (or films that now seem as mild as the yellow squeezy mustard does to a jar of the proper English) nearly choked on its own censorship. Ultimately, the censorial stamp of films in the mid-80s and beyond (for the next decade and a half at least) allowed those previously banned movies a new lease of life in the modern era where they could be distributed with the commercially die-for tagline: "Previously Banned".

The Blue Lagoon was raunchy and occasionally bloody enough to warrant ten minutes of cuts to an early U.S TV broadcast, but there are no such concerns with the latest instalment - 'Blue Lagoon: The Awakening' as it was made for TV, and while not exactly chaste, is pretty inoffensive all round.


The story is based on the original novel, but updated to a modern setting of an American High School where the kids talk about crushes and who just uploaded what to Instagram (before the film's out, our young cast will be posting messages by drawing letters in the sand).

Indiana Evans plays Emmaline (just that one letter away from the original's 'Emmeline') and Brenton Thwaites is Dean (a lot of letters away from Richard or even 'Dick' - a name clearly out of favour among today's high school kids).

Emmaline (well - let's just call her Emma, like the film does) goes on a school trip to the island of Maui in Hawaii to help rebuild a school (or something as worthy - with those who actually live there criticising in the press the film's idea that Hawaii is a third world country in need of having their schools rebuilt by rich American high school kids) along with her class (including Dean) and Mr. Christiansen played by Christopher Atkins. Yes, that Christopher Atkins - the Richard to Brooke Shields's Emmeline. He doesn't look as old as he should do be now. It's all that swimming in the lagoon as a boy.


Emma and Dean sneak out of dorm to go to a party on a boat that's heading as far away from the island of Maui, it seems, as it can. It all ends in disaster when Emma falls overboard (the local police arrive to pull the boat back to shore, despite the kids doing little except dance stupidly with tropical feathers in their hair). Bad boy Dean jumps in to save her; getting her into a passing dinghy (no - really, I'm sure it was just passing!) before breaking the news to her that they are going to drift together for a while as he's been in trouble with the law before and can't afford to be again.

The two teens end up on a nearby island after a storm drifts their dinghy away. The rest of the film follows their adventures on a tropical paradise where behind every big branch there is a big cat or a glimpse (obscured by aforementioned big branch) of young - TV-friendly - lust. The tropical lifestyle brings the two castaways together, but things start to get (not very) scary when (I'm trying to remember why) Emma grazes her knee really badly and Dean fights a big cat, Tarzan-style.


It's easy to be cynical about a film about young castaways clearly intended for young people to watch (unlike the 1980 version, that seemed more like a film about young castaways for older people to watch). It is what it is (insert as appropriate). And the film is updated nicely with initial scenes in school corridors building up as if to a teen slasher movie vibe, and the characters are given some backstory - Denise Richards as a worried mother of a missing daughter is especially (and suitably) beside herself. She also looks younger than most of the 'young' cast (maybe she swam in that same lagoon as Christopher Atkins when she was young).

The film was originally directed by Eric Bross, replaced by Mikael Salomon when the production moved to Hawaii, perhaps explaining why the two settings feel like two separate movies. Indiana Evans as Emmaline (best known to many as Matilda Hunter from Australian soap Home and Away) walks around in her bikini top as if she doesn't have a care in the world. Hang on, just realised she should be more concerned about her predicament - although being in the sun, on a beach, with eye candy companion, instead of back at school, probably isn't too much of a worry.
Indiana Evans, at 22, is playing a character a bit below her own age and she's a good deal older than Brooke Shields was for her version. This could explain why her character actually looks pretty made up to be stranded with hunky - if sulky - Dean (unlike poor Brooke, who often looked distinctly uncomfortable being stranded on a tropical island with an older Christopher Atkins in a loincloth!).



Indiana injects the film with more oozing charisma and appeal than it feels it deserves, although the pace is pleasingly fresh and fast and the cinematography bright and lavish. Brenton Thwaites as impulsive bad boy Dean doesn't have much of a script to work with, but he is clearly an equally charismatic and potentially fast rising star as the actress he's stranded with and was most recently seen in Brit horror Oculus (alongside ex-Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan).

The two leads work well and spark nicely together (a pleasing lack of 'mismatched teens getting along over time' type plotting - these two, despite the script suggesting otherwise, seem to get along from the start: actor power in action!) and you genuinely want them to stay together by the time the end credits come along. You can't ask for more success rate in a movie than that. The last time I remember feeling that way it was Christian Slater and Winona Ryder causing mischief together in Heathers (1988) - I wanted them to be together forever too.



Some have criticised the film's other co-star: a big black wild cat. There's scorn that the island of Maui has no such thing. Well, not officially, but like our very own Beast of Bodmin or Exmoor, Maui has its own legend about a big cat (possibly being a cougar or similar, kept as a pet and released). The existence of the Maui cat has been investigated by authorities but no conclusive evidence has been found (except for some fur samples that gave fresh hope to the rumours). So the presence of a similar beast on a neighbouring island is no less likely. This film is clearly a horror story at heart - I told you it started off more like a slasher (and Indiana Evans would be a hit in that genre - guaranteed). Respect is due the Blue Lagoon. Swiss Family Robinson - who are ya?


Words: Mark Gordon Palmer

All pictures of 'Blue Lagoon: The Awakening' by Mario Perez

Available to buy on Region 1/ Region 2 import DVD from Amazon:

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