Roar

Roar ★★★★

Holy fucking hell are you serious? Stories of this film are legend, and even with all that reputation I still had no idea what I was in for. How was nobody arrested? Jesus, I thought when Tippi Hedren let her daughter Melanie hang out with 22 year-old Don Johnson when Griffith was just 14, that was bad parenting (at least Johnson waited until Melanie was 16 before he moved in with her, then married her at 18), but then I saw how she and her husband unleashed about 40 lions and tigers onto the poor girl, as well as onto their two sons and a few more poor bastards.

So you can approach this film as a terrible exploitation comedy. It has no real script, not much of a story, and zero character development. And you can love laughing at it and enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing these hubristic humans scamper around in fear of these majestic jungle cats. Or, you can gape at just how magnificent it is that this film exists at all, and how the footage was captured. As a producer and director of live television, I was grabbing my own skull at how difficult this would be to shoot. You can't herd cats. You definitely can't herd wild lions. So how many takes can you get of any shot? Imagine setting it up for an hour, "blocking" it, loading the mags and shouting action, and then figuring out how to get a reverse angle with the lions doing the same shit. There must have been so much improv!

That's obviously why there isn't much of a script -- but I mean so many of the scenes look to have two- or three-camera coverage, and I have no idea how they did that because you'd see the other cameras in the other shots, but you don't. And de Bont's camera is up close with wide lenses -- not those long lens surveillance cameras you see in nature documentaries where the soft-voiced South African dude with a white pony tail is observing the cats from 300 yards away. Only once the entire film did I see a camera in the shot -- and that's because de Bont mounts a 16mm camera to a motorcycle to get a cool traveling shot, and in the wide shots of the motorcycle itself you can see the mount. It's worth it -- those tracking bike shots are bad-ass. But other than that, it's a jaw-dropping achievement in you-are-there fear-mongering.

It's a cliché that CG these days renders images too safe, plastic, and digital, and we all pine for the practical stunts of yore. ROAR proves just how true that is, though. Imagine this movie with the CG animals of THE LIFE OF PI or THE LION KING. It's garbage. We're seeing a documentary about half a dozen scared-shitless actors trying to outrun the kings of the jungle, and getting mauled for real on camera. It's a snuff film with wild beasts. It's like nothing I've ever seen. Yes, the acting is terrible and the ending is ridiculous, but Marshall and Hedren continually have a nice sense of humor about themselves -- most notably in the cute in-joke where Hedren opens the door to a room that has one bird in it flying around, and she turns right around to shut the door like "NEWP. Nope nope nope."

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