Emma Robinson and Dean McMullen’s lives go through incredible changes when they are stranded on a deserted island.
Blue Lagoon: The Awakening is the latest remake of the novel by Irish author Henry De Vere Stacpoole, written in 1908 and first made into a film in 1923. Unlike its more controversial 1980s predecessor that starred Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, this updated version was produced by the Lifetime channel for the cable television market. This film starts out in a wealthy suburban community where we are introduced to the two main characters, high school students Emma Robinson (Indiana Evans) and Dean McMullen (Brenton Thwaites). The two are about as different as teens could be, except that they both come from wealthy families. Emma is the “perfect student”, popular at school, traveling around the campus with her posse of girlfriends, high achieving in class work, involved with campus activities, and noticed by the most popular boys. Dean is considered to be a slacker by the “in crowd”, and has trouble with authorities because he does stupid things like carry a very sharp pocket knife on campus which he takes out to slice an apple. The only interaction the two ever have on campus is that Dean calls her “prom queen” and Emma mostly just ignores him. So how do these American high school students end up stranded together on a deserted island in the Caribbean? It’s all because of a special field trip organized by Mr. Christiansen (Christopher Atkins from the previous Blue Lagoon) where students from Emma and Dean’s high school go to an inhabited Caribbean island to build a school for the natives. Although the trip has been planned down to the last minute, most of the students sneak out one night and go to a party boat to drink, smoke weed, and let loose. However, the fact that so many students are missing from the hotel is not lost on the school chaperones and authorities. Soon a police boat is sent out to rein in the party goers and return them to shore. But in all the commotion, Emma is accidentally knocked off the party boat. The only one who notices this is Dean, who immediately dives in the water to rescue her. The two swim to a small dinghy that is tied to the main boat. Dean cuts the rope, so that he won’t be discovered with the party goers, because that could “really get him in trouble with the authorities.” Soon after the other boats leave, a violent storm comes up and the two huddle under a tarp until morning. When they awake, they find themselves in the middle of ocean with no one else around and no land in sight.
The dinghy where Dean and Emma took refuge ends up out in the ocean.
Now they must rely on each other to survive but there isn’t much hope for them on a small dinghy with no food in the middle of nowhere. Then Emma spots an island miles away. All they have to navigate with is a single paddle, but they have no choice but to try and reach the island. After hours they finally arrive at its rocky shore, and are able to land the boat. Still not comprehending that they are on a deserted island, Emma insists that they explore all of it, looking for a hotel or some way to communicate with the outside world, and refusing to even stop and take a quick dip at a beautiful blue lagoon they discover in the middle of the island. It isn’t until they reach the other shore of the island that Emma realizes that they are truly on their own. To make things worse, when they return to the beach where they landed, the boat is gone, pulled back into the sea by rising tides. Meanwhile back on the inhabited island, the search for Emma and Dean is just beginning. When Dean’s father (Patrick St. Esprit) and Emma’s parents (Denise Richards, Frank John Hughes) are notified, they immediately fly to the island to help search. Days then weeks go by with no success in locating Emma and Dean, alive or dead. After a futile month, the parents give up and return home.
Dean and Emma work to build a shelter from the elements.
As the film cuts back and forth between brief scenes of the rescue attempts and longer ones of Emma and Dean learning to survive on their own, the first thing you notice is how easily Dean steps into the role of their leader. His loner approach to life and some of his anti-social habits pays off here. Luckily he is a good swimmer and used to doing things on his own. His large, sharp pocketknife is a useful tool for a number of things including self-defense and his Zippo lighter is great for starting fires. Surprisingly, Dean is very good helping Emma to adjust. Despite their personality differences, they quickly build a rapport together. Up to now her whole life was organized to the T; she even has plastic bags for containing things inside her purse. Now her perfect and very social life is gone, sometimes causing her to strike out in frustration. Dean is patient and gentle with her, supportive in many ways. The two gradually become intimate, sharing life experiences, fears, and joys, as they fall in love. All of this is handled in a very tasteful way, and when they finally make love to each other, it is a very natural and sweet moment in the film. The way that their relationship builds is the strongest and best part of the film. Eventually they are rescued, after nearly one hundred days, and returned home. This actually has an adverse effect on their relationship. Dean finds himself shunted off to the side and forced back into his loner ways, as Emma becomes wrapped up again in her posse of friends. Even at their homecoming party, Emma strangely does not want to spend time with Dean; rather she wants him to be part of her posse, something he won’t do. Their days of intimacy together seem lost. Additionally, they both have family issues to deal with — things brought out during their time on the island. Their relationship seems to be a thing of the past until at prom time they both have an awakening about what is the most important thing in their lives, rekindling the true love they established on the island .
As the weeks pass by, their love for each other continues to grow.
Indiana Evans and Breton Thwaites are the main reason that this film works. It’s ironic that two older Australians do such a good job portraying American teenagers. Their good looks and onscreen charisma keeps you engaged and rooting for them despite all of the crazy plotlines and loopholes you could drive a truck through. We have already discussed how they got to the Caribbean in the first place (although this was filmed in Hawaii). The deserted island that Emma and Dean land on is most conveniently equipped with high producing coconut and banana trees, lush fields of berries, and lots of greens. There doesn’t seem to be any animal life on the island other than insects until suddenly a deadly cougar appears to attack Dean and a single monkey that stole some of the teenagers’ things drops them back on their heads just before a rescue helicopter flies overhead. Come on writers, they only appear after 100 days? And what does the cougar eat? For that matter, the whole illogic of the original rescue effort is laughable. The owners of the party boat must have realized right away that the dinghy from their boat was missing and the likely hiding place of Emma and Dean, since the rope attaching it to the main boat was cut. Yet there was no concentrated search for it. If the missing teens were driven out into the ocean by the storm that hit right after the police raid, wouldn’t their most likely action be to find land? Yet no searches were done on any nearby islands. Come on, writers, this is Rescue 101. But while watching Blue Lagoon: The Awakening you soon forget about all of that nonsense because it is a good romantic story with two attractive and personable leads. You can even forgive the writers for the hokey prom scene in the rain (High School Musical 3 did it a lot better and with great choreography). Dean McMullen had the right idea: “We’re here now and there is this awesome blue lagoon to dive into. Can’t we just forget about the outside world for a while.”
Dean and Emma’s love for each other is rekindled at the prom.
Dean is pretty much a loner at high school.
In our pantheon of films where chucks have a role, we have seen black high top chucks traverse the Sahara Desert, trek through the Cascade Mountains, track anacondas in the Amazon River, walk the streets of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, traipse through medieval England, and raft down the Mississippi River. And so of course they are perfect footwear for Dean (Brenton Thwaites) to wear while stranded on an island in the Caribbean, although he likes wearing them in the civilized world also. Throughout his stay on the island, Dean wears them all the time except when in the water and they are useful for protecting his feet while exploring, gathering, hiking, and running. Even though his clothing becomes mostly a pair of shorts, he still wears his chucks with them. And after his return to civilization it’s nice to see him wearing a brand new pair of black high tops.
On the island, Dean wears his chucks all the time except when swimming.
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