Hank (Noel Marshall) lives on a nature reserve in Africa with countless big cats which he takes care of, though visitors are often alarmed to be in such close proximity to them, seeing as how they have free rein throughout the house to come and go as they please. An official, Mativo (Kyalo Mativo) arrives today to warn Hank there are those wishing to destroy this beloved animals, specifically the tigers, but he gets distracted by the lions which are led by Robbie, a black-maned beast who has a rival in Togar whose mane is stained with blood. When Hank finds he has to go with Mativo to plead the animals' case, it could not have come at a worse time...
There are those who take their love of animals that stage too far - no, not like that, in that they do what Noel Marshall did and collect about a hundred extremely dangerous examples and claim to be looking after them when in fact they were more keen on playing with them as if they were pets - or toys. The cast and crew of Roar found this out the hard way as their film took eleven years to film thanks to various natural disasters in the area of California which stood in for Africa here, but also because they had a habit of getting attacked by these supposedly tame creatures. Or rather, these creatures had a habit of mauling the cast and crew.
That included Melanie Griffith, Marshall's stepdaughter who played his character's daughter in the story, as she was slashed in the face by a lion which required plastic surgery to put right. Even her mother Tippi Hedren, playing by surely no coincidence Marshall's wife and her character's mother, had a bite taken out of her by one of the lions, and so it went on, leaving Roar to be judged one of the most dangerous films ever made, not to mention vastly expensive for what amounted to a glorified home movie. Once the first person was savaged you might have thought, okay, maybe this isn't such a great idea, but not Marshall as he had a message to bring the world.
That was a positive one about conservation of the world's fauna, presented in achingly sincere fashion here, all very laudable, but surely a wildlife documentary would have been more effective and less harmful? Seeing the animals in their natural habitat would have been better than making them look like big old cuddly bundles of fun, especially as frankly that was the last thing they looked like as they "played" with the actors in what may have been intimately filmed sequences, but throughout appeared to be one friendly swipe or bite away from outright death. What Marshall most came across as was one of those eccentrics best known from Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man, one of those misguided souls whose love for the animal kingdom blinds them to very real dangers.
So if you watched this and took the position, well, nobody died so it should be fine to lose myself in for an hour and a half, it's difficult to regard Roar as escapism when even if you didn't know the backstory to the disastrous production you could probably tense up as say, Marshall gets swamped in lions or Griffith's head ends up between a lion's jaws. The plot was straightforward at least, childishly so as Hank leaves the reservation to see about preserving his pets and his estranged wife Tippi and his kids, Melanie and her two real life stepbrothers, show up at his home then stranded in the house and its surroundings by the beasts because they don't know they are only playing and think they're in genuine peril. Which on the set, they were, as evinced by their serious injuries. See what I mean? You can't really endorse such a film when it was so wrongheaded in execution, certainly we should do our best to conserve wildlife on every continent, but there were far more sensible and useful ways to do it than this. On the plus side, a charity was founded as a result, which has generated more money than the flop film ever did. Music by Terrence P. Minogue.