For those of you who feel that only Johnny Depp and Walt Disney can effectively promote the rabid pirate craze, the British have a fairly long-winded rebuttal. Aw, screw it. Ahoy, mates! The folks over at BSkyB offer you the chance to ride alongside Jim Hawkins and a motley crew of mutineers aboard the Hispaniola on its way toward Treasure Island. Grab the rum and press play! Aargh!
Now, that I have that out of my system…know that this production (effects or otherwise) is never as cheesy as I just was. No, this Treasure Island is the real thing.
Originally airing here in the states on Syfy, this adaptation features fine performances from Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver and Elijah Wood as Ben Gunn. Really, it’s about time Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island received an updated look complete with heavy eyeliner and tattoos. The two-part four hour long miniseries also serves the breadth of the original story well. Leave it to the British to produce the most faithful adaptation of the source material yet.
Adapted by screenwriter Stewart Harcourt, Treasure Island is about Jim Hawkins (Toby Regbo) and his fateful encounter with Billy Bones (David Harewood) inside the Admiral Benbow inn. Intrigued by Billy’s seafaring stories and the map to buried treasure that Billy leaves behind after he passes away, Jim joins Dr. David Livesey (Daniel Mays) and Captain Smollett (Philip Glenister) aboard the Hispaniola as it leaves for Captain Flint’s (Donald Sutherland) buried treasure.
Or is the treasure Long John Silver’s (Izzard)? When it is discovered that the cook, Long John, has essentially filled the crew of the Hispaniola with former members of Captain Flint’s crew, a mutiny can not be far behind. They want the gold and silver that they were cheated out of so long ago.
Sutherland may be in it for all of five minutes, but his haunting presence is found both on and off the island. His performance isn’t over the top, but it is memorable. The same can be said Wood’s Ben Gunn. Marooned on the island for three years, his continued search for the treasure – in bizarre chalky white body paint – is both funny and sad. Izzard’s subdued take on the role of Long John Silver is effectively charming and lowdown. As much as we want to think otherwise, we cannot forget the Silver is, at his heart, a thief. How easily this could have become a cartoon. Thankfully, it is not.
Because the material is spread out into four hours, there’s a wonderful inclusion of Shirley Henderson as Meg Hawkins, Jim’s mother, and Nina Sosanya as Alibe Silver, Long John’s mulatto wife, back on solid ground. This isn’t Jane Austen soap, but their presence and their drama gives weight to the importance of the treasure and the role of females in a society driven by seafaring deeds.
Director Steve Barron (Merlin) and cinematographer Ulf Brantås keep the momentum forward and the action brisk. There are solid touches of artistry in the photography that extend beyond just looking pretty. Barron builds on our anticipation with great moments of suspense but can’t quite surprise the audience. He keeps things light as air but steadfast in delivery. Adventure is key in the pirate yarn and that spirited affair is what this miniseries is full of. Just don’t look any deeper and, really, why should you?
Full of interesting camera shots and solid performances from a gung ho cast, the only way Treasure Island won’t grab you is if your attention span has been seriously McDonalized by one too many commercials.
MPAA Rating: Not rated by the MPAA.
Director: Steve Barron
Writer: Stewart Harcourt
Cast: Eddie Izzard, Elijah Wood, Donald Sutherland, Toby Regbo, Rupert Penry- Jones
Tagline: Treasure Island
Memorable Movie Quote: "She's got an arse on her that would sit well on any rollicking sea. I always say a man who could choose a good horse could choose a good ship, just by looking at its arse. And you, sir, look like a man who knows his way around a horse's arse."
Distributor: British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB)
Release Date: January 1, 2012 Part One (UK); January 2, 2012 Part Two (UK)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 24, 2012
Synopsis: Young Jim Hawkins is the only one who can successfully get a schooner to a legendary Island known for buried treasure. But aboard the ship is a mysterious cook named John Silver (Emmy winner Eddie Izzard,The Riches.), whose true motivation on the journey challenges Jim's trust in the entire crew. This is an exciting and atmospheric new take on the definitive pirate action adventure of reckless buccaneers, buried fortunes and a friendship forged in peril on the high seas.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - July 24, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Presented by Vivendi Visual Entertainment, the VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer (in 1.78:1) is a definite win. The production pops quite well with fine detail even though the color has been downgraded and stylized a bit with contrast effects in the beginning. Inn interior scenes are dark and moody and, on the unfortunate side of things, shadow detail bleeds a bit into inky blacks. Exteriors are dull before the voyage, but once we set sail, the colors burst with flavors. Saturated colors pop the island to life and close-ups on board the ship are clear with detail. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a royal affair. Totally active with great surround effects and even greater cannon fire, this mix is sure to keep your attention.
- Recorded by director Steve Barron and Eddie Izzard, the commentary is plump with information about the shoot. Izzard is in comedic form here, so – for fans of his comedy – that is a real treat. While he does allow Barron to command the recording, his comedic nuggets are fun.
This supplemental treasure chest features edited interviews with Steve Barron, Elijah Wood, David Harewood, Eddie Izzard and other cast members as they discuss the making of the miniseries. In another featurette we get isolated interviews with the same cast members and a special one Philip Glenister and Ruper Penry-Jones together. Also included is a look at the Hispaniola. Dan Malone, Marine Coordinator on the film, is the tour guide. Finally, you have a look at one of the stunts in the movie and a trailer.
- The Making of Treasure Island (4 min)
- Cast Interviews (10 min)
- A Tour of the Hispaniola (2 min)
- Anatomy of a Stunt (1 min)